ARTHUR PRYSOCK-TOO LATE BABY-THE OLD TOWN SINGLES 1958-66.

ARTHUR PRYSOCK-TOO LATE BABY-THE OLD TOWN SINGLES 1958-66.

Although Arthur Prysock’s career lasted six decades, the most successful period of his career was the eight years he spent at Old Town Records. Between 1958 and 1966, Arthur Prysock released twenty-four singles. There’s also the small matter of nine albums. From Arthur’s debut album was I Worry About You, right through until 1965s A Double Header With Arthur Prysock, Arthur was one of Old Town Records’ most successful artists. So much so, that in 1966, Arthur Prysock was signed to one of jazz’s premier labels, Verve Records.

Sadly, at Verve Records, Arthur never replicated the success he’d enjoyed at Old Town Records. He released six albums for Verve Records and released a collaboration with Count Basie. These albums were well received, but didn’t match the success Arthur enjoyed at Old Town Records. So in 1969, Arthur signed to King Records and released a quartet of albums. Again, the Arthur couldn’t replicate the commercial success he enjoyed at Old Town Records. This resulted in Arthur moving on, before returning home.

Following his departure from King Records, Arthur enjoyed a brief dalliance with MGM Records. Funny Thing was Arthur’s only release for MGM Records. After that, Arthur returned to where it all began for him, Old Town Records.

Now resigned to Old Town Records, Arthur released a quartet of albums. Although Arthur didn’t enjoy the same commercial success he enjoyed first time round at Old Town Records, Arthur became an accidental disco star. 

This came courtesy of John Davis, who gave Arthur a Philly Soul makeover on his 1976 album All My Life. The lead single When Love Is New, was released in October 1976, reaching number sixty-four in the US Billboard 100, number ten in the US R&B charts and number eleven in the US Disco charts. Then when All My Life was released in December 1976. It reached number 153 in the US Billboard 200 and number thirty-six in the US R&B Charts. Briefly, Arthur Pysock’s career had been rejuvenated. However, this didn’t compare with the commercial success and critical acclaim Arthur Prysock enjoyed first time around at Old Town Records. Some of Arthur Pysock’s finest moments feature on Ace Records’ recent compilation Too Late Baby-The Old Town Singles 1958-66. 

Too Late Baby-The Old Town Singles 1958-66 features twenty four tracks from Arthur Prysock’s time at Old Town Records. They were released between 1958 and 1966. Many of the tracks have never found their way onto CD before. So, for fans of Arthur Prysock, Too Late Baby-The Old Town Singles 1958-66 will be a must have compilation. It’s also an introduction to Arthur Prysock during the most successful period of his career. By the time Arthur signed to Old Town Records, he was already an experienced singer.

Arthur Prysock was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on New Year’s Day 1924. He grew on the farm his father, Arthur worked on. His mother Betty was determined her children would be able to look after themselves when they left home. She taught them how to cook, clean and look after themselves. For Arthur, this would prove vital, when he left home aged sixteen, to work in the aircraft industry, in Hartford, Connecticut.

There was a problem though. Arthur had mislead his employer about his age. As a result, Arthur left his job in the aircraft industry and began work as a cook. This was only his “day job.” At night, Arthur Prysock became a singer in a local band. 

Arthur was a baritone, who modelled himself on Billy Eckstine. The band played clubs in the Hartford area. One night, sitting in the audience was bandleader Buddy Johnson. Then when Arthur went to see Buddy Johnson’s band, regular vocalist Warren Evans was absent. So, at the interval, Arthur approached Buddy and asked if he could sing during the second show. 

Buddy asked if Arthur knew the songs? Arthur did. He sang them every night with his own band. Deciding to take a chance, Buddy gave Arthur the chance to prove himself. He walked onstage like a conquering hero and before long, had the audience in the palm of his hands. They loved Arthur. Following the show, Buddy hired Arthur. It was like a fairy story, the local singer filling in for the star singer and then getting hired.

