Although Darrell Banks only released two albums in a career that didn’t even last three years, his popularity surpasses singers whose careers were much longer and much more productive. Including demos, Darrell Banks discography numbers less than forty tracks. That was Darrell Banks’ musical legacy. As music legacies go, the two albums Darrell released, hinted at a singer destined for greatness, as a new decade was about dawn.

Darrell Banks’ debut album was 1967s Darrell Banks Is Here, which was released on Atco. Then two years later, in 1969, having signed to Volt, a subsidiary of Stax, Darrell released Here To Stay, which features on Darrell Banks-I’m The One Who Loves You-The Complete Volt Recordings which was recently released on Ace Records. It also features eight hitherto unreleased bonus tracks. They’re an irresistible and tantalizing taste of Darrell Banks, who could’ve and should’ve been one of soul music’s legends. That was until fate would decided to intervene. Before I tell you about Darrell Banks-I’m The One Who Loves You-The Complete Volt Recordings, I’ll tell you about the short life of Darrell Banks.

While Darrell Banks was born in Mansfield, Ohio in July 1937, he moved to Buffalo, New York, where he grew up. Just like many future soul singers, Darrell Banks introduction to music was through the church. Through singing gospel Darrell Banks realize that he’d the talent to make a living out of music. Not gospel though. Instead, in the mid-sixties, Darrell decided to crossover and sing soul music.

By the mid-sixties, Darrell was already a popular act in around the East Buffalo clubs. He still didn’t have a record contract though. That was until he met a dentist, Doc Murphy, who was a partner in a local nightclub Club Revilot. Doc knew a number of music industry people, including Harold “Lebaron” Taylor, who signed Darrell to Hitbound Productions. 

Hitbound Productions was a company formed by Lebaron Taylor, Detroit DJ George White and record producer George Davis. Together, they knew how every aspect of the music industry worked, from recording right through to radio. This would prove useful when their new signing Darrell Banks recorded his debut single.

Detroit was where Darrell headed to record Open The Door To Your Heart, his debut single. In Detroit the songwriting team of George Clinton, Mike Terry and Sidney Barnes had penned a song called Our Love (Is In The Pocket). it was intended to be Darrell’s debut single. That was, until he sung Open The Door To Your Heart, one of the songs he sang in the clubs back home. Written by Donnie Elbert, Open The Door To Your Heart was released on a newly founded label, Revilot Records. It wouldn’t just launch Darrell’s career, but a classic song.

Reaching number twenty-seven in the US Billboard 100 and number two in the US R&B Charts, in June 1966, Open The Door To Your Heart launched Darrell Banks. Things didn’t run smoothly though. Open The Door To Your Heart’s real title was Baby Walk Right In and was written by Donnie Elbert. On the single, the song was wrongly credited to Darrell. This resulted in court action. The court held in favor of Donnie Elbert. By the time this dispute was settled, Darrell’s career was well underway. His sophomore single Somebody (Somewhere) Needs You was released in September 1966, reaching number fifty-five in the US Billboard 100 and number thirty-four in the US R&B Charts. That was Darrell’s final release for Revilot Records. Next stop was a major label.

Atco Record, a subsidiary of the legendary Atlantic Records, was one of the most successful record companies of the sixties, especially when it came to soul and R&B. So signing for Atco must have been like joining the major league for Darrell. Sadly, his time was brief there. During 1967, released just two singles Here Come The Tears and Angel Baby. Then there was his Darrell Banks’ debut album Darrell Banks Is Here. Just like the two singles, Darrell Banks Is Here received plaudits and praise from all quarters. What it didn’t do, was sell well. Darrell’s time at Atco proved to be short. His stay at Cotillion, a newly formed subsidiary of Atlantic was briefer. I Wanna Go Home wasn’t a commercial success and Darrell left Cotillion after one single. At least he was about to sign for a label that would get the best out of him, Stax Records.

It was 1969 when Darrell Banks signed to Stax. He was one of a large number of artists signed simultaneously. The idea was Stax would quickly rebuild their catalog in the post-Atlantic era. Rather than release Darrell’s album on the main Stax label, he was signed to the Volt imprint, which Don Davis was running. This was no bad thing. Now the pressure was off Darrell. If he’d signed to Stax, great things would’ve been expected of him. So Don Davis could concentrate on bringing out what everyone knew was in Darrell…soul gold.

