Billy Clark was the tenor sax guy and sometime band leader for that interesting music man Hermon Bethea, the Maskman. Clark made a few discs in his own right – instrumentals of course – of which the two part “Soul Party” is perhaps the best known amongst the funk crowd. I like the “duet” he made with Lucille Brown, an answer to Maskman’s “One Eye Open”, for its funk and Brown’s big sassy blue tinged tone. But the best 45 that Clark recorded in my view is Gama 949 especially the excellent deep You’ll Never Make It Alone. The key here is in the small print, for although Clark’s name is prominent on the label that of vocalist Lonnie Brown is almost hidden. This is a first class effort from a guy I don’t know at all, but his warm tone and easy phrasing really is the business. And of course Clark gets a tip of the hat for those tasty “climbing” horn phrases.
UPDATE ~ My freind Naoya Yamauchi points out that "You'll Never Make It Alone" was also recorded by the Maskman himself for BBC 296. This version uses the same rhythm track as the Billy Clark release.
And Martin Newman writes with some further details on Billy Clark. He says "Billy was out of the Joe Morris Orchestra. (Herald ,Shake a hand etc) He worked around Washington DC and Gama was one of Lilian Claiborne`s labels. Both sides of Hot Gravy / The In Between for Gama are excellent and in addition feature great guitar work from Bobby Parker.These musicians played a lot for DC artists (Nat Hall was another) and also Wee Willie Mason. On his "Hot Pants single, Billy gets the B side with another gem. I couild go on......" I'm very grateful to Martin for adding these points about Billy's career - instrumentals not being my thing I need help from guys like Martin to put the right perspective on things.
Hogmouth / BC's bounce ~ KEYNOTE 111 (1955)
Nova boss / Tonker ~ NALE 001 (late 60s?)
Soul Party / Pt 2 ~ DYNAMO 123 (1968)
The In Between / Hot Gravy ~ GAMA 694 (1968/9)
Both eyes open / Hot gravy ~ DYNAMO 133 (1969) (Top side is credited to LUCILLE BROWN & BILLY CLARK)
You’ll never make it alone / Too bad too sad ~ GAMA 949 (1969/70?)
Thanks to Martin Newman for details of the Keynote 45.