Little Charles (Whitworth)
Charles Whitworth came from the Triad area of North Carolina and recorded his first 45s around there. Cool Teenager is a really rare 45 thanks to the limited distribution that Winston Salem records were able to get, but it is a really fine deep ballad full of bluesy touches and a heavily echoed vocal – love those falsetto excursions. I like the “downward” horn fills too and the little piano fills. Already Whitworth’s strengths – his songwriting skills and his powerful vocals – were apparent. His second 45 also recorded in the Carolinas Give Me A Chance found it’s way somehow to Stan Lewis’ Baton Rouge operation but even Lewis’ heavyweight operation couldn’t get him a hit. But this downbeat deep winner remains a personal favourite of mine despite – or perhaps because of – those out of tune horns.
By the late 60s Whitworth was in New York and I would guess that he changed his stage name to Chuck-A-Luck to avoid confusion with the already established Little Charles Walker. Whitworth’s 45s for the notorious Charles Taylor’s Tayster label are all very solid soul releases. The slow grind funky “Whip You” has rightly earned some fame on that scene as it is a cut above most of the genre thanks largely to Whitworth’s committed vocal. The similarly styled “Are You Experience” (sic) doesn’t quite pack the same punch.
But the best cuts are the two ballads. I’ll Always Love You may just be this fine singer’s greatest performance. Check out the way he introduces the song and delays the initial verse – just sensational. And from then on he just turns the screw tighter and tighter. Music to listen to time and again. Very difficult to maintain that peak of excellence of course and Not On Your Life just fails to reach those heights but it should not be overlooked as it is a very fine piece of music in it’s own right.
Whitworth doesn’t seem to have made any further singles himself but back home in the Carolinas he was instrumental in establishing the successful group LTD. However he never recorded with them.
UPDATE ~ Pete Ritchey writes to say that the song was also recorded by Royall Abbit and Lowman Pauling under the title "I'm A Cool Teenager" on Federal in 1960. Ace UK has it on a recent compilation CD "New Breed R & B Vol 2". I did notice Royal Abbit's name on the Little Charles disc as a co-writer but didn't follow it up - I'm very glad Pete did and sent the details on to me. I'm grateful to him.
UPDATE ~ I'm delighted to say that Ms Jerolyn Wilson, who knew Charles personally, has been in touch. She says that Charles Whitworth was born on 17 November 1943 and sadly passed away on 21 January 1996. Jerolyn very kindly provided the two fantastic pictures shown above. The first is of Charles playing bass behind Sam & Dave on thier 1967 trip to Europe, and the second is from the 80s in a club in Greensboro, NC. I can't think Jerolyn enough for the time and trouble she's taken to get me this info.
Cool teenager / Let's talk (about the women) ~ STARR MOUNT 1003 (1964?)
Give me a chance / Guess I'll have to take what's left ~ JEWEL 752 (1965)
I'll always love you / Whip ya ~ TAY-STER 6019 (1967) (as CHUCK-A-LUCK & The Lovemen Ltd)
Are you experience / Whip You ~ TAY-STER 6020 (1967) (as CHUCK-A-LUCK & The Lovemen Ltd)
Not on your life (never in a million years) / Hard to satisfy ~ TAY-STER 6021 (1967) (as CHUCK-A-LUCK & The Lovemen)
Special thanks to Jason Perlmutter (see Links) for help and info.
1. The Objectives 45 on Jewel which you can find here was leased out at the same time as the Little Charles single on the label. Is it possible he was involved in this the record as well?
2. "Give Me A Chance" can be found on the Westside UK CD "Soul Jewels Vol 1 Losers Win Sometime" (WESA 912).