Between 1944 and 1950, Arthur was the main male vocalist in Buddy Johnson’s band. His sister Ella just happened to be the principal female vocalist in the band. It was now a family affair. For six years, Buddy Johnson’s band were one of the biggest bands in America. Despite this, they only enjoyed two hit singles, 1945s They Say I’m The Biggest Fool and 1950s Because, which was one of the final recordings Arthur made with Buddy Johnson’s band. Not long after the recording of Because, Arthur decided to embark upon a solo career.

For the next eight years, Arthur Prysock embarked upon what was the equivalent to a musical apprenticeship. He signed for Decca in 1950. The next two years, Arthur struggled. It wasn’t until his 1952 cover of I Didn’t Sleep A Wink. It reached the top five in the US R&B chart. Little did Arthur realise, that this would be the biggest single of Arthur’s career. After I Didn’t Sleep A Wink, Arthur released Wheel Of Fortune. It was the first of seven consecutive singles that failed to chart. So in 1954, Arthur Prysock was released from his Decca contract. Next stop for Arthur was Mercury.

At Decca, Arthur modelled his career on his idol Billy Eckstine. However, by the time Arthur signed to Mercury in 1954, Billy Eckstine’s career was on the slide. So, Arthur was given a makeover. Arthur was like a musical chameleon, releasing everything from country, hillbilly and R&B. Despite this, commercial success eluded Arthur. So in 1956, Mercury dropped Arthur. He was then signed to Don Robey’s Peacock label.

Don Robey decided that Arthur should become an R&B shouter. Arthur released two singles, O-Ho-O-Yeh (What The Heck) and There Goes The Mailman. Neither single rejuvenated Arthur’s career. They failed to chart and in 1957, Arthur left Don Robey’s Peacock label. For the next year, Arthur was without a label, until he signed to Old Town Records.

After eight years of struggling, Old Town Records would be the place where Arthur Prysock enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim. He signed to  Old Town Records in 1958 and before long, released his  Old Town Records debut, The Greatest Gift.

One of twenty-four tracks that feature on Ace Records’ recent compilation Too Late Baby-The Old Town Singles 1958-66 is The Greatest Gift. It’s Arthur’s Old Town Records debut. Penned by Robert “Bubber” Johnson, The Greatest Gift is best described as a wistful ballad. Elements of jazz, soul and easy listening combine with pop. Sadly, history repeated itself, when The Greatest Gift failed to chart. This was an inauspicious start to Arthur’s career at Old Town Records. 

For the followup to The Greatest Gift, Arthur released Keep A Light In The Window For Me. It’s another ballad written by Robert “Bubber” Johnson and features a needy, hopeful vocal. Tucked away on the B-Side is Arthur’s take on I Just Want To Make Love To You. It swings, as Arthur fuses blues, jazz, R&B and soul. So good is this version of I Just Want To Make Love To You, it would’ve made a good single. Maybe then, the single would’ve charted?

As 1959 dawned, Arthur had released two singles, but still hadn’t enjoyed any chart success. His third single was the Norman Mapp penned, I Worry About You. It’s a song Arthur made his own. A slow, sultry. jazzy ballad, it’s a game-changer. Arthur delivers one of his finest vocals. His heartfelt vocal veers between needy to hopeful, joyous. Accompanied by rasping horns and strings, it was the best single Arthur had released for Old Town Records. Despite this, commercial success still eluded him. Maybe as a new decade dawned, commercial success would come Arthur’s way?

1960 saw Arthur released My Everything as a single. Again, tucked away on the B-Side was a hidden gem. It’s a storming cover of Ray Brown’s Good Rockin’ Tonight. R&B and rock ’n’ roll melts into one, resulting in track that’s too good to be a B-side. One More Time was another track destined to be just a B-Side It was the B-Side to the 1960 single Speak To Me. My Everything and  Speak To Me weren’t the only singles Arthur released in 1960. 

