Hardway Connection (& Roy C)
Daddy B. Nice's #95 ranked Southern Soul Artist
"One In The Morning"
Hardway Connection (& Roy C)
November 1, 2020:
Roy C's Passing Recalls Hardway's HomageListen to Hardway Connection singing "Morning Train/Peeping Through The Window" on YouTube.
In writing about Roy C's legacy last month, I mentioned the group Hardway Connection a couple of times. One of a rarified cache of popular mid-Atlantic and Carolinas R&B bands including Chairman Of The Board and The Winstons, the group was basically a glorified, highly-skilled and extremely crowd-friendly bar band who drew their inspiration from the current music of the other artists around them. Hardway's influence spread far from their DC/Maryland base (they played Lamont's Entertainment Complex in Pomonkey, Maryland for years) primarily on the strength of the best of their half-dozen albums, Hot Ticket, released on the Wilbe label in 2005, and specifically on the three songs from the disc that sourced the legendary Roy C.
Listen to Roy C singing "Leaving on the Morning Train (I've Got My Ticket)" on YouTube.
None of the singles from Hardway Connection or Roy C were posted on YouTube in the first decade of the 21st Century, when the product was being recorded. Worse, the Roy C albums from the era, which had always been very local---very obscure---were out of print, making Roy C even less well known outside of his base in the Carolinas than his imitators, most notably Hardway Connection.
Listen to Roy singing "Peeping Through The Window" on YouTube.
This is very obvious in my commentary at the time (see "Tidbits" below), which only gradually, over the years, took into account Roy C's enormous influence upon Hardway. Here's a typical reader query from that time and my response, taken from Tidbits #7. At the same time, I have inserted some now-available YouTube links and updated some of the album-purchasing links.
Update: July 12, 2009
Hardway Connection continues to draw attention in
Daddy B. Nice's Mailbag for its song, "Morning Train"/"Peeping Thru The Window." Evidently there are Southern Soul deejays who are still enamored with the Roy C./Hardway Connection fusion, and fans who are still fascinated by both the music and the lyrics.
When people are still talking about music from a CD recorded years ago, it's generally considered a "classic." The letter is posted for posterity below:
LOOKING FOR A SONG: HARDWAY REDUX
Hi daddy b nice.
I am writing because i would like to know who sing this song? I know it has some of the lyrics that goes like this:
i said Im leaving in the morning, leaving on a morning train. Ive got my ticket and a broken heart said im leaving ahh yeah. Robert your thang is too short, your thang is too short, your thang is too short. peeping through the window, peeping through the blinds.
Its not roy c song. Its like they remade both of roy c songs peeping through the window and leaving on a morning train. Its two men sing this song together.
P & J
Daddy B. Nice replies:
Dear P & J,
What would you say if I told you we discussed this very song at length in the Mailbag awhile back and that the answer has been on the page all this time? Scroll down Daddy B. Nice's Mailbag and browse through the "Looking For A Song" entries. All your questions will be answered.
Daddy B. Nice
Daddy B. Nice adds to his readers:
What is it about this Hardway Connection song ("Morning Train/ Peeping Thru The Window") that has people still talking about it? And who's playing it? Some deejay(s) out there really likes this track. Granted, it was a stroke of genius, grafting the chords to Roy C.'s "Morning Train" onto Hardway's own "One In The Morning."
Maybe Roy C.'s classic was much more of an inspiration to Hardway than many of us previously realized. Have you noticed that Hardway's album titled "Hot Ticket," which contained "One In The Morning," is very close to the "ticket to ride" refrain in Roy's "Leaving On The Morning Train"?
P.S. Now if I could only automatically re-direct all the penis-enlargement spam in my e-mail box to Hardway Connection. . .
--Daddy B. Nice
Daddy B. Nice's Original Profile:Hardway Connection's "One In The Morning" (from the debut CD, Hot Ticket Wilbe 2005), recalls the golden days of singles radio and the enormous and unself-conscious pleasure listeners took in what were then called "novelty" songs. Popular music--not to mention R&B, which was an integral part of the era's programming--was rife with songs that made fans snicker, chuckle, laugh and in general subscribe to the lighthearted aspects of life.
