Week 18: Phenomenal

By: Lafayette

Apr 28 2009

Tags: ,

Category: 1966


Hello, friends!

OK, so (again) this wasn’t my week to have the privilege to do a post – but I elbowed my way in. Sorry, SB! The reason for this is simple…our longtime follower and collaborator Ricardo decided to send another sweet contribution our way. Luckily, he does this every now and then…and it’s always intriguing to see what he wants us all to enjoy next! This time he sent us a pristine vinyl rip of a great soul album, with at least one truly immortal soul classic on it: The Players “He’ll Be Back”, released on Minit in 1966!

Some music never needs to be questioned. Some music never needs to be reevaluated, upgraded or even discussed. Some music should just be preserved and rediscovered over and over again. The Players song “He’ll Be Back” is this kind of music. It’s so obviously simple and beautiful that it deserves your attention 365 days a year.

The lyrics are more naive than a newborn baby, even though the song is about the Vietnam war…a girl learns that her boyfriend has been drafted – and The Players do everything in their power to soothe her worries, despite the doubt planted by the theme of the song itself. The words are accompanied by music that’s equally innocent – somewhere in between doo-wop, gospel and socially conscious soul music still without a fully developed structure. And somehow it all clicks – becoming this little masterpiece that you really shouldn’t be without!

(Video clip borrowed from ioxxd90)

Still, within all the innocence and beauty, there’s another story to be told…maybe not a scoop, but at least some entertaining information. First out, the album liner notes:


“The Players (Herbert Butler, John Thomas and Otha Givens) are a phenomenon. Phenomenal both in their singing talent and in their amazing success. The youthful trio (their average age being 21) from Chicago, had a hit the first time they walked into a studio and recorded a song. This in itself is an amazing feat, for rarely will any recording personality make it big the first time out. But, when it does happen it is due to a very simple fact – talent!

The Players are among the most electric trios to be recorded in some time. Each tune in this album has received an individual and unique interpretation and feeling. Sameness is not the word for this album! Also, The Players benefit from an excellent blend of voices. Theirs is a harmony that must be heard to be believed. All in all, the results are truly exciting and you can be sure that you’ll be hearing much more from The Players.”


OK, so the marketing department of Minit was laying it on thick in the write-up, what else is new?! The Players were more or less a one-hit wonder (almost two) and this was their one and only album. After some minor research I quickly learned that two out of three “players” wasn’t even involved in the hit single(s). Richard Sibello, over at The Classic Soul Blowout, bluntly tells it like this:


“This was the best soul song ever made about the Vietnam war. But the song almost never was recorded. Herb Butler, the lead singer, wanted to record the song with his group, The Players. However, the powers that were at Minit Records insisted that the rest of the group wasn’t good enough to record, so The Dells were brought in to sing the backing vocals! They also sang on the follow-up, ‘I’m Glad I Waited’.”


AMG’s Andrew Hamilton put it like this:


The Players recorded two beautiful ballads that stay in your heart, but the singers on their two soul hits made live duplication of the sound impossible. They were a studio creation that scored in 1966 with the heartfelt “He’ll Be Back,” a floating ballad about a guy comforting a girl whose man is in Vietnam. It hit instantly on soul stations, but didn’t enjoy the same success on pop radio; still, it did make them known far outside of Cook County’s limits. Singers on the smoothie were Herbert Butler (lead) and four members of the Dells: Chuck Barksdale, Johnny Carter, Vern Allison, and Mickey McGill. Otha Lee Givins and Tony Lee Johnson were recruited to become actual Players and travel with Butler to promote the record and perform gigs. Minit rushed an album, with the new recruits singing most of the tracks.

A second single, “Glad You Waited” (1966), equaled the beauty of “He’ll Be Back,” and told of the returning soldier telling his girlfriend how glad he was that she waited faithfully for his return. Allison, Carter, and McGill didn’t appear anymore, but the producer still found a need for Barksdale’s bass. The Players now consisted of Butler, Johnson, Givins, and Joe Breckenridge (of The Von Gayels). Minit cranked out two more Players singles in 1967, but “That’s the Way” and “Get Right” never got off square one. Nothing else ever surfaced from the group built around Herbert Butler’s passionate, sweet first tenor.


Of course, the album is still great – but the “phenomenal” standout tracks are definitely the ones sung by The Dells with Herbert Butler singing the lead.

To lay your hands on a copy of the rather pricey original vinyl (with the great cover art by Woody Woodward – who also was the man behind the colourful and striking style of the Pacific Jazz label album covers of the 60’s) – check this and this out. To get hold of the 1994 CD re-issue (out of stock) check here. Or why not grab the more recent “Golden Classics Edition” CD re-issue available right here!