No. In 1960, Arthur released If Ever I Should Fall In Love as a single. He returns to balladry. His vocal is wistful, but tinged with hope and fear, fear that he’ll be hurt again. Arthur articulates the words carefully, delivering each word as if he’s lived and survived it. Despite this, the single failed commercially. So did the heartfelt ballad, Do You Believe? Although commercial success eluded Arthur, Old Town Records released his 1960, debut album I Worry About You. It featured some of the songs Arthur had released for Old Town Records. Essentially, it was an introduction to Arthur Prysock, who was about to make a commercial breakthrough.

It came in September 1961. That’s when Arthur released One More. The single spent two weeks on the US R&B charts. For Arthur, it must have felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. 

1962 saw the release of Pianissimo as a single. It’s another ballad, which was also covered by Jackie Wilson in 1962. In the battle of Pianissimo, Arthur came second. This didn’t stop Arthur releasing his sophomore album Arthur Prysock Sings Only For You. It featured eleven tracks and sees Arthur interprets standards like Unchained Melody and When I Fall In Love. Maybe this was meant to introduce Arthur Prysock to a wider audience. Sadly, Arthur didn’t find favour with the wider audience his music deserved.

In 1963, Arthur was busier than ever. He released two albums, the genre-hopping A Portrait Of Arthur Prysock and Coast To Coast, which was an easy listening album. During 1963, Arthur released a string of singles.

Crawdad was released as a single in 1963, and saw Arthur jumps on the Hootenanny bandwagon. Although catchy, the heartbreaking, string-drenched ballad There Will Never Be Another You, surpasses the quality of Crawdad. Truly, it deserved a better fate than a B-Side. Another B-Side was My Special Prayer, which Arthur delivers with emotion. Quite different was the  Our Love Will Last. It saw Arthur combine pop, easy listening, jazz and soul. Hidden away on the B-Side was Come And See This Old Fool. Arthur kicks loose, delivering a sassy vamp as he mixes jazz, R&B and soul. So good is Come And See This Old Fool, it should’ve been a single. For Arthur this might have been the single that transformed his career?

1964 saw Arthur release a quartet of albums. He seemed to be the hardest working man in music. Mr. Arthur Prysock And Guest and In A Mood With featured Arthur doing what he did best, balladry. Everlasting Songs For Everlasting Lovers was another genre-hopping album. Arthur mixed jazz, R&B, soul with easy listening. Intimately Yours was mixture of standards and familiar tracks. Then there were the singles Arthur released during 1964.

This included Ebb Tibe, which should’ve been the single that transform Arthur Prysock’s career. His version was released in February 1964 and is the definitive version of the song. That’s despite Lenny Welch released the song a month later. Unfortunately, record buyers preferred Lenny’s version, and it reached number twenty-five in the US Billboard 100. For Arthur it was a case of so near, but so far. 

Still Arthur wasn’t going to give up. He released a swinging, high-kicking version of Close Your Eyes as a single. Full Moon And Empty Arms is another single released in 1964. It’s a return to the balladry Arthur excels at. However, by 1964 music had moved on. The British Invasion was a game changer. Despite the undoubted quality of the dramatic ballad that was Full Moon And Empty Arms, it failed commercially. So did the E.P.s Arthur released in 1964. In A Mood With Arthur Prysock featured the thoughtful, but beautiful ballad House By The Side Of The Road. It’s a glimpse of what Arthur Prysock is capable of. However, with music changing, and changing fast, maybe artists like Arthur were music’s past, rather than future?

1965 saw Arthur release the bossa nova tinged I’m Crossing Over as a single. It’s perfect for Arthur. He breathes new meaning into an old standard. The same can be said of the understated, wistful and beautiful Teardrops In The Rain, which features on Arthur’s E.P. Intimately Yours. Arthur also released Again as a single. With lush strings for company, he croons his way through a track penned by Dorchas Cochran and Lionel Newman. A fusion of jazz and M.O.R. it’s a reminder of another age. Indeed, it’s reminder of what Frank Sinatra and Nelson Riddle did so well at Capitol Records. That’s how good this track is. However, Frank Sinatra was producing music like this in the late-fifties. Again was released in 1965. However, there was still an audience for Arthur’s music.

