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Johnny Sayles

b. 9 February 1937, Winnsboro, Texas, USA, d. 17 August 1993, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Sayles was possibly one of the finest ‘tough-soul’ singers of the earliest (early 60s) soul era, and several of his recordings for George Leaner’s Chicago-based Mar-V-Lus label are as potent and telling as anything recorded by far better-known singers, such as Wilson Pickett and Otis Clay. Sayles only had four sides released at the time, but several others were reissued later on a superb Japanese album. At the age of 18, he moved to St. Louis and worked with Eugene Neal’s Rocking Kings, Ike Turner’s local Kings Of Rhythm, and fronted his own band at Chuck Berry’s Paradise Club. After quitting music for a time to study in Houston, in 1963 he joined the Five Dutones’ Review tour, playing the role of ‘Little’ Johnny Taylor, who had a current R&B number 1 hit with ‘Part Time Love’. His first recording for Leaner the fine, up-tempo ‘Don’t Turn Your Back On Me’, which featured Sayles’ driving, tough-soul vocal, and was coupled with ‘You Told A Lie’, a great Bobby Bland -style, ‘bluesoul’ track. His second release, ‘You Did Me Wrong’ (May 1964), with its metronomic slow, plodding beat, appealed equally to both blues and deep-soul lovers. It was backed by ‘Got You On My Mind’, an even slower and more bluesy number. Further Mar-V-Lus releases included the mid-paced ‘Tell Me Where I Stand’ and ‘The Girl That I Love’, Subsequently, Sayles joined a Lou Rawls show in Alaska, and his later Leaner recordings were not available until the 80s Japanese P-Vine album. After leaving Rawls, Sayles joined ex-Leaner producer Monk Higgins, and recorded the outstanding ‘Nothing But Hard Rocks’, which was released on Chi-Town. He worked for several other labels, including St Lawrence, Chess and Minit Records, where his ‘Anything For You’ became a UK northern soul favourite when it was issued on Liberty Records. For the Dakar label, Sayles recorded ‘Somebody’s Changing My Sweet Baby’s Mind’, which had been intended as a follow-up to Tyrone Davis’ first hit for the label, ‘Can I Change My Mind’, and Man On The Inside, but continued to eschew recording in favour of live performances. Reported to have always wanted to sing ‘sweet’ like Roy Hamilton, his vocal power was immense, and at times, his stage presence was said to have rivalled even that of James Brown.
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Move With The Groove: Hardcore Chicago Soul

Disc 1

1. Damper Down

4. The Town I Live In

5. I've Got A Claim On You

6. Come Back Home

7. Master Key

9. I'm A Big Man

10. Shake A Tail Feather

12. The Whip Pt. 1

14. Don't Turn Your Back On Me

15. You Told A Lie

16. Tell It Like It Is

17. Who Is She

18. New Girl

19. You Did Me Wrong

20. Twine Time

21. Don't You Worry

22. Do The 45

23. Got To Find A Way

25. Every Beat Of My Heart

Disc 2

2. Give Me Back My Ring

4. I Still Can't Get You

5. The Philly Freeze

7. I Made A Mistake

8. More Power To You

9. I Stand Alone

10. Ordinary Guy

11. One Man's Poison

13. Behave Yourself

18. A Lasting Love

19. You Got Your Finger In My Eye

21. The Funky Judge

22. I Get A Groove

24. Move With The Groove

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