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GLORIA JONES MARCH 1974 INTERVIEW
SHARING HER SOUL
HOW MANY times, I wonder, do we hear that old worn out cliche from visiting Americans about how much they dig this country and how great it is to be here and how often do we dismiss it as just politeness or good manners on their part? Speaking personally, everytime I hear one of our soul brothers or sisters trotting out the same old adage. I shudder — especially now, with all the many problems affecting everyone from plastic shortages to power cuts.

The strange thing about it is that many of our visitors genuinely do mean it and just how sincere they are about their feelings for this country and the people (and particularly the soul lovers) was well and truly brought home to me by the very delightful Miss Gloria Jones making her second visit to these shores, the prime purpose of which was to work with none other than Mr. Marc Bolan as a back-up vocalist. And this is one occasion where soul folk ought to be really grateful to the man for allowing us to recieve such a lovely lady in this country, for she is one of the warmest and most sincere soul sisters to have graced our shores in many a moon. And the word "sincerity" sums up so much of what Gloria Jones is all about.

We got the chance to catch just a little of the lady's time at Mr. Bolan's offices in London and it was here that she explained just how she felt about soul folk here.

"You know, I'd always dreamed about coming over here right from the very beginning when I first heard that "Heartbeat" had made a little bit of an impression. For some reason, I just never got here then and when the opportunity arose to come over with Marc last year, I grabbed at it. And do you know what really knocked me out? The fact that people remembered me from "Heartbeat"!

"I was browsing around a record shop whilst I was here and some guy happened to ask me who I was and next day, he came around with all these clippings about me, going way back to 1965 when the record first came out! And that really knocked me out! In fact, there is so much respect and appreciation for American artists here that I really got inspiration to go back home and record again — the result is my album, "Share My Love".

"You know, it made me feel so good to know that people were interested in what I was doing and it made me feel that I really had to get back into singing as a career rather than just being a songwriter and producer." But before we go any further, let's take Gloria back (in the words of one of her own songs) to day one: "Now let's see I started out with a group consisting of Billy Preston, Blinky Williams Edna Wright (from the Honeycone) and Frankie Karl and we called ourselves The Cogic Singers. That was in L.A. when we were still at high school.

"In fact, my parents disapproved of me working professionally and I had to attend piano recitals. You know what used to happen? The others used to have to wait for me to finish those recitals — I was about ten years old then — and then we'd rush off to rehearse. We played in church and so on and then of course, Billy went out with Little Richard and we all just continued to work at sessions in and around L.A.

"One of the very first sessions I remember was with Brenda Holloway on "Every Little Bit Hurts" — we worked with Brenda and her sister, Patrice. Anyway back in '65, I was called in to do a session and then producer, Ed Cobbs, told me he had this song he wanted me to do. Well, the other girls (Edna and Blinky) came by to help out and we cut "Heartbeat" for Uptown Records, which was part of Capitol Records. The record was released and it did kinda well on the r&b charts and even made some headway on the national scene.

"I heard that it was released here and that it did well in discos and so on, too. Well, for some reason — because I guess the time just wasn't right — nothing much happened directly after that. I cut an album for Uptown but it didn't really show what I could do. I was naive those days: if the producer said sing, I'd just sing! The album was called 'Come Go With Me' and it didn't do badly: in fact I was lucky enough to get 'Most Upcoming New Vocalist' award from Cashbox magazine for '65 which was quite something. I remember those sessions: we had Glen Campbell on guitar and all kinds of other people around — like Wayne Newton!"

Gloria revealed how she had then decided to settle for the entertainment world as a career although she was quite adamant about still going on back to school during the summer every year "just in case things fell through". Gloria spent the next few years working a lot of sessions with such folk as Phil Spector but a lot of her time, she found herself working as back up at Motown sessions.

