Very much part of that Big Apple recording scene involving people like J R Bailey and Johnny Northern was Kenny Ballard. You see his name as a writer, arranger and occassional producer cropping up from time to time, but as a singer he was a match for any of the vocalists, despite only having only four or five releases to his name. There wasn’t a bad one amongst them, although the Roulette “Your Letter”, on which he tried a much lighter tone and higher register, falsetto even, was less of an artistic success.
Ballard’s first 45 for Toy was very good deep soul ballad in the grand manner. I Wanna Love You had some fine arpeggio rhythm guitar, tasteful lead fills and big horn support behind his carefully controlled vocals. The Kapp 45 Oh! How I Cried from a year later is a well collected deep record in a very similar style. There’s a piano instead of the lead guitar and a female chorus added to the horn section, but although the song isn’t as memorable, Ballard more than makes up fir this deficiency by putting in a much more committed performance.
I think you could argue that his superb version of Down To My Last Heartbreak may be his best ever. It’s certainly the rarest of his 45s, but that’s no reflection on the quality. The tasteful guitar and horn arrangements give the song a real southern feel, accentuated by Ballard’s heavy gospel phrasing and anguished, guttural rendition. This was a neglected masterpiece until I managed to get it onto an Ace CD a few years ago.
The odd one out is the Kenny B single, cut in New York City but released on Bennett, out of Huntingdon, NY. I’m pretty sure this is the same guy – it certainly sounds like him – and this is a good chance to write about another splendid 45. Love Doesn’t Live Here Anymore is taken at a funerally slow chugging pace, propelled mainly by the horns and a bluesy lead guitarist. The female chorus help Ballard (if it is him) reach great heights of anguish. This really is one hell of a deep record.
UPDATE ~ A majority of the deep soul experts in Japan - notably Yass, Naoya and Takumi - whose opinion I gretaly respect are of the view that Kenny B is a different artist to Kenny Ballard. I want to keep the Bennett 45 on this page but I have amended the discography below to recognise this concern.
NEW UPDATE ~ Davie Gordon writes in support of my view. He says "The Bennett single was produced by Windsor King who wrote "Mr. Magic" the a-side of the Kapp single." The debate continues...
As KENNY BALLARD
I wanna love you / It sure looks good ~ TOY 105 (1963)
Oh! How I cried / Mr. Magic ~ KAPP 602 (1964)
Your letter / I'm losing you ~ ROULETTE 4716 (1966)
Down to my last heartbreak / There will never be another you for me ~ DYNAMO 106 (1967)
As KENNY B (??)
Love doesn't live here any more / Say it ain't so ~ BENNETT 105 (mid 60s)
1. "Down to my last heartbreak" can be found on the Kent UK CD "When a man cries" (CDKEND 176).
2. Kenny B may well be a different artist altogether - see the update.