"Ya Ya" (Lee Dorsey), "Mother-In-Law" (Ernie K-Doe), "Young Blood," "Poison Ivy" and "Charlie Brown" (The Coasters), "634-5789" (Wilson Pickett), "Tweedle Dee" and "Dance With Me Henry (Wallflower)" (Georgia Gibbs), not to mention "The Name Game" (Shirley Ellis), are just a few examples.
Still, the novelty song hasn't entirely disappeared: the younger generation's underground hit, "Because I Got High" by (Afroman, is a perfect example, spawning numerous "cover" songs in various genres. But novelty songs have been eclipsed, and reduced in significance, over the ensuing years. In today's pitiably unadventurous music industry, one can hardly imagine crazy, "throw-away" hits like The Marcels' "Blue Moon" or Brenton Wood's "Oogum Boogum Song" or The Marathons' "Peanut Butter"--all classics--ever seeing the light of commercial-radio day.
Not so the chitlin' circuit, however. 21st century novelty hits have become the rage on the overlooked charts of Southern Soul radio. Witness such Stations of the Deep South hits as "Fat Woman" by James Payne, based on Joe Tex's novelty hit from the seventies, "Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)," or Willie B's "Larry Licker" and Lee "Shot" Williams' "Ease On Down In The Bed" (songs that probe the funnier aspects of oral sex), or Jody Sticker's "5 Minutes" (about a man intent on getting a "quickie" from his lady before the "company" arrives), not to mention Poonanny's continued ransacking of Southern Soul hits for his novelty covers.
Perhaps the funniest record of 2005 was the product of arguably the chitlin' circuit's funniest producer (at least, since the untimely death of the legendary Jimmy Lewis): Senator Jones of Hep'Me Records. His studio's offering of "My Name Is $" by Miz B., with lyrics like, "My name is condo" and "My name is shoes on my feet," is the ultimate "hit-upon" woman's comeback to the ultimate male hustler's opening line, "Hey, baby. What's your name?" Miz B., who has evidently been propositioned a few times too many, launches into such a withering sermon on the "perks" she demands from a relationship that the man in exasperation finally begs her to stop with the cry, "Too much information!"
Hardway Connection's "One In The Morning" is thus a time-honored tradition in chitlin' circuit music, and yet it is unique on more than one count. The lyrics are a running joke about a man taking a prescription drug for penile enlargement. To call this a rare if not taboo subject in R&B would be an understatement, but that's exactly the predicament the lead singer of Hardway Connection's "One In The Morning" describes over a nifty,uptempo melody.
"The last time I was talking to you,
My old lady said I was too short.
That I wasn't big enough.
Well, you know I ain't going out like that.
I had to go see my doctor, Doctor John.
'Doctor John, please help me.'
I told him my problem,
And everything that was going on."
Musically, "One In The Morning" owes much to Theodis Ealey's "Stand Up In It." The resounding success of Ealey's song made the country/bluegrass/rock influence popular and even desirable again in R&B. You might say that musically "Stand Up In It" too was a "novelty." And because of the song's cachet and popularity on the chitlin' circuit--much of it due to lyrics that wouldn't be permissible on the stage of the Grand Old Opry--it opened more doors for artists like Wilson Meadows (who has long had a bluegrass-tinged palette), Jeff Floyd ("I Got My Woman Upset"), Reggie P. ("Why Me"), Frank Mendenhall ("Party With Me Tonight") and Hardway Connection to explore a rhythm and blues style that might not have been as accessible and as appreciated as it was in the aftermath of Ealey's classic.
"He said, 'Come on over,'
That he had something to fix me up.
So he gave me this prescription,
'This is what you're going to have to do.
'You have to take one in the morning,
Two in the evening, and three at night.
And everything's going to be all right.'"
Listen to Hardway Connection singing "One In The Morning" Live Onstage on YouTube.
