Sunday, January 20, 2008

Johnny Bristol - Bristol's Creme


Johnny Bristol first came to local fame in the Detroit area as a member of the soul duo "Johnny & Jackey" with Jackey Beavers, an associate he met while in the U.S. Air Force. The pair recorded two singles in 1959 for Anna label owned by Gwen Gordy and Billy Davis and four more for Gwen Gordy and Harvey Fuqua's Tri-Phi record label, none of which were successes beyond the Midwest US.

In the mid 1960s, Tri-Phi was absorbed by Motown Records, and Bristol began working with Fuqua as a songwriter and producer. Among Fuqua and Bristol's successes as producers were hit singles such as Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (1967), "Your Precious Love" (1967), and "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You" (1968); Edwin Starr's "Twenty-Five Miles" (1969); and David Ruffin's "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)" (1969). On his own, Bristol co-wrote and produced Gladys Knight & the Pips' "I Don't Want to Do Wrong" (1971) and "Daddy Could Swear, I Declare" (1972), and several singles by Jr. Walker & the All-Stars such as "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" (1969)

Notably, Bristol was the producer and co-writer of the final singles for both Diana Ross & the Supremes and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, before each group lost its namesake lead singer. While the Miracles' "We've Come Too Far to End It Now" (1972) was an original, the Supremes' "Someday We'll Be Together" (1969) was a cover version of a Johnny & Jackey single from 1961 (pictured above). The song was written as an ode to their wives who they'd miss whilst on the road touring. Bristol is the male voice on the Supremes' version, singing response to Diana Ross' lead vocal.
Dig the original version!!!
[Sidebar: As the story goes, towards the end of the session for 'Someday', Ross was getting tired and not delivering as strong a performance as she was at the start. Bristol decided to step into the vocal booth and sing along with Diana in an effort to provide some soulful inspiration that might help Ross complete the take. Johnny's vocals were supposed to be edited out of the final version but when Berry Gordy heard the session results, he wound up liking them so much that he decided to keep them in. Incidentally, the song was initially meant to be Ross' first solo single so she recorded the song with session singers instead of fellow Supremes Cindy Birdsong & Mary Wilson.]

Bristol left Motown in 1973 to resume his singing career, joining first with CBS Records and almost immediately moving to MGM Records. In 1974 he successfully re-launched his career as a performer with the hit, "Hang On In There Baby". The album of the same name also yielded the classic single "You and I". But when 1975's follow-up set for MGM, Feeling The Magic, didn't fare as well as it's predecessor, Bristol left MGM for Atlantic Records.

Bristol's Creme was the first of two albums he'd record for the label; best known for its first single, "Do It to My Mind" and the other gem, "I Sho Like Groovin' With Ya". Chartwise this album didn't do very well but despite it poor positioning, "Creme" is still regarded as a sought-after, solid body of work.

In 1982 Bristol released the single "Love No Longer Has A Hold on Me" and album, Free To Be Me on Handshake Records in the US. By the mid eighties Johnny's core audience was based primarily in Europe, so it's not surprising that in 1989 he signed to the UK label Motor City, where he delivered one of his most popular releases "Man Up in the Sky" and later, his own reading of "What Does it Take to Win Your Love".

Johnny's last releases were a 12" single in 1991 for Whichway Records "Come To Me"' and the 1993 album, entitled Life & Love released solely in Japan.

Johnny Bristol passed away at his home in Brighton Township, Michigan March 21, 2004 due to natural causes, he was sixty-five.
Featured cut: "Do It To My Mind"
It's fairly easy to track down an original vinyl pressing of Bristol's Creme. You can probably grab one for under $20 right here. As for the CD reissue, you can pick that up here or here.

Listen to my crispy vinyl rip right here


cheeba said...

Excellent and thorough post! It took me ages to find this spot but very glad I did.

I just posted his 2nd LP "Feeling The Magic" here if you don't already have it:

I also linked to this article. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This was one of your greatest works! And I don't say that just because I'm singing on it, but because you are absolutely wonderful. I miss you so much!

Linda Evans

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting

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