"We did a whole load of sessions then and worked on commercials and jingles too. But it was at a Brenda Holloway session that I first met Berry Gordy Jr. Brenda was really excited that he was going to produce her and the song we did was 'You Made Me So Very Happy' — that would be about mid '67. Well, from there on in, I spent more and more time doing things at Motown.

"Around 1968, I began to take some interest in working in the theatre — remember I particulary dug the idea of working on Broadway! Well, my first taste of working onstage came with 'Hair' — I worked out of L.A. and I had the role of 'Abraham Lincoln'. One of the numbers I had to do was 'Easy To Be Hard' which could have been a really big smash r&b wise, but Three Dog Night had a big record on it then.

"From there, I went on to 'Catch My Soul' and although I did enjoy the experience, I still wanted to go back to singing, deep down: that is, singing in my own right. I guess it was about this time that I started writing. To start off, it was really just for fun — I never considered it seriously and even when some of the songs did well, and people asked me how I had managed to write such material, I couldn't really say: 'I just was fooling around'."

Obviously it was the kind of fooling around that payed off, for not too long after, Gloria teamed up with Pam Sawyer, with whom she's since written and produced for a whole host of Motown folk. Gloria recalled their first meeting: "I was messing around on the piano and Pam said why didn't I write something? I thought she was putting me on but when we met up again, something clicked and we just found that we could really get something going as writers."

Even then, Gloria was reluctant to admit that she was becoming a successful writer at Motown — indeed, one of the most successful. She was responsible for The Four Tops' "Just Seven Numbers" and one of her biggest contributions was the smash that seemed to make a big difference to the career of one particular group, "If I Were Your Woman" — which brought a new dimension to Gladys Knight & The Pips and really brought them into the winners' circle.

Gloria explained that many of her songs were based on situations that she put herself in rather than personal experiences but she did say: "I'm glad I'm a woman and all the good and bad that goes with it! You know, women are funny: they'll cry when a man leaves them and wonder how they'll ever go on: next thing you know, they've gone out and gotten a new one!"

The story from there on in was one of success after success. She continued her highly creative partnership with Pam Sawyer which involved them in writing for David & Jimmy Ruffin and producing, amongst others, Jr.Walker, The Commodores, The Jackson Five (for whom they wrote "A.B.C.") and Eddie Kendricks.

"Yes, we've cut a few things on Eddie: we did 'Where Do You Go, Baby' from his last album. He's a great guy to work with. Then there's Thelma Houston: She's a great singer to write for and produce, she just needs that elusive big hit and I know she's gonna break wide open. The same thing applies to The Sisters Love: they're a dynamite group who just need the right song. In fact, we just cut a reggae-based thing on them which could just make it: I really hope so. Oh, and Jermaine Jackson: we did some things on his album. And, believe it or not, we've got some things on The Supremes which have never been released — I don't know if they'll get round to doing them or not."

But as we said before, after Gloria's visit in '72, she decided to go back and start working on re-launching her career as a singer — hence her really imaginative first Motown set, "Share My Love".

"Yes, I'm happy with the album and I'm surprised that it's gotten the acceptance it has. I tried to show people that I could do a lot of different things. 'Try Love', for instance, is my way of doing a movie score! And I really like 'Tin Can People'. I think that Motown will go with 'Baby Don'tcha Know' as the single and from that I'm going to gauge what people want so that I know which musical direction to take.

"It's important for me to know what people want so that I can give it to them. As yet, I haven't started out with live gigs but I will: just as soon as the time and everything is right. I really don't want to get caught in a situation where I have problems and hassles with microphones, lighting and all that. I know how important things like that are, so I want to do things so that people can get my message without problems of having to pay a lot of money and then not hearing me, for instance!

"And the same applies to my working over here. I really do want to come back to Europe and work for all the wonderful people who've remembered my name for so long and really show my appreciation for them. But I won't do it till everything is right and then I really will show the people here how much I dig them!" Believe me, Gloria, the pleasure is all ours and the sooner you can get back the better!


About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.
  
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