Daddy B. Nice's #4 ranked Southern Soul Artist
"Sho' Wasn't Me"
Composed by Ronnie Lovejoy
" . . .And the listener, cowering in the aural magnificence of Lovejoy's cathedral baritone, senses an underlying sexual drive so immense it's impossible to believe, in spite of all of his protesting, that the man could ever be innocent. Impossible to believe, in other words, that a man of such super-charged appetites could have ever succeeded in denying himself."
Daddy B. Nice's Updated Profile
I just finished reading a review of the new Keith Richards autobiography, "Life," in which he recounts meeting Mick Jagger during a time in England that came to be called "the Awakening." (David Remnick, "The New Yorker," November 1, 2010.)
The "awakening" was the discovery of American rhythm and blues, the slimmest sliver of a connection for Richards being a single jukebox in a London ice cream store that played American black records.
When Richards met Mick Jagger in 1961, Jagger had all the latest Chess music by Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Willie Dixon. From there Richards went on to absorb T-Bone Walker and B. B. King, schooling himself to become guitar-hero riffmaster of the self-proclaimed "world's greatest rock and roll band."
And it made me wonder, as I have annually since the late nineties, when I was lucky enough to travel often in the most neglected region of this country--deep Dixie, the Delta--when the "awakening" to today's black music, the purest and best of which is flying under the world's radar as Southern Soul music, will occur yet again.
"One of the more touching moments," Remnick writes in his review, "is when the very young Rolling Stones arrive at the Chess recording studios in Chicago, a blues Mecca. A workman is painting the ceiling. The workman's name is McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters.
"The Stones were headed for a life of millions, and the least they could do over time was pay tribute to their heroes. They named the band for one of Morganfield's songs and sang his praises and the praises of all their best forebears.
"Richards had escaped the Reaper, but not his most essential debt, and he was true to it. "Me?" Keith once said. "I just want to be Muddy Waters. Even though I'll never be that good or that black."
Where are today's Richards and Jaggers? Why haven't the youth of today discovered the heroes of contemporary Southern Soul? Where is that tiny sliver of inspiration--that ice cream store jukebox that Richards sat in front of like a shrine--in today's world?
With the advent of YouTube, one after another of the obscure dominoes--the out-of-print Southern Soul classics--has appeared, but the greatest of all Southern Soul songs, and the greatest song (period) of the nineties--Ronnie Lovejoy's "Sho' Wasn't Me," is still a rumor, a legend, and a no-show.
(And only a thirty-second sound sample on the last legitimate media link, All Music Guide, from total oblivion.)
Lovejoy's subsequent copycat song "Still Wasn't Me" doesn't cut it. Tyrone Davis's unspectacular cover of "Sho' Wasn't Me" doesn't come within a mile of it. Only the real thing, the Lovejoy recording of "Sho' Wasn't Me," the song which I once likened to the Southern Soul equivalent of the Sermon On The Mount, the song which featured Lovejoy's finest (almost miraculous) vocal, Southern Soul's most sublime guitar lick, and hands down the greatest female back-up in the history of R&B (Tina Diamond, Thomisene Anderson, Jewel Bass and Ondrea Nicole Meyers).
It's inconceivable to me that anyone with a shred of musical genius, upon hearing this song, wouldn't fall into a state of discovery, of bliss, of grace capable of fueling an entire career of music ala Keith Richards.
What are the mechanics of legally putting a song on YouTube? I wish I knew. There are a few aficionadoes (including myself) who still have copies of "Sho' Wasn't Me." Just tell one of us how to get this song on the Internet without running afoul of the copyright laws.
How can a genre (obscure though it may be) continue to hold up its collective head in justifiable pride when its greatest distillation of musical genius continues to be an historical footnote?
An obviously thoughtful and musically-passionate reader shared his thoughts about "Sho' Wasn't Me" and Southern Soul music in general recently.
RE: DADDY B. NICE'S TOP 100 SOUTHERN SOUL SONGS
Dear Daddy B. Nice,
I first discovered your web site about two years ago. What really got my attention was your "Top 100 (really 200) Southern Soul Songs".
What really caught my interest was that you had my all time favorite song, "Sho Wasn't Me" by Ronnie Lovejoy on top, at that time.
I had heard of most of the artists and had many of their songs but I was really interested in ones I hadn't heard. After reading your excellent bios (nice sketches), I decided to dig deeper.