A Double Header With Arthur Prysock was Arthur’s final album for Old Town Records. Arthur had always sold more albums than singles. Singles were just an introduction to the main event, the album. His final album for Old Town Records oozes quality. Proof of this are tracks like Let It Be Me, Open Up Your Heart and Goodnight My Love. As Arthur’s fans enjoyed wheat proved to be his swan-song for Old Town Records, Arthur came towards the end of his time at Old Town Records.

Arthur’s patience and hard work was rewarded when a bluesy cover of Buddy Johnson’s It’s Too Late Baby, Baby Too Late gave him a hit in late 1965. It reached number fifty-six in the US Billboard 100 and number eleven in the US R&B charts. For Arthur this must have been ironic. He’d spent six years looking for a hit single and just as he was leaving Old Town Records, he hit pay-dirt. For the followup, Arthur released Only A Fool Breaks His Own Heart. A string-laden ballad, it features a heartbroken vocal from Arthur. Despite its quality, Only A Fool Breaks His Own Heart didn’t replicate the success of It’s Too Late Baby, Baby Too Late. 

In 1966, Arthur Prysock left Old Town Records. During the eight years he spent at Old Town Records, Arthur was one of the hardest working men in music. Between 1958 and 1966, Arthur Prysock released twenty-four singles and nine albums. Twenty-four tracks from Arthur’s time at Old Town Records feature on Ace Records’ recent compilation Too Late Baby-The Old Town Singles 1958-66. Quite simply, it’s the perfect introduction to one of the most underrated singers in musical history.

From the moment Arthur arrived at Old Town Records, he looked like a star-in-waiting. However, it wasn’t singles that would make Arthur a star. Instead it was albums.

Arthur’s debut album was I Worry About You. His swan-song was his 1965 album A Double Header With Arthur Prysock, It was these nine albums where Arthur Prysock made his name.

Singles were almost a loss leader. They were an introduction to Arthur Prysock. The album was the main event. During this feast of music, Arthur Prysock could stretch his legs. He combined everything from blues, easy listening, jazz, M.O.R, pop, R&B and soul. Arthur Prysock you see, was a versatile singer. He was equally comfortable crooning, as he was making a song swing or delivering a tale of heartbreak with a bluesy hue. Arthur’s versatility and ability to make a song come alive, would prove a successful formula for Arthur Prysock. 

Right through until 1965s A Double Header With Arthur Prysock, Arthur was one of Old Town Records’ most successful artists. His 1965 bluesy cover of Buddy Johnson’s It’s Too Late Baby, Baby Too Late, belatedly, gave Arthur the second hit single of his time at Old Town Records. That’s no surprise. It’s Too Late Baby, Baby Too Late is one of the finest moments of Arthur Prysock’s career. Thankfully, it features on Too Late Baby-The Old Town Singles 1958-66. 

Too Late Baby-The Old Town Singles 1958-66 is the perfect starting place for anyone interested in Arthur Prysock’s music. It’s a compilation where the music oozes quality. There’s neither filler nor faux pas, just quality music. Whether he’ crooning or swinging, Arthur Prysock  as an average vocal from Arthur. Whether ballads or uptempo, dance tracks, Arthur was equally comfortable. With the help of a crack team of musicians, arrangers, producers and songwriters, Arthur Prysock became Old Town Records’ shining star. This is apparent on the twenty-four tracks on Too Late Baby-The Old Town Singles 1958-66. From the opening bars of I Worry About You right through to the closing notes of It’s Too Late Baby, Baby Too Late, Arthur Prysock has you spellbound as he croons and swings his way through the classics, standards and hidden gems that feature on Too Late Baby-The Old Town Singles 1958-66.

ARTHUR PRYSOCK-TOO LATE BABY-THE OLD TOWN SINGLES 1958-66.

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