The Fame Gang: Soul Feud + Grits N’ Gravy
From 7″ (Fame, 1969)
I wanted to add an addendum to the excellent series of posts that Charles Hughes put together for us (come back any time!).
As Charles alluded to in one of the comments sections, Fame Studios went through a few distinctive eras of rhythm sections: the one that became most famous was the 2nd incarnation – they were the ones who, for example, worked on Aretha Franklin’s debut Atlantic album (and were at the center of the drama that went down between Fame, Atlantic, Aretha and her then-husband/manager Ted White). After the fall-out, almost all of the rhythm section left Fame to go found Muscle Shoals Studios across the street.
When Rich Hall rebuilt the rhythm section, the 3rd incarnation became known as The Fame Gang that that included a scorching Junior Lowe on guitar (he was the lone stay-over from the last Fame section) and Clayton Ivey slapping it down on organ. It says a lot about how deep talent was out in Alabama that Fame could lose most its studio staff and then rebuild just as good as ever. It’s also notable that the Fame Gang was far more integrated; 5 of the 8 new members were Black unlike the previous generation which was all white.
The Fame Gang, besides playing back-up, also released their own single and album: what you got here a really nice double-sided instrumental funk cooker. I have a hard time choosing between the two of ’em – “Soul Feud” is a hard-driving funky blues tune, complete with some mean interplay between harmonica and guitar – reminds me very much of something that Harvey Fuqua or Charles Wright might have produced.
Meanwhile, “Grits and Gravy” is a more uptempo funk cooker – slick instrumental that shares much in common with some of Kool and the Gang’s early jams. Like I said, a great double-sided 7″. (It’s just too bad their LP wasn’t anywhere near this good.)