Monday, March 23, 2009

Twine Time: The Deliverance Was Good

So maybe Alvin Cash was not the Hardest Workin’ Man in Show Business. In fact, maybe “Twine Time” could go down as one of the easiest paydays in soul music. Any way you slice it⎯vocal performance or novelty dance number⎯Alvin Cash & the Crawlers got a lot of help on this one. Kids invented the dance that inspired the song, and Andre Williams wrote the song and produced the record. But delivery, baby! That's what Alvin Cash & the Crawlers gave it.

You probably already know the part about how Alvin Cash attended the same St. Louis high school as Tina Turner. In St. Louis, Alvin and his younger brothers also garnered modest notoriety as the dance team the Step Brothers. Seeking greater fortune, and maybe a record deal, the brothers took their act up the road apiece, to Chicago, in the early 1960s.

Around the same time, Andre Williams had entered his post-Fortune Records phase, and was busy forging a career as writer/producer/A&R man. During those frequent periods when he was on the outs with Barry Gordy, Andre moonlighted at George Leaner’s Mar-V-Lus records. Andre caught Alvin Cash & the Registers’ club act one night in 1964 and invited them to lay down some vocals on a new song he’d written with Verilie Rice, “Twine Time,” a song aimed at milking some chart action from yet another Chicago teen dance craze.

Apparently the A&R man’s work takes him far afield, ‘coz up-and-coming talent wasn’t all that Andre scoped in those days. From Robert Pruter’s informative book Chicago Soul (University of Illinois Press, 1992): “The Twine was one of those dances that emerged from the black high school kids before it was put on record. Months before the record was released kids around Thirty-fifth to Thirty-ninth Streets were doing the dance to the Miracles’ ‘That’s What Love is Made Of.' Most of the kids in that area attended Dunbar High, and it was at one of the school’s dances that one of Leaner’s producers, Andre Williams, discovered the dance.”

Kinda makes you wonder how, on these scouting missions, Mr. Rhythm managed to slip past the school chaperones. Did he use a disguise?

Anyway, back to “Twine Time.” It’s generally considered to be a more up-tempo rewrite of Andre’s 1957 R&B hit “Bacon Fat.” In the early weeks of 1965, “Twine Time” b/w “The Bump” climbed as far up as the no. 14 position on the Billboard pop charts, and hung as high as the no. 4 position on the R&B charts. That chart action helped Alvin Cash & the Crawlers land appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand, despite the record being banned by NY stations for its suggestive, rhythmic "ooh" and "ah" background vocals.

During that period Chuck Berry was touring Britain. Melody Maker nabbed him for their “Blind Date” feature, February 13, 1965. “Twine Time” was among the stack of new singles selected for him to identify and rate. Chuck had this to say: “Wine time? Oh, Twine time⎯hmm. Top 40. It sounds very Americanish, yeah definitely American. As a matter of fact I could almost name the part of the country it comes from (laughs)…The deliverance was good but it was just one of those songs…You could dance to it but there was nothing significant there.”

**Chuck Berry caricature by Melody Maker illustrator Jimmy Thomsen.


tsb. said...

This is a great post. There was a time when the Twine and Soul Makosa never left my car cassette deck - in fact, the Twine made an appearance or two at the third floor Jane St. dance parties, in between Buddha records of course. That Mar-V-Lus label is a beauty, right down to the pastel crayon-y atomic mushroom cloud, dynamite. And an excellent question, sir, how did Andre get past the school chaperones? Did he slip the guard an extra snoots biscuit? Speaking of which, if you are ever in the mood for an in-depth study of Mr. Williams' "Pass the Biscuits Please", I'm all for it. Let's Twine, baby!

Bob Pomeroy said...

Glad you liked the post. That Mar-V-Lus label is one of my favorites too.

Matty Dread said...

Thank you for the turn on. Based on this and stuff I found at WFMU I am going to do an Andre Williams feature on my radio show at 92.1fm in Provincetown, MA. Pass the Biscuits, Shake a Tail Feather, Humpin Bumpin and Thumpin, Pig Snoots, etc. I can't wait to dig into the more recent stuff, especially the Aphrodisiac record. Any idea which Funkadelic tracks featured the man? Thanks again.

Tim Broun said...

Hey Bob! This is sort of a random place to do it, but I just thought I'd say hello...hope you're good! - Tim

Bob Pomeroy said...

Tim, I'm... Stupefied!