At that time I had about half of the 200 songs in my collection (on 70 cd's ). Two years and the purchase of 38 cd's later, I'm still 50 songs (about 26 cd's) short.
I had never heard of, but really liked An-Jay, Big Ike, Fredrick Brinson, Tina Diamond, Maurice Wynn and especially Frank Mendenhall.
I don't plan on buying the cd's by R. Kelly, Luther Vandross, Angie Stone, Glenn Jones or Jaheim in the near future. Not my kind of Southern Soul.
Thanks for your great website.
P.S. This letter was written before your list changed. I think "Sho Wasn't Me" should still be #1. It is the epitome of Southern Soul.
Daddy B. Nice replies:
I'm sorry for the delay, which was caused by my wish to give your letter a thoughtful reply.
First, I'm especially grateful for your "testimony" to the entertainment and education you've derived from my "Top 100 Southern Soul Songs" list. Although I get bits and pieces of positive feedback on the website from time to time, your Daddy B. Nice seldom receives the kind of engaging and overall appreciation that you were kind enough to send.
Second, your patient purchasing and collecting over the years of the CD's that contain these Top 200 Southern Soul songs should give many a dejected and jaded Southern Soul producer proof that people do indeed still buy (not steal) the music.
Third, your listing of the artists that are not your "kind of Southern Soul" is right-on, and I couldn't agree with you more. (And you're not the first to say so.) Why then, you might ask, do these questionable or marginally Southern Soul artists still hold down spots on the "Top 100 Southern Soul" songs?
I can tell you that I myself do not like to turn to Southern Soul radio stations and hear a preponderance of music by artists such as Jaheim or Angie Stone. (See my most current column--"DJ Breezy Love"--on Daddy B. Nice's Corner.)
When I constructed the Top 100 chart in the early years of the century, no one had ever attempted a grouping of the artists on the chart, and no one had called it "Southern Soul." I was lucky enough to be in a special place at a special time, and I literally spent years of analysis devising a chart I thought might constitute a legitimate platform to showcase the artists and the songs of this genre or sub-genre no one else (at the time) really believed existed.
Jaheim's "Put That Woman First" (based on A William Bell classic), R. Kelly's "When A Woman's Fed Up," Erykah Badu's "Tyrone" and Glenn Jones "Baby Come Home," to cite some examples, were legitimate, early contemporary Southern Soul hits played by the deejays who were in turn schooling me, and now those artists remain on the chart, even though it's a little like defects in a gold nugget.
Because I'm an ornery and cantankerous sort, with a respect for the history of the genre, I have been too stubborn to remove certain artists who were crucial to the formation of contemporary Southern Soul, EVEN THOUGH their career trajectories have proven them to be urban or hiphop artists in the years since.
One other reason factored in. Have you ever gone to a list of music or musicians on a brand new website and searched in vain for someone you know and found yourself scratching your head and not knowing any? You probably threw up your hands and gave up.
I wanted to avoid that sort of impasse at SouthernSoulRnB. By including a few mainstream artists, I was also trying to throw a "lifeline" or a "handle" to readers and listeners who had absolutely no inkling of who Johnnie Taylor or Marvin Sease or Willie Clayton were.
Finally, you state that Ronnie Lovejoy's "Sho' Wasn't Me" is your favorite Southern Soul song. You can count your Daddy B. Nice as a soul-mate. Ronnie Lovejoy's "Sho' Wasn't Me" is also MY favorite Southern Soul song, and I have written on many occasions (in bio's, sketches, and columns) that it is the best Southern Soul song.
"Sho' Wasn't Me" is currently ranked number three, after Johnnie Taylor's "Soul Heaven" and Tyrone Davis's "Leavin'". But whenever I think of a potentially new fan coming to the website and sampling "Soul Heaven" but not "Sho' Wasn't Me," and possibly passing up Southern Soul fandom because he or she didn't sample "Sho' Wasn't Me," I am deeply contrite.
And again I have to go back into the decade-long history of the website (although it hasn't been online that long) to explain why this is. The website started with just one chart: the Top 100 Southern Soul (90's-00's).
I knew I had to come up with a formula to simplify the incredible number of artists and songs eligible, and the formula I finally struck upon was to 1/ only list each artist once; and 2/ to compensate for only one listing by awarding artists with the greatest catalogs the highest spots on the chart.
Over the years, even in the most hostile and enraged criticisms from artists who thought they had been slighted via my rankings, no one has ever denied that Johnnie Taylor and Tyrone Davis were the two giants of the genre. (Actually, in the original ranking, Peggy Scott-Adams was number two.)
