The Wallace Brothers Sims recordings were raw, unpolished soul. Although the production values weren't necessarily the highest, their uninhibited vocals were highlighted by that very lack of sophistication. The emotion and intensity in the tracks come through as strongly now as they did some 30 years ago when they were cut. And, in the ultimate, isn't that what soul music is all about?
Details about their lives are sketchy. They don't appear to have given any interviews, and what we do know comes from the often dubious source of the publicity info on the back of their only US album. The "Brothers" seem to have been cousins Johnny Simon and Ervin Wallace, who came from Atlanta, GA and attended the Archer High School there. By the ages of 14 and 16 respectively they were apparently on the road with their own 6-piece band, not only sharing the vocals but with Simon playing sax and Wallace trying his hand at guitar. These "facts" are accompanied on the sleeve of a picture of 3 smiling young teenagers in tuxedos and four similar gents on the back!
But whatever the truth of the background material by 1963, Simon and Wallace were accomplished enough singers to commence their recording career fo the local Royal label. The top side Faith as its name implied, is heavily sanctified soul. A funeral slow number featuring an organ and a meandering sax, its the young harmony vocals that grab the attention, as the uninhibited gospel phrasing very much set the tone for their subsequent recordings. It got enough action to attract the attention of Nashville record man Russell Sims who reissued it on his eponymous label.
Their next 45, "Precious Words" appeared in the Spring of 1964 and the 'A' side was, if anything, even more church based than their debut. Heavily dependent on a piano/organ backing, Wallace and Simon again show their gospel passion. The disc sold well enough through the South to register on Cash Box's black music chart for 6 weeks, reaching No. 31. This minor success was built on by the Autumn 1964 issue of Lover's Prayer which become their biggest 45. This track is vintage early Southern soul, its 12/8 ballad style heralding those Muscle Shoals classics of the later 60s. The cousins voices never blended so well as they did on this cut, and their fire and commitment are irresistible. A great record, it scored on both Cashbox and Billboard's black music charts. No doubt sales were helped by plays from Nashville's major WLAC station, where Richbourg, who told Souled Out magazine that he had as big a share as Sims in the Wallace Brothers, no doubt increased the return on his investment.
Russell Sims had enough confidence in his young stars to pay for an LP to be recorded. This appeared as "Soul Soul And More Soul", and was cut at Fame studios in May 1964. This date makes the Wallace Brothers among the earliest visitors to Muscle Shoals, and although the personnel details include the Brothers own band plus David Briggs of the then group of studio session men, no doubt others chipped in as necessary. In addition to the early 45 tracks four others were included, notably the strong blues ballad "She Loves Me Not".
Of the duo's later Sims releases the best few tracks included the waltz-like "I'll Step Aside", the ballad "Hold My Hurt For A While", "Stepping Stone" which with its saxes and super bluesy guitar harked back to "Lovers Prayer", and the truly excellent version of Otis' classic These Arms Of Mine. This track is now fully matured Southern soul. A great horn section and some powerful "trembly" guitar licks make this cut one of their best ever.
By now Russell Sims was finding the record business hard going and by 1968 was out of the business altogehter. The Wallace Brothers sigend for Stan Lewis' Jewel label. In 1968 and 1969 3 cracking 45s appeared all featuring the unmistakable sound of the Muscle Shoals 'A' team produced by Barry Beckett and Junior Lowe. The best were the Penn / Oldham ballad I Need Someone and their version of Clarence Carter's wonderful "I Stayed Away Too Long". But like their later Sims singles, none dented the charts, and the Wallace Brothers split up. Johnny Simon stayed in the business for another couple of years as a member of the Naturals, recording for Quadran and Shout as well as scoring a minor hit with "I Can't Share You" on Calla.
Faith / I'll let nothing separate me ~ ROYAL 127 / SIMS 158 (1963)
Precious words / You're mine ~ SIMS 174 (1964)
Love me like I love you / Lover's prayer ~ SIMS 189 (1964)
Go on girl / One way affair ~ SIMS 220 (1965)
I'll step aside / Hold my hurt for a while ~ SIMS 229 (1965)
No more / Darlin' I love you so ~ SIMS 248 (1965)
Srepping stone / Girl's all right with me ~ SIMS 304 (1966)
Talking about my baby / These arms of mine ~ SIMS 311 (1967)
Line between love and hate / Thanks a lot ~ SIMS 316 (1967)
My baby's gone / I stayed away too long ~ JEWEL 800 (1968)
My mother-in-law / Woman hang your head in shame ~ JEWEL 804 (1969)
I need someone / Airborne shuffle ~ JEWEL 792 (1969)
Soul soul and more soul ~ SIMS LP 128
Soul Connection ~ SUE UK LP 950
1. The complete Wallace Bros Sims recordings are on the Ace UK CD "Lover's Prayer" (CDKEND 128), and "I Need Someone" can be found on the Fuel 2000 CD (N 302 061 145 2) "Deep Soul Vol. One - From Chicago To Shreveport".
2. The artists on Walbro are different from this set of Wallace Brothers.
Thanks to Pete Nickols for the CD info.