For his sophomore album, some of Stax’s best songwriters contributed songs for Darrell Banks’ Volt debut Here To Stay. We Three, who comprised Bettye Crutcher, Homer Banks and Raymond Jackson penned We’ll Get Over and with Don Davis, cowrote just Because Your Love Is Gone. Don Davis cowrote three other tracks. With Melvin Davis he cowrote Forgive Me and Never Alone with Curtis Colbert. His other contribution was No One Blinder (Than A Man Who Won’t See). Fred Bridges and Richard Knight wrote Don’t Know What To Do and with Robert Eaton, wrote Beautiful Feeling. Clyde Wilson contributed two tracks, I Could Never Hate Her and My Love Is Reserved. Covers versions included When A Man Loves A Woman and Only The Strong Survive. These eleven tracks became Here To Stay were recorded at Stax’s McElemore Avenue studios and in Muscle Shoals with Don Davis producing.

On Here To Stay release in 1969, this just happened to be a time when some amazing music was being released. Stax released over twenty albums, including Hot Buttered Soul, one of Isaac Hayes’ opus.’ That was just part of the competition. Quality will always out. Here To Stay sold well, but was far from the success of Hot Buttered Soul. Jim Stewart, Don Davis and the rest of the Stax and Volt families were encouraged by the start Darrell had made. So much so, that straight away, they sent him back into the studio, where work began on his third album. Sadly, it was an album that was never finished. Before I tell you what happened, I’ll tell you about Here To Stay, which features on  Darrell Banks-I’m The One Who Loves You-The Complete Volt Recordings.

Opening Here To Stay is Just Because Your Love Has Gone. A wistful combination of chiming guitars, quivering guitars, rhythm section and rasping horns accompany Darrell’s hurt-filled vocal. Sadness and emotion fill his voice as cooing harmonies sooth his broken heart. They sing call and response as Darrell unleashes a vocal that’s akin to an outpouring of heartbreak, hurt and loneliness. As the drama builds, strings sweep, horns rasp and gospel-tinged harmonies accompany Darrell, on a track that’s a tantalizing taste of what’s to come.

Forgive Me has a jaunty arrangement, thanks to punchy horns and rhythm section. They add a dramatic backdrop. They’re complimented by strings that sweep and swirl, as Darrell pleads and begs please “Forgive Me.” Soon his vocal is a pleading, needy vamp, that’s complimented by a dramatic, stirring arrangement.

Gamble and Huff cowrote Only The Strong Survive with Jerry Butler. Here, Darrell’s version is very different. A half-spoken vocal, filled with irony, gives way to an arrangement that gradually shows it delights. It veers between understated to an uptempo stomper, complete with horns, piano, strings and drums that provide the heartbeat. The result is it’s compellingly emotive remake of a classic track. 

Don’t Know What To Do features a despairing vocal from Darrell. He really ups his game. From the get-go, it’s a track full of pathos and heartbreak. Stabs of piano, rhythm section and bursts of braying horns accompany Darrell. Distraught and disbelieving, he lays bare his soul. He’s helped by harmonies which match him every step of the way for despair and heartbreak.

When A Man Loves A Woman is an oft-covered track. It’s one of these tracks where the definitive version was recorded long before Darrell covered it. Percy Sledge’s version will never be bettered. All anyone can hope to do, is give the song a new twist. Soaring, heartfelt harmonies, chiming guitars and rasping horns set the scene for Darrell. Straight away, he grabs the song and breathes life, meaning and emotion into the familiar lyrics. Mixing power, passion and control he unleashes one of his best vocals. Singing call and response with his backing vocalists, his impassioned vocal is dripping with emotion as he delivers one of the best versions of this song you’ll hear.

Growling horns open We’ll Get Over. They’re augmented by the rhythm section befire Darrell delivers a vocal where power and emotion combine. Trying to sound sincere and sure, there’s still doubt in his mind. You sense he’s not so sure: “We’ll Get Over.” Trust has been broken and forever, there will always be doubt. They’ve a long road ahead of them. He realizes this, when he sings: “we may have to cry some time.” Determined and doubtful, Darrell with bursts of blazing horns for company, demonstrates why he was seen as the future of soul. That’s why Stax signed him. 

Beautiful Feeling has an understated, wistful arrangement. Just a guitar meanders across the arrangement drums filling in the spaces and a flute floating above. In between sits Darrell’s vocal. A mixture of power, happiness and hope, he gives thanks for the “Beautiful Feeling I’ve found someone.” Strings sweep and swirl, horns rasp and harmonies help Darrell give thanks for the love he’s found.

