Horace Henry Ellis was born on 21 January 1948, in Montgomery, AL and used the stage name “Ted Ford” for his recordings. One of Ted's big heroes was Joe Tex and it was while opening for Tex at a Montgomery, AL club that he was talent spotted by the guy who became his manger, Charles Cassandra “Buddy” Spears. And both names feature on Ted’s first 45 for Gaye in the mid 60s. Although “Hold On To The Key” is the track that the dancers want, for my money the slow bluesy deep of You Don’t Love Me is far superior. On one of the very best sides ever released on the cult Atlanta label Ted’s voice is suitably downbeat over subdued horns and a chanting girl chorus. It’s local Georgia success brought about interest from Atlantic via their field man Joe Galkin but Buddy Spears passed on the offer.
And if that was good Ford’s cuts for SS7 recorded at Chips Moman’s AGP studios just might be even better. The tricksy “Pretty Girls Everywhere” is superbly arranged and “She’s Gonna Come Back” is a very well crafted ballad but it is Ted’s second outing for Richbourg that is the killer. The pounding uptempo number “You’re Gonna Need Me” propelled by some great bass work from Tommy Cogbill is really first class, but the top side Please Give Me Another Chance is deep soul heaven, from the desperate pleading that Ted brings to his performance to the lovely piano fills, and the way the emotional screw is turned up during the bridge and the late entrance of the horn section are quite brilliant.
Ford cut some unissued sides at Willie Mitchell’s studio around the turn of the 60s before recording his very best 45 at Fame. The dance side “Real Soul” is what has pushed up the price of his Budd single but it is the brilliance of the top side I Can’t Give You Up is what makes the disc a very special one. Check out Clayton Ivey’s wonderful piano fills, Freeman Brown’s fine drumming and those classic Muscle Shoals horns – but most of all listen to Ted’s almost manic desperation in his most heart wrenching vocal performance. Simply stunning. Other sides were cut at Fame while he was there but sadly the tapes seem to have been lost.
By 1971 Ford was in LA hanging around with people like Bobby Womack and Joe Hicks but it would be a few years until his next 45 came out. He put the in demand dancer “I Wanna Be Near You” on his own Stallion label in 1975 which was picked up by President in the UK and issued on their Barak label in 1977. This track featured the cream of the LA session players of the time plus Fred Wesley’s horn section and Ted’s own lead guitar. Subsequent to this the rights to Ted’s material was picked up by Paul Mooney’s Ardent company who released what was to be Ted’s final single in 1980.
Although Buddy Spears passed away in 2001 Ted is till going strong back home in Alabama where he preaches in a Montgomery church.
You don't love me / Hold on to the key ~ GAYE 3034 (1967)
Pretty girls everywhere / She’s gonna come back ~ SS7 2594 (1967)
Please give me another chance / You’re gonna need me ~ SS7 2604 (1968)
I can't give you up / Real soul ~ BUDD 101 (1969/70)
I wanna be near you / Inst ~ STALLION 001 (1975)
I wanna be near you / Ridin' too high ~ BARAK (UK) 3 (1977) (as SIR TED FORD)
Disco music / I’ve got a goal ~ ARDENT (UK) 9001 (1979) (as SIR TED FORD)
1.The Barak 45 release of "I Wanna Be Near You" is quite a bit longer than the original US issue.
2. "Please Give Me Another Chance" can be found on the 3-CD boxed set The Sound Stage 7 Story (Charly SNAJ 734). "‘Real Soul" is featured on the Grapevine 2000 CD "Southern Fried Funk" (GVCD 3031).
Special thanks to Paul Mooney for all the facts and info, and to Kevin Briscoe for the suggestion.