Hermon Hitson

Over the years Hermon (or Herman) Hitson has been recognised mostly for his peripheral part in the ongoing – and terminally boring – Jimi Hendrix loveathon thanks to the “Free Spirit” track and other Johnny Brantley recordings on which Hendrix might have played. I hope that this small piece on an excellent writer / guitarist / singer might help to rescue his reputation and put him firmly into the story of southern soul where he rightfully belongs.

Although Hitson was born and raised in Philly and Florida he is known to soul fans as part of the great Atlanta set of musicians who gathered there in the 60s. Hitson passed through the city on a tour in 1962, liked what he saw and stayed. He became friends with the brilliant Lee Moses and through the 60s their careers became inextricably interlinked. They played guitar on each other’s sessions, wrote songs for each other and had a mutual producer in the hustling Johnny Brantley.

Hitson’s first recordings were for local entrepreneur Wallace Span who signed him to a deal for his own Royal concern. The 4 tracks that were issued were all worthy southern soul and the thing that stands out on them is the quality of Hermon’s vocals. With his gravelly tone, impeccable timing and excellent sense of dynamics it was obvious he was a top drawer singer – right in the mould that us southern devotees adore. The pick of the 4 songs was the deep ballad ListenBeen So Long on which he gives a very fine performance indeed – love those near falsetto phrases - helped by a sympathetic sweet sounding arrangement.


After the local success of “Been So Long” Hitson joined Johnny Brantley whom he stayed with pretty much for the rest of the decade. Their first collaboration was the wonderful deep ballad ListenYou Are Too Much For The Human Heart which was penned by Lee Moses. This has long been a deep soul classic revered by enthusiasts for its tough screaming vocal and exquisite hook. Brantley took it to Atlantic with a funky “I Got That Will” on the flip. Hitson has said that he went on to record a full LP’s worth of material after the 45 but Atlantic didn’t issue it at the time. Of course Brantley did release it after Jimi Hendrix hit the really big time as an early Hendrix set thanks to his presence on a couple of the sides.


But Hermon’s next official records were for Minit. The first was cut in New York and featured the Ohio Players (another Brantley act at the time) as the musicians. The upbeat funky “Yes You Did” was backed by another Hitson winner in the heartfelt ballad ListenBetter To Have Loved. The second Minit release was recorded back home in Georgia and featured Hitson’s vocal to the Lee Moses favourite “She’s A Bad Girl” backing track. The flip was another frantic pounder in his own “Show Some Sign” which had some fine gruff wailing from the man.


Hitson det up his own Sweet Rose label with high hopes for “You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down”, written with guitarist Freddie Terrell but sadly it bombed. And would have been forgotten but for the Northern soul fans who picked up on it much much later and turned it into a cult dance item now selling for a great deal of money. The very funky “Ain’t No Other Way” was penned by local star Grover Mitchell and Hannibal. Better musically was the gentle “Walking In The Park” which came out on Norman Thrasher’s Lisa imprint in 1976. And after Hitson put out the hymn to his daughter “Ayana (The Baby Song)” in 1979 that was the conclusion of Hitson’s recording career.

But thanks to the efforts of Hitson fans several unissued tracks from the man’s time with Brantley have surfaced – some good some terrible – and there is a list of these in the discography below. The only real killer is the doom laden bluesy deep ballad ListenFeel So Real with its climbing guitar figure and heavy horns. I’m pretty sure that the first vocal that Brantley put on this track was by Bobby Lee Fears another Atlanta singer who may well have penned the song, but Hitson’s take on it is really excellent tough voiced and almost incoherent with his grief.

If that was it for recordings from the Golden Age it was lovely to hear the man back in the saddle as the new millennium came on. Hitson has brought three new recorded CDs to the marketplace since 2000 as well as a few singles that can be found on several download sites. These new tracks are mostly backed by his old mate Freddie Terrell’s latest band but the use of the dreaded synths do spoil the sound far too often for my old school tastes.

Although his guitar playing has continued to be excellent sadly his voice has lost some of the range it once had. As is so often the case his top notes are a bit wobbly but there have been one or two notable moments in all this activity. Hermon’s version of Otis Redding’s ListenJust One More Day should be treated with a good deal of respect and is a strong listen, and one or two of the live cuts (“You Are Too Much For The Human Heart” and “Bad Girl” for example) have quite a lot of the old fire in them. But with regret I won’t be playing any of them very often.

But we must wish Hermon all the best for the future – he remains a pillar of the southern soul music scene.






ListenBeen so long / Georgia grind ~ ROYAL 2871-47 (1965)
Laughin’ / Find my baby ~ ROYAL 2871-50 (1965)
ListenYou are too much for the human heart / I got that will ~ ATCO 6566 (1968)
Yes you do / ListenBetter to have loved ~ MINIT 32072 (1969)
She’s a bad girl / Show some sign ~ MINIT 32096 (1970)
You can’t keep a good man down / Ain’t no other way ~ SWEET ROSE 25 / 26 (1972)
Walking in the park / Party hardy ~ LISA 7003 (1976)
Buckboard / Ayana (the baby song) ~ HITSONG 001 (1979)

Download Singles

ListenJust one more day (2016)
Rolling like a rollercoaster / Merry-Go-Round (2017)
I should’a been home (2018)
Back in the park (2018)


You are too much for the human heart ~ SOUL-TAY-SHUS 6352 (2005)
Yesterday today and tomorrow ~ SWEET ROSE EXPRESS (2009)
Brooklyn soul live in concert ~ SWEET ROSE EXPRESS (2010)
I should have kept my big mouth closed ~ SWEET ROSE EXPRESS (2013)


Don’t Take Your Love
Why Is It Taking So Long
Tired Of Tryin’ (To Make You Love Me)
Love Slipped Through My Fingers
Feel So Real
I’ve Got To Get Away
Why Not Me
ListenFeel So Real (aka A Dream I Had (I Love Her))

Hermon's Soul-Tay-Shus CD is a compilation of some of his recordings. And although you should be particularly careful about the sound quality of any release from Aaron Fuchs this one is OK. It contains many but not all of Hermon’s tracks and is totally recommended if you can’t get hold of the original 45s.

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