But the beautiful part was that it was also a Top 100 Songs Chart. To this day, the song (which has always been more important to me) is listed in a headline directly underneath the drawing on the Artist Guide. Thus, in the early days of the website, the page was called simply "Top 100 Southern Soul."
When I constructed the Top 100 Southern Soul Songs many years later, it was just a matter of designing a page and changing the headlines. It linked to the Top 100 Southern Soul Artists chart (the old original chart), so that whatever entry was at the top of the Top 100 Artists was also at the top of the Top 100 Songs.
When you first visited the site a couple of years ago, Peter, I had decided that "Sho' Wasn't Me" was so magnificent that Ronnie Lovejoy deserved the top spot not only on the Songs list but the Artists list. Since then I've flip-flopped back to Johnnie and Tyrone, because it doesn't seem right to rank Lovejoy's relatively short career above theirs on the Top 100 Artists Chart.
I was more or less content until your letter stirred it all up for me again. And you never know: Ronnie Lovejoy may again ascend to the number one spot.
You have put your finger on a flaw of the website that I've never been able to quite resolve.
Daddy B. Nice
Daddy B. Nice's Original Critique:
"Well, she must need glasses,
'Cause that sho' wasn't me.
Your sister's got a bad case
Of mistaken identity."
His catalog isn't as big as Johnnie Taylor's or Tyrone Davis's, and compared to Peggy Scott-Adams the hits have been few and far between, but that only tells you the high esteem in which the deejays of the Deep South regard Ronnie Lovejoy's recording of "Sho' Wasn't Me," or as your Daddy B. Nice used to think of it when he first started hearing it on the radio, "A Case of Mistaken Identity."
First, its guitar riff is to die for. Executed with breathtaking precision and passion, it joins certain instrumental motifs (one thinks of Booker T.'s organ on various Stax occasions or the chords on Latimore's "Let's Straighten It Out") that we never tire of, that seem to be impervious to repetition, that--like the sun coming up and the birds singing each morning--always arrive fresh and pure.
And Ronnie Lovejoy's voice commands your total attention. One of those big, slow-moving men with deep, languorous voices in the mold of Barry White, Lovejoy is accustomed to sitting on a stool while delivering ballads of slow, steamy sensuality. And the steamiest track in Southern Soul is Lovejoy's beleaguered husband's labored alibi. From the very first words--
"Girl, you say your sister saw me
Coming out of the Holiday Inn. . . "
--to his next-to last words--
"You didn't find my drawers
Beside nobody's bed. . . "
--Lovejoy wraps the listener in his teddy-bear-like guilt and disingenuousness.
"Now, I've been accused,
Oh so many times.
All these women you're giving me,
They can't all be mine.
You say the husband's coming in the front door,
And I'm running out the back.
Well, it couldn't be me, babe,
You see, I wasn't raised like that."
And the listener, cowering, as it were, in the aural magnificence of Lovejoy's cathedral baritone, senses an underlying sexual drive so immense it's impossible to believe, in spite of all his protestations, that the man could ever be innocent. Impossible to believe, in other words, that a man of such super-charged appetites could have ever succeeded in denying himself.
Such is the stuff that legends are made of, and "Sho' Wasn't Me"--whose seven minutes go by in what seems like three--would catapult Ronnie Lovejoy into its lofty position on Daddy B. Nice's chart even if it were the only song Lovejoy had ever recorded. Sadly, Lovejoy's already spare catalog reached its finale with his passing in 2001.
--Daddy B. Nice
About Ronnie Lovejoy
Ronnie Lovejoy was born in Wetumpka, Alabama, sixty miles north of Montgomery, in 1950. After a youth spent singing with church choirs, and working in various bands, Lovejoy worked with Benny Latimore, playing keyboards and singing vocals. He also wrote songs for Buddy Ace.
Song's Transcendent Moment
"You can put me anywhere,
1. Ronnie Lovejoy's song "Live In Man," from the extraordinarily influential album, Nobody's Fault But Mine, became the inspiration for Southern Soul diva Pat Brown's smash radio single, "Live In Woman" (from the CD For Your Information Only) in 2004.
If You Liked. . . You'll Love
It doesn't quite match the bombastic production of Phil Spector's soul-rock classic, but if you loved the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," you'll be sure to enjoy Ronnie Lovejoy's "Sho' Wasn't Me."
Honorary "B" Side
"Live In Man"
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