Rudolph (“Rudy”) Mockabee, who was born and raised on Cowpens, SC, was a member of the Yakity Yaks, a large aggregation who were based in nearby Spartanburg. They cut a couple of discs for the famous David Lee who put them out on his Washington Sound and Scope labels from his Shelby, NC base. The funky workout “Soul Night” is the most famous of these, and it’s good time dance groove is both powerful and infectious. I also enjoy the doo-wop influenced ballad Apart from the Yakity Yaks other 45. This track showed how good and gruff Mockabee could sound on the slower material, backed by a some well-arranged horns and some very pleasant background vocals which feature a falsetto singer with considerable talent.
Mockabee was spotted by the Drifters who caught him singing at a South Carolina motel and asked him to join them. At first he thought it was a joke, but after their manager called him from New York, he travelled up there where he recorded “Black Silk” / “You’ve Got To Pay Your Dues” (Atlantic 2746) with them. Mockabee also recorded solo, teaming up with the excellent producer Dave Crawford for sessions that resulted in his two excellent singles for Atco.
The first 45 coupled the uptempo southern soul “Sweet Thing” with his undoubted masterpiece, his version of Roy Lee Johnson’s excellent Cheer Up (Daddy’s Coming Home). Rudy takes his time setting up the song with an introductory rap, before coming in strong and getting stronger and more passionate as it progresses. The tempo of the number is just perfect, as is the setting provided by Crawford, superb horn and string charts, with an especial “thank you” to the solo tenor sax player. Certainly this get 5 stars from me – and maybe easies out Roy Lee from the top spot for the song.
Mockabee’s second Atco release included a funked up version of the marvellous Berns/Ragavoy anthem “Piece Of My Heart” which I like a good deal, as well as a heartfelt cut of Otis R’s Think About It. Now I yield to no one in my admiration for Otis’ talents as a songwriter and extraordinary vocal gifts, but there is no question that Mockabee really does turn the screw here – superb tone and a really special sense of dynamics. A masterful performance.
Although the Atlantic files show a New York location for these titles but that may just be the mastering. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find that they were cut much further south – the horns in particular have a distinct “Memphis” feel to them. I rather fancy I hear Tubby Ziegler behind the drum kit which would mean that the rhythm section was Cold Grits and the recording location Miami.
Mockabee moved to Huntsville, AL sometime in the 70s where he has been active in the music business ever since. Let’s hope he continues for many years.
UPDATE ~ Eric LeBlanc kindly writes with the sad news that Rudy Mockabee passed away on May 21 2013 - another great singer gone. I'm grateful to Eric for passing on this very grim news.
As THE YAKITY YAKS
Soul night / Pt 2 ~ WASHINGTON SOUND 8-9046 (mid 60s?)
Apart / You ya you ~ SCOPE 1971 (mid 60s?)
As RUDY MOCKABEE
1. You can read more about Rudy Mockabee here.
2. "Cheer Up Daddy's Coming Home" is on "Sanctified Soul" on Kent CDKEND 180 - thanks to Pete Nickols for this info.