In the late 50s and early 60s Big Bud Harper was a San Antonio mainstay, appearing locally with groups like Mike and the Bel-Airs and band leader Spot Barnett. His first record was for Joe Anthony’s local hand-to-mouth Harlem concern, and even though they were covers both sides were really strong R & B. Lloyd Price’s “Never Let Me Go” was coupled with Bobby Bland’s I’ve Just Got To Forget You, one of the great man’s most sensitive sides.
Although many blues artists have had a much more favourable run in the mainstream (read white) press than Bobby Bland, for almost the entire 60s and 70s he was the top man in the genre, selling more records than anybody else (including B B King) and had by far the widest influence within the black community. So pervasive was Bland that a great many other singers tried to jump on his bandwagon – check out Buddy Ace, Joe Medwick, Oscar Perry or Merle Spears to see what I mean. Harper’s wonderful Down The Aisle fits into the “Blandalike” bag like a hand in a glove. What a fantastic cut! I can never get enough of those minor keyed blues ballads – and this one is a real cracker. Great emotion from Bud and a super Wayne Bennett impersonation from the busy guitarist. This track came out on the fabled Sarg label, run out of his Luling, TX base by Sgt. Charlie Fitch.
Harper’s final 45s were for Peacock and he maintained the high quality threshold that he’d already established. His initial offering coupled the excellent uptempo “Wherever You Were” with the more subtle “Let It Rain” on which his big voice is hugely effective. More class Texas R & B for sure. Bud’s final 45 was as good with the Bland styled “Mr Soul” remaining a favourite dancer to the present day. The other side “Let Me Love You” isn’t as accessible but is a real grower – after a few plays it sinks in.
There were so many Texas singers of quality that Bud Harper never really stood out – but in these impoverished days listening to him now is a terrific treat.
I’ve just got to forget you / Never let me go ~ HARLEM 117 (1961)
Down the aisle / This woman I love ~ SARG 196
Let it rain / Wherever you were ~ PEACOCK 1932 (1964)
Mr Soul / Let me love you ~ PEACOCK 1939 (1964)
Note ~ For reasons that I completely fail to understand “Down The Aisle” hasn’t featured on any of the Sarg compilations from the likes of Ace UK, Collectibles or P-Vine. So to get hold of it you’ll need to purchase Bear Family’s astonishing 4 CD set of Sarg recordings. I’d avoid the hillbilly and country tracks though. The alternative is to buy the Sounds Good To Me CD “Thank You Bobby”. This is a boot of course but absolutely essential for any Bland fan.