Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul. 

For many people, Nashville has always been synonymous with country music. It is, after all, the country music capital of America. However, back in the sixties and seventies, it wasn’t  just country music that was coming out of Nashville. So was soul, R&B and jazz. A reminder of that period can be found on Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. 

Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul features twenty-four songs wrote, arranged or produced by Bob Holmes. This includes songs from The Hytones,  Sandra King, Peggy Gaines, The Paramount Four, Roger Hatcher, Freddie North, Little Rock Brotherhood, Bill Brandon,  Gene Allison, Slim Harpo, The Golden Bond and Ruthie. They’re just a few of the artists that feature on Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul, which covers the sixties and seventies. During this period, the Nashville soul, R&B and jazz scenes were flourishing. Playing an important in these scenes was Bob Holmes.

He was born Robert Lee Holmes Jr in Greenville, Mississippi, but moved to Memphis. Growing up, Bob and the rest of his family were regulars at the local church. That was Bob’s introduction to music, and where he started his musical education.

This came about after the music director at the church, arranged for Bob to have piano lessons. Before long, Bob was a proficient pianist, and this lead to him playing the piano at the Bethesda Baptist Church in South Memphis. Soon, though, Bob wanted to crossover and play secular music. This was something his mother was totally against. Despite this, Bob applied for and was accepted at Tennessee State University, in Nashville.

While Bob continued to play at churches in Nashville, he started to play different styles of music. Soon, he was playing in Nashville’s nightclubs and restaurants. That was where he met singer Peggy Gaines, who Bob would accompany as she sung in venues around Nashville. By then, Bob was a teacher at Pearl High School.

He took his role as an educator seriously, and was keen to impart his musical knowledge on his students. Bob who was a talented string arranger, founded Nashville’s first black string ensemble, and later taught jazz in schools and colleges in Tennessee. Then in 1960, Bob founded the Cremona Strings, which featured black school children who were mentored and tutored by Bob. Still, though, Bob found time to form his own group.

Although Bob was kept busy with his role as a teacher, he still found time to form his own string group, Jazz Excursion. One of the members of the band in the early days was Billy Cox, who would later find fame with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. That was still to come.

By the time Jazz Excursion were making their mark on the Nashville music scene, Bob’s skills as a string arranger were being put to good use in the city’s recording studios. Later, though, Bob would work as producer as well as an arranger, and twenty-four songs from the sixties and seventies feature on

Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul. This includes five previously unreleased tracks. Just like the other nineteen songs, they’re a reminder of Bob Holmes during career as an arranger and producer during what was a golden era for Nashville’s soul, R&B and jazz scenes.

Opening Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul is the Runaway Girl the first of two songs from The Hytones. They were discovered by Bob Holmes at a high school talent show.Their lineup featured Freddie Waters, Eddie Frierson and Arthur “Skeet” Alsup. Bob named the group The Hytones and became their producer. He wrote and produced Runaway Girl, which was recorded in 1965 but never released until it was released as a single by Kent Records in 2016 to commemorate their thirty-seventh anniversary. It’s a song that’s sure to prove popular on the Northern Soul scene. The Hytones’ other contribution is I’ve Got My Baby, which was released as a single in 1966 on the A-Bet label. This ballad was penned and produced by Bob Holmes, and features a vocal that’s an outpouring of emotion.

Singer Peggy Gaines and Bob Holmes worked together in 1961, when she was just seventeen. Within a year, Peggy Gaines had made her recording debut, and by 1969, was signed to Ted Jarrett’s Ref-O-Ree label. Td Jarrett produced Peggy Gaines’ 1969 single Just To Satisfy My Baby which was composed, arranged and conducted by Holmes. So was the B-Side, the joyous Sweet Way Of Living which features a powerful, emotive vocal from Peggy Gaines. Sadly, she never enjoyed the commercial success her talent deserved.

Roger Hatcher’s I Dedicate My Life To You is another song written, arranged and composed by Bob Holmes and produced by Ted Jarrett. It was released on Volt in 1972, and is a  features soul-baring vocal from Roger Hatcher on this beautiful paean. It’s one of the highlights of Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul.

The Paramount Four featured four classmates from Union High School in Gallatin, in Summer County. They recorded You Must Leave Her Because You Love Her in 1971, which was produced by Bob Holmes. However, the song lay unreleased until August 2010, when it made its debut on Deep Shadows (The Best Of Kent Ballads). Seven years later, this deep soul hidden gem returns for an encore on Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul.

In February 1967, Freddie North released Hold Back as a single on the Excello imprint A-Bet. It was penned and produced by Holmes. So was the B-Side, Don’t Make Me Look So Bad, which is a beautiful ballad that for too long has been overlooked. Hopefully, that will change after featuring on Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul.

By 1976, Bob Holmes had over a decade’s experience behind him. He was drafted in by producer Moses C. Dillard to help him arrange Bill Brandon’s 1976 single The Streets Got My Lady. Bob’s experience arranging strings was put to good use on this slick slice of dance-floor friendly modern soul where Bill Brandon combines emotion, hurt and social comment. The Streets Got My Lady was released on the Nashville based Piedmont label in 1976, and forty-one years later, is a timeless track.

Gene Allison’s recording career began in the mid-fifties, and by 1969, he was still going strong. He had signed to Ted Jarrett’s Ref-O-Ree label, and covered Somebody Somewhere. This was penned and produced by Ted Jarrett, but arranged by Bob Holmes. It’s soulful, funky and features a vocal powerhouse from  Gene Allison.

In 1972, Wendell Watts released The Love Bug as a single on Jiminie Records. Tucked away on the B-Side was Grooviest Thing This Side Of Heaven which was penned by Ted Jarrett and Bob Holmes who also arranged and conducted the band that accompanies Wendell Watts. He adds his vocal to this hook-laden slice of soul.

Roscoe Shelton was signed to the Ref-O-Ree label in 1969 when he recorded I Cant Love Nobody But You. It’s a Ted Jarrett composition that was arranged by Ted Holmes. Despite the quality of the song, it lay unreleased until 2002, when it was licensed by the Dutch label Black Magic. Fifteen years later, and I Cant Love Nobody But You makes a welcome appearance on  Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul. It’s a reminder of a talented soul man, Roscoe Shelton.

Freddie Waters was another artist singled to Ted Jarrett’s Ref-O-Ree label, when he released The Winning Horse as a single in 1969. Hidden away on the B-Side was Don’t Let It Get You Down Boy, which was penned penned and