Soul Man


Soul singer Clarence Carter appears Thursday, July 12 at Spanky’s on Valley.

Southern rhythm and blues strutted with mischievous swagger on backroads between Memphis and Muscle Shoals in the ’60s and early ’70s. Frequently touted as “soul music” before disco steered the term soul straight into a mirror ball-lit ditch, rhythm and blues slowly lost its sense of direction along those feel-good blacktops once the neon was shut off outside sleazy motels, chitlin’ shacks, and juke joints. Clarence Carter, however, has never detoured from those little-known backroads. He continues to entertain hidden nightspots with his resonant baritone, lecherous chuckle, and sweet, bare-bones guitar picking. Lewd as ever, Carter still sings of loving other men’s wives, relishing his bawdy role as the Devil tempting women beyond all restraints of self-control.

In the mid-’60s, Clarence Carter hooked up with Rick Hall at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, where renowned soul producer Jerry Wexler signed Carter to Atlantic Records’ stable of R&B acts. Carter jumped onto the Top Ten charts with “Slip Away” in 1968, followed by “Patches” in 1970, his biggest pop hit. Blind since birth, Carter built a career narrating “cheatin’ and sneakin’” songs laced with sexual obsession and lascivious infidelity. Titles such as “Dark End of the Street,” “Back Door Santa,” “Doin’ Our Thing,” and “Take It Off Him and Put It On Me” suggest a lifetime of romantic pleasures. He scored his last major hit in 1993 with the overtly nasty “Strokin’.”

It’s been said that the beginning of the end for soul music began when Otis Redding’s plane crashed in 1967. While Redding’s death was a blow R&B never quite shook off, soul singers hung in the ring many more years with champs like Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Arthur Alexander, and Joe Tex belting out timeless R&B in obscure clubs across America. Bruised and aging, soul music is still a powerful and beautiful thing to behold. And Clarence Carter is still standing.

 Clarence Carter will perform at Spanky’s on Valley on Thursday, July 12. Tickets are $25. Call 945-1414 for details.

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