Big thanks to Ricardo for sharing – and giving us the opportunity to learn some more about our favourite soul music classics. Props are due to The Players as well – and, of course, The Dells too. As always: Thank you for the music!

We’ll be back! :¬)

47 comments on “Week 18: Phenomenal”

  1. Please leave a comment and share your opinion on the post – and while at it, leave some love for the contributor. Enjoy!
    (PS. Thanks to Ricardo, hi-res scans of front and back covers are also included!)

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  2. Ahh Yes…the melodic Sound of Sweet Soul…..thanks a million Ricardo, and thanks for sharing Laf!!!

  3. Niiiiice! Shit is smooth. Thanks!

  4. The cover art of this lp is beautiful all by itself.

    Thanks for the contrib Ricardo! Good job Laf! 😉

  5. Great record Ricardo! Thanks for the contribution! Laf, nice job as always…. 😉

  6. Couldn´t agree more with SB. The music is as beautiful as the cover.
    Thanks a lot for this one Ricardo and Laf!

  7. Think I had a track by the Players on an old Bell label LP.That was good.Haven`t seen or heard anything else by them,so looking forward to this,especially with the feedback.Thank you both!

  8. You had me when you said that The Dells are involved with this one!
    Thanks for another awesome share!

  9. Used to own the CD version of this (now deleted I believe). Fabulous contribution Ricardo ‘Soul Aficionado’ – it’s YOUR week, my son !! Also, megaprops to Laf for a wonderful exercise in research and writing. One hell of a post, guys !!

  10. Much Thanks Laf and Ricardo!!! Cant wait to hear the rest of this LP. That sample sounds great!

  11. Thanks so much!!

  12. I Love the Album Cover!! Can’t wait to get a taste. Thanks Guys.

  13. Dang, I totally forgot about this one. Glad to here it again. Thanks Ricardo and Laf.
    Brings back innocent (LOL) memories of yesteryear.

  14. Hear!!

  15. BTW – is the beautiful woman on the cover here seeing happier times on the cover of ‘The Softones – Black Magic’ LP ? (http://www.funkmysoul.gr/?p=112#comment-8852) 😉

    • Hmmm…don’t think so – but wouldn’t it be nice to know that she’s alright now though!?

  16. I had only heard the hit tune, prior to this..Beautiful record with a cover to match. It fits right in with the windy city sound..thanks so much,Ricardo,Laf.

  17. Yeah Laf – let’s hope someone somehow somewhere managed to wipe those tears away – maybe the lost but returned drafted soldier, maybe the poor messenger of bad news, maybe that phonecall I hear downstairs …….

  18. Many thanks for the share!

  19. Ah yeah! Sweet and definitely red light basement party memories time in Chi-Town. For all those who were there you know what I mean. For all those who have no idea what I’m talking about, too bad so sad for you LOL. J.K. sorta. You really did miss it.

    Thank you Ricardo for a great contribution.

    Thanks to you Laf for doing the leg work.(The bio.) I love the bio’s. For me they are what make the difference between just a music blog and a great music blog like this one. 😉

  20. Thanks Ricardo!

  21. Many thanks guys – greatly appreciated – Looking forward to this!

  22. Damn that track was deep… and still quite relevant.

    Another sweet rip. Thanx Ricardo…

    I’ll holla at you later on to get your assessment of the latest crop of 45s, Laf 😀

    Peace and blessings.

  23. thanks Lafayette 🙂

  24. nice cover…. thanks for sharing

  25. Beautiful Song, (the title track) and, I’m Glad I Waited, follows in it’s beauty.
    Thank You Ricardo & Lafayette for this Gem!

  26. Dope Dope album my friends, y’all keep doing it!!

  27. Thanks so much. I can’t wait to check it out.

  28. nice one. can’t wait to listen!

  29. Many thanks Laf & Ricardo. Red light basement party music indeed!

  30. Thanks for this one. Never heard of it, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.

  31. classic. great post. i had never seen the cover before, thanks.

  32. Once again, 4BB rocks !

    Great sound !

  33. nice one. can’t wait to listen,you always share great stuff.Thank you

  34. thanks for this one, looking forward to checkin it out!

  35. Thank again , you are great !

  36. Good to see you guys are back. Thanks again.

  37. Thanks Ricardo & Lafayette for another great post!

  38. Thank you again for a wonderful share.

  39. brilliant thanks

  40. this was the newer version of the minit record label after the sale to liberty it hit the r&b chart at #24 and pop @#107 wrote by c gordon-j.thomas follow up i,m glad you waited r&b #32 pop #130 great smooth sound well produced for it time. Thanks for this pedro

  41. Incredible. thank you

  42. Another sweet soul gem I’ve never heard/of and thanx to Ricardo & Laf now I do. I love the Chi-town sound, and the Dells doing backup should make this a nice addition to any record collection. Go-buy!

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