This is a story about an artist and a song (with a little history lesson mixed in). There is this classic song that was covered by 65 different artists (according to the man who wrote the song) and it was also the “third” most “played” song in “music history.” In case you don’t know, that song is “Some Kind of Wonderful” and the man who actually “wrote” the song is named “John Ellison.” This past weekend I had the “privilege, pleasure and honor” to perform onstage with him at the Firehouse Cafe in Mr. Holly, New Jersey. He readily admits that he is 73 years old (but he doesn’t look it “at all”) and he moved so well onstage that even I had difficulty trying to keep up with him (and believe me, I most certainly tried to). Our performance was great, but today’s Daily Thought is more about the actual “story” behind the hit song itself. You see, back in 1967 there was a “lot” of “racial discrimination” going on. Black entertainers (which is what African American artists were called back then) had great music but could “only” get played on “Black stations.” Often those stations didn’t have very strong signals so in order to get heard you needed to be on the playlist of “just about all” Black stations across the country. John Ellison originally wrote the song for a group called the “Soul Brothers 6” and that name in and of itself led everyone to know that this was definitely a “Black” group. The song did very well on the Black charts, but it wasn’t until a White group by the name of “Grand Funk Railroad” heard it and remade it that it became an “international hit.” According to Mr. Ellison, he didn’t mind that at all, because that meant that every time it got played he could expect to receive yet another “paycheck.” I have heard both versions and I know the differences between them. The version by the Grand Funk Railroad is in the key of “D” while the one by the Soul Brothers 6 is in the much higher key of “F.” Back during that era, a LOT of White music groups loved to cover the music of Black Artists. In fact, one of the most successful White artists ever was discovered because the label sought out a “White Artist” who could “sound Black.” That artist was Elvis Presley. The Beatles also admitted that they were influenced heavily by Black artists such as Chuck Berry. We cannot “turn back the hands of time” and rearrange the racial climate of that era, but it helps to learn about the great music that was often “bypassed” because of the “ethnicity behind it.” It is not too late to check that music out, but you will probably have to do some very “extensive” Google searching to find most of it. While Mr. Ellison will probably never get well known for being the famous performing artist of this hit song, at least it is comforting to know that he can still “get paid” from it. There are a lot of stories “behind the scenes” of great music and I hope to be able to tell some of them to you with my Daily Thought. Oh, by the way, John Ellison flew in from Canada a few days before our gig and my group “never got the chance to rehearse anything” with him. He gave us the CD to his new tunes and once onstage we never played “any” of the tracks on it. He decided to just come up with popular tunes and we just “followed him.” It was a great night and we jammed like crazy, and I only wish that you could have been there. I have another big name hit coming up tomorrow and I will let you know all about that one as well. In the meantime, I thank Mr. Ellison for the history lesson, and I thank you all for checking out my Daily Thought today As always, I wish the very best that life has to offer you today, and hope you enjoy your day.
John Ellison (in white, the man who wrote “Some kind of Wonderful”) and Brett Jolly (with red guitar)