John “Buddy” Conner was by inclination a jazz vocalist, good enough to have toured with Earl “Fatha” Hines. But in the 60s he flirted with R & B, recording a couple of very good singles. The first was for Galaxy subsidiary Early Bird and included a funky slice of West Coast rhythm and blues "Half-Way Loving" on which Buddy sounds right at home – possibly the jazzy organist might have helped – but the horns are pure blues and the total sound is very much in the Claude Huey bag. The slower flip This Is Love gives Conner more room to breathe and he responds with a fine performance full of fine phrasing and total control. The strings are a bit syrupy for my taste but this track is certainly a grower.
A few years later he recorded for independent producer Joey Jefferson. When You’re Alone is the track that all the dancers know but it is Conner’s gruff hoarse delivery rather than the beat that qualifies it for inclusion here. If he was good on the Early Bird 45 on this one he is simply sensational. What a shame he didn’t continue to make music like this. Jefferson clearly thought enough of it to issue it again in a slightly – and worse – remixed form, and then for a third time under the name of The World’s Funkiest Band on his California Gold label.
After a short spell away from the music business Conner returned to make quite a name for himself amongst the West Coast jazz fans before his death in 2004 aged 74. But for me he will always be one of the “lost” R & B greats.
As BUDDY CONNER
Half-way loving / This is love ~ EARLY BIRD 49656 (1967)
When you’re alone / Inst ~ BREAKTHROUGH 1003 (1969/70)
When you’re alone / Mind of your own ~ BREAKTHROUGH 1004 (1971)
As WORLD’s FUNKIEST BAND
When you’re alone / I feel your love ~ CALIFORNIA GOLD 79 (1978/9) (Note ~ “I feel your love” is by a different artist – possibly J J Jackson)
As JOHN BUDDY CONNOR
Can’t hide love ~ SEASIDE / CAT’S PAW (1996)