Harmonies sing “I Could Never Hate Her” while drum and horns add drama, before Darrell sings the lyrics: “I knew she’d leave me, sooner than later.” That stops you in your tracks. So does when his sings: “I Could Never Hate Her.” He doesn’t regret a thing. He’s of the opinion that it’s better to have loved and lost, than never lost at all. Rueful and tinged with regret, Darrell knew their love couldn’t and didn’t last. All he’s got are the memories, and of course a broken heart.

Never Alone literally bursts into. Driven along by the rhythm section and piano, harmonies accompany Darrell’s vocal. Joyous, he give thanks. Strings dance, horns rasp and drums provide the heartbeat. As for the harmonies, they’re the perfect foil for Darrell, as he gives thanks for the love he’s found.

No One Blinder (Than A Man Who Won’t See) was written by Don Davis and Herbert Ross. Just the rhythm section, keyboards and grizzled horns accompany Darrell. His voice is full of regret and sadness. He’s been cheated on and hurt. Unable to believe what happened, and with gospel-influenced harmonies for company, Darrell reminds us that there’s No One Blinder (Than A Man Who Won’t See).

My Love Is Reserved closes Here To Stay, given what happened a year later, is somewhat ironic. Stabs of growling horns, chiming guitars and pounding drums set the scene for Darrell’s soul-baring vocal. He seems to have kept one of the best till last. The band seem to realize this. They play slowly, with care, determined to compliment his vocal. This is the case with the ethereal harmonies, which are the perfect foil to Darrell’s powerhouse of a vocal.

Having released his second album Here To Stay, which features on Darrell Banks-I’m The One Who Loves You-The Complete Volt Recordings, Stax sent Darrell straight back into the studio. Here To Stay had sold well enough to warrant a followup. Stax were playing the long-game, unlike Atco. They wanted to gradually build Darrell into someone, who possibly, might fill the massive void left by the death of Otis Redding. Having started work on his third album, insiders say that it was shaping to surpass anything Darrell Banks had recorded before. Then tragedy intervened in March 1970.

What happened next is disputed. Darrell’s girlfriend or ex-girlfriend, Marjorie Bozeman was also allegedly having a relationship with a Detroit police officer, Aaron Bullock. One night, when she was being dropped off by Bullock, Darrell is said to have approached Marjorie wanting to talk. Then things get hazy. According to Bullock, Darrell grabbed Marjorie. Bullock then identified himself as a police officer. With that, Darrell is said to have pointed a gun at Bullock. So Bullock shot Darrell, killing him with one shot. That is what is reported to have happened. There was neither an investigation nor any charges brought against Bullock. In the space of a few minutes, what could’ve been a great career, was cut short.

At the time of his death, Darrell Banks had released just two albums and a handful of singles. The equivalent of twenty-seven songs, it was a tantalizing taster of a career unfolding. Darrell’s debut album, 1967s Darrell Banks Is Here featured an experienced and undoubtably talented singer. An experienced live performer, he was new to a recording studio. In many ways, Darrell was work in progress. However, he was a fast learner. By the time of Here To Stay, released in 1969, Darrell had matured as a singer.

On the release of Here To Stay, Darrell Banks had improved as a singer. His debut album was good, but Here To Stay much better. No wonder. He’d a voice that bristles with emotion, pain, heartache and sometimes, hope and happiness. Sudden changes of tempo and injections of power and passion, make Darrell’s delivery compelling and breathtaking. That’s why Stax wanted him back in the studio so soon. Stax realized that, with every album, Darrell Banks would improve. Musically, he was like a fine wine. Maybe Darrell Banks would be the man to claim soul music’s crown. It had lain unclaimed since the death of Otis Redding. Pretenders came and went, but the crown was out of their reach for them. Darrell Banks was the man who Stax thought would be crowned King.

You realize why, listening to Darrell Banks-I’m The One Who Loves You-The Complete Volt Recordings, which was recently released by Ace Records. There’s the eleven tracks that comprise Here To Stay, plus every other track Darrell released at Stax. This includes four demos, single mixes of Just Because Your Love Is Gone, Beautiful Feeling and No One Blinder (Than A Man Who Won’t See). Then there’s I’m The One Who Loves You, which was recorded in 1969. These eight tracks are why Stax thought Darrell Banks was destined for greatness. That might have been the case. Sadly, we’ll never know.

If it were not for a moment of madness, late at night, in a Detroit street in March 1970, Darrell Banks might just been crowned King of soul. That wasn’t to be. He came close, very close. The songs on Darrell Banks-I’m The One Who Loves You-The Complete Volt Recordings show how close Darrell Banks came to be crowned King of Soul. Standout Tracks: Just Because Your Love Has Gone, Forgive Me, Beautiful Feeling and No One Blinder (Than A Man Who Won’t See). 



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: