Dave Thorley – December 2021
Thought I’d write this to debunk a few things. As a youn’un growing up I feel in love with a track by World Column, called ‘So is the sun’ The epitome of black consciousness, lyrically speaking, over a hard edged funky beat. A few years into this love affair, I started to hear dismissive comments referring to it as nothing more than a white rock record masquerading as such
This started one of my obsessive quests to get to the bottom of this, something didn’t add up. Let’s start with the track, as I said lyrically it’s the story of a people’s struggle, musically, ‘psych funk’ in that black way that is hard to mimic. On to production and here we are with minor soul music royalty including Leo Graham and Floyd Smith, which in turn gave me a jump off place for my search, Chicago
Over the next few years, when passing through the city, I’d do my usual and ask around ‘anyone remember this group’ ? normal to blank looks or shrugs of shoulders. Basic research had already lead me to believe that some of the players had already passed, making the search a little harder. Until one day visiting my old friend Gordon Keith in Gary, In. I ask the now well worn question.
Why ask be Gordon ? He had a wealth of knowledge about Chicago music, although from Gary, which in affect abuts Chicago and is where he has always lived and the base for his own record label Steeltown, he had worked extensively in the Chicago music industry, including a stint with the Leaner Brothers at Marvelous/Wonderful records.
His other claim to fame was that he was the first person to take a young Jackson 5 including Michael into the studio, record and release them. Sadly this would come to haunt him the rest of his life. As soon as the question left my lips, his chest puffed out in a way it often did, when talking about his beloved Gary.
“They we’re from here”
“What they were a Gary group?”
“Yes and some of them are still around, Bob (Redding) is a school principal at the high school”
“Do you have his number, can I go see him?”
An excited phone conversation ensued “yes he’s here, all the way from the UK” and so a few hours later I arrive outside a large high school complex in the city, at the arranged time. I walk into the administration building, go to the main reception, as I walk down an endless corridor there is a class break and a sea faces rush towards me, but as we meet, politely my path is clear, but with bemused looks from all, whispers and giggles as they pass, I guess I was an exotic here. Announcing myself at reception I’m ask to take a seat and wait. The last time I was in this position, was 40+ years ago, near the end of my school days and another visit to the Head Of School to ‘discuss’ my latest misdemeanour.
After a 10 min wait I am ushered into Bob’s office, not big, but with that air of foreboding, that until then, I had all most forgotten, I was actually nervous, sitting across the desk from him.
But as our conversation flowed I felt right at ease. A lovely easy going man, who talked with great pride about years gone by. The early days of World Column, he, Joe Odum and Delroy Bridgeman join up with a group called Segrams and forming World Column. I told him my encounter with the one 45 on Tower records, it’s popularity in the UK in the 70’s, so much so that it got a release there also “Really, no one ever told us that” he laughed, “all sorts of things used to go on back then in the music business, some you know about, some you wouldn’t”, still laughing. We moved onto talk about there time working with Floyd Smith on this record and later, after the three of them left the others. Then recording as The Love Column for the Chicago label Duo, where they added Miss Madeline, one time member of The Young Folk to the line up, to give a duet feel to their vocals, he thought that had been Floyd’s idea.
At this point I told him I had spent a long time thinking they were a Chicago group and found it odd, that no one seemed to know them. “No we were a Gary group” again with the same pride Gordon had shown some hours earlier.
Lastly we arrived at the last part of his and his friends musical journey and The New World.
“We hooked up with Curtis Mayfield and Eddie Thomas, they gave us a few songs and Eddie really tried to work us, but things just didn’t work out”
I showed him a clipping that showed him and the original line up, the photo on the tree trunk across a stream. He read it and chuckled “obviously written by a white rock fan, he almost describes us a bit players to the guys from Segrams” he looked up at me a little nervously, I smiled “probably and badly researched”, we then both laughed.
Then my time was up, but the mystery solved, my image of that record I had fallen in love with fully intact and more info added to my ever growing lexicon of the music I love and the end of one of my quests that spanned 30+ years, yes I’m a bit obsessive.
Post scrip to this story, is that of the recently discovered track by Numero, New World’s ‘Lolita’, recorded a little later again, but never to see a release and which was given to me by them as a little exclusivel for my radio show Crossing The Tracks.
This has grown in popularity and again shown a light on this fascinating group from GARY 😉
Oh and the song, here listen 😘