Despite his several 45s and his undoubted singing prowess nothing much has been written about New York native Billy Hambric or Hambrick as he appears on the Jovial 45. His first sides would seem to have been the Ducan ones, with the better track being the derivative “Have A Little Faith” which is “based on” that excellent Soul Stirrers track “God Is Standing By”, but which Hambric turns into a lively classic Big Apple early 60s piece of pop/soul.
I think his Jovial was his next release and this too has its moments. The blue tinge to “Just Can’t Take It No More” is based on a Tommy Tucker “High Heel Sneakers” riff, but the slower “Someone To Love” is rather spoiled by an intrusive female chorus, despite some fine testifying from Hambric.
Hambric worked with Luther Dixon on his next two releases. The first of these may well have been the Lee 45. This coupled the pounding “New York City Baby” with the gospel fire of I Just Can’t Stand It on which Hambric is first class, accompanied by some tasteful female voices, and subdued horns and strings. The unusual tempo changes take a bit of getting used to but work well once you’ve got the handle on them. The Northern soul fraternity go for both sides of his Drum single, and have pushed its price way up, but neither do anything for me sadly.
More successful artistically, however, are his sides for Bobby Robinson. His version of Luther Dixon’s magnificent Human is one of the most intense I’ve ever heard, and the flip “Talk To Me Baby” uses the same rhythm track that Joe Haywood used for his version, but Hambric’s take is a few seconds shorter.
Hambric’s final release for Robinson was another fine piece of work. The uptempo “Everybody Needs Love” simply romps along, and the flip, Ed Townsend’s This Is My Prayer is another stunning ballad, with Hambric almost overwhelmed by the emotion. What a wonderful piece of vocal histrionics – why isn’t this track better known?
Billy’s final 45 featured drummer Curley Hammer’s band, and both his own mid paced “I Gotta Find That Girl” and his very well judged take on that old warhorse I Need Your Love So Bad are well worth finding.
I’d put Billy Hambric pretty high on the New York Roll of Soul Honor – his vocal talent was quite remarkable. And I hope this short article will raise his profile a bit – he certainly deserves it. I would guess that Jimmy Hambric must be a relation – his brother perhaps?
Just have a little faith / All about Carrol ~ DUCAN 1601 (1962)
Just can’t take it no more / Someone to love ~ JOVIAL 730/1 (1964)
New York City baby / I just can’t stand it ~ LEE 5001 / SOHO 5001 (1964/5)
I found true love / She said goodbye ~ DRUM 1204 (1965)
Human / Talk to me baby ~ FURY 5000 (1965)
You’re a sweetheart / Flaming Mamie ~ FURY 5005 (1966)
This is my prayer / Everybody needs love ~ FURY 5006 (1966)
I gotta find that girl / I need your love so bad ~ PYRAMID 101 (1967)
Note ~ You can find “I gotta find that girl” on the Grapevine 2000 UK CD “Kelley’s Soul Heroes”.