Louisiana soul man Truitt first cut as Little John for Neal, probably in Houston, and the blue touch to the brilliant self-penned doomy My Love Is Gone already showed him to have a rare talent. Possessor of a powerful baritone, his grounding in gospel techniques was quite obvious, as was his ability to inject urgency and passion by harshening his tone, and emphasising key words and phrases in a song.
His second 45 for the company didn’t reach the heights of his debut, although both sides are perfectly acceptable beat ballads, and his vocal on “What’s Your Name” was very effective indeed. The standard was raised for his stay with Abet later in the 60s. His first session was probably recorded at Jay Miller’s Crowley studio and “Don’t Let Me Be a Crying Man” trips along pretty well. The slowed down “There Goes A Girl” is a much better performance though, with Truitt’s class clear. Could do with a horn section however.
Abet 9423, probably his least effective for the label, sounds like it came from the same session, and the addition of strings to “Just The Other Day” on his third outing doesn’t improve it a great deal. But the flip is his finest hour. Your Love Is Worth The Pain is a wonderful piece of Muscle Shoals magic. The playing of the Fame team puts sax man Aaron Varnell’s well crafted 6/8 ballad onto another plane of quality and Truitt responds magnificently, screaming his heart out – pain is absolutely the right word for his torment. Deep perfection.
“Baby I Love You” came from the same recording date and is another fine piece of music, and I'm Thru With You on the other side was one of his best. A classic 6/8 country soul ballad featuring some tasty organ fills from Barry Beckett, it suited him down to the ground. What appears to be his final 45 for Soul Unlimited in 1973 is fairly good, but not in the same class sadly.
For those in the know Johnny Truitt remains a singer to return to time and again.
UPDATE ~ Eric LeBlanc writes with the sad news that Johnny Truitt has passed on. He gives his birthday as 18 April 1945 in Eunice, LA and his date of death as 31 July 2007. I'm grateful to Eric for his excellent research.
NEW UPDATE ~ My great friend Greg Burgess writes that he has noticed the name "J Truitt" as one of the writers on the Trademarques Reginald 45 "I can set you free / Free your fears" (Reginald 1411). He says the top side is is "a decent funky cut" which may well feature Johnny Truitt on lead vocals. Can anybody confirm this? Great detective work from Greg as usual.
My love is gone / Looking for my picture ~ NEAL 1236 (as LITLLE JOHN) (1965)
Please be mine / What's your name ~ NEAL 1239 (as LITTLE JOHN) (1965)
There goes a girl / Don't let me be a cryin' man ~ ABET 9416 (1966)
That's what love will do / Bring my baby on home ~ ABET 9423 (1967)
Your love is worth the pain / Just the other day ~ ABET 9433 (1968)
I'm thru with you / Baby, I need you ~ ABET 9437 (1969)
No sad times / For the good times ~ SOUL UNLIMITED 103 (1973)