When I first saw a Bonnie Floyd 45 for sale I assumed she must be a female singer. Wrong. Bonnie of course was a man – and he had a rough gruff vocal style that nobody could mistake for a woman. His first 45 was the one on Brooklyn, NY’s Clown which was recorded around 1965/6, as a snippet in Jet magazine of May 1966 mentioned how well the groovy instrumental “Ram-Bunk-Shush” was being received. But of course despite the quality of Bonnie’s group the Untouchables, especially guitarist Leland Hicks, the flip is the side that interests me. Let Me Solve All Your Problems is a deep soul number in the classic format led by Floyd’s hoarse, emotive delivery.
Billboard announced Floyd’s signing with Big Yellow in June 1969 and his single for the company must have been released later that year or early the year after. The side that everybody knows is “I’m Just A Poor Boy”, a scorching uptempo piece of soul on which Bonnie is joined by another uncredited singer. Between them two voices set up the sort of screaming intensity that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Sam & Dave disc. Absolutely unstoppable. The flip I’m So Lucky is only found on the rare stock copies of this 45 and is another really fine ballad. After a lovely scene setting intro from the band, Bonnie comes in hard and strong with a totally convincing tone and some fine phrasing.
Throughout the later 60s Floyd had been gigging of course, especially in the North East of the US, being a particular favourite in Connecticut. His final 45 for Sal Bennett may well have been recorded up there – although New York is another possibility. This disc must have been cut in late 1971 or early 1972 as it contained one of the several answers to Jean Knight’s smash “Mr Big Stuff”. The writer’s credit is an interesting one bearing no relation at all to the writers of the Knight hit. The flip “Ain’t No Getting Out” is a funky little tune that nicely complements the more famous other side.
And aside from some unissued cuts for Atlantic recorded in 1966 that is all that we have of Bonnie Floyd’s fine vocals. Shame.
UPDATE ~ My great friend Greg Burgess has found some more info on Bonnie Floyd. He writes that his real name was Willie A Harris, and he was "born Dec. 26, 1939, in Tyler, TX and as well as being a professional entertainer, singing and performing throughout the United States and Canada, he also played semi-pro baseball in his home town. Sadly he passed on Jan 6 2010 in New London, CT". I'm sad to hear that Bonnie has died but am really grateful to Greg as ever for his excellent info.
My friend David Cole has also been in touch with details of a CD that Bonnie recorded around 2003. The details are now in the discography. I'm very grateful to David for getting in touch about this.
Let me solve all your problems / Ram-bunk-shush ~ CLOWN 3050 (1965/6)
I’m so lucky / I’m just a poor boy ~ BIG YELLOW 45-64 (1969/70)
Ain’t no getting out (spider) / Mister big stuff ~ BENNETT 925 (1971/2)
I never had it so good ~ JATWAN (2003)