Hardway Connection uses the same driving rhythm section, the same Nashville-style lead guitar and vocal on "One In The Morning" that Ealey used on "Stand Up In It." Yet the country/rock influence is even more evident in Hardway's follow-up radio single, a cover of David Brinston's "Party 'Til The Lights Go Out" (from Brinston's influential 2001 Suzie Q Fly Right CD).
Listen to Hardway Connection singing "Party Til The Lights Go Out" on YouTube.
Listening to "Party," you can practically conjure singing cowboys with banjos and guitars sitting around a fire under a starlit sky. The song may not be distilled from quite the essence David Brinston extracted in the original, but it's good enough to win over fans, both to the song and to the band.
Hardway Connection is truly music by committee. It's a great concept (hey, the Beatles tried it and became famous): an assemblage of musicians accomplishing more as a team than they could as individuals. And with "One In The Morning" (an original composition, by the way) Hardway Connection can lay legitimate claim to being the first, bona fide, 21st-cenetury Southern Soul group--as opposed to solo artist--to score an undisputed Southern Soul "hit."
So Hardway's concept is good. A touring band of high quality dedicated to singing the Southern Soul "classics." Yet the pitfall for any group, even a group that succeeds in some part due to playing "covers," is in the execution. Does the group succeed at a truly distinctive sound? Does the group's material set it apart from the average bar band? By this measure Hardway Connection succeeds with a flourish on at least three, maybe four, of Hot Ticket's tracks.
In addition to "One In The Morning" and "Party 'Til The Lights Go Out," Hot Ticket boasts an especially solid track in the overlooked "Same Girl," in which scintillating, Ry Cooder-esque guitar work, a delicate melody and a hypnotic hook combine to produce an irresistible ballad.
The group isn't as successful with their other Suzie Q Records cover, Maurice Wynn's "What She Don't Know (Won't Hurt Her)," but they compensate with a decent grafting of Roy C's "Leaving On The Morning Train" and "Peepin' Through The Window" ("Morning Train/Peeping Through The Window").
The fact there are so few groups like Hardway Connection in contemporary Southern Soul may have more to do with the lack of high-powered producers in the modern day than it does with any conscious decision on the part of Southern Soul artists or recording labels. The producers and studios who in the 50's, 60's and 70's were prone to "force" individual artists (even budding stars) into group vehicles until the group's fame was substantial enough for the individual artist to undertake a solo career--usually a contentious process, of course--are largely absent in the contemporary South.
Indeed, with the occasional exception of a few old-school groups like the Bar-kays, The Isley Brothers, the Manhattans or The Temptations, one could search the entire chitlin' circuit from Texas to Carolina without finding a high-profile Southern Soul group to compare with The Dells, The Ames Brothers, The Spinners, The Supremes, The Impressions, The Pips, The Miracles, The Four Tops or any of the other heralded R&B groups of yesteryear.
And this is not to say that Hardway Connection is anywhere close to those old-school super-groups. But for the foreseeable future, in a time when the power and passion of Southern Soul music remains with the solo artist, Hardway Connection can lay claim to the distinction of being the exception that proves the rule.
Oh. And to those wondering whether the penile enlargement worked. . . . Well, sorry to say, the news isn't good.
--Daddy B. Nice
About Hardway Connection (& Roy C)
Hardway Connection's national debut disc, Hot Ticket, appeared in 2005 on Wilbe Records, the record company owned by William Bell of "I Forgot To Be Your Lover" fame.
Song's Transcendent Moment
"When I pulled the cover back,
1. The fact that Hardway Connection chose to cover two prominent songs from the late and sorely missed Suzie Q label--David Brinston's "Party 'Til The Lights Go Out" and Maurice Wynn's "What She Don't Know"--leads to the idle speculation: Could the Hardway band-members be former Suzie Q studio musicians?
If You Liked. . . You'll Love
Honorary "B" Side
"Morning Train/ Peeping Thru The Window (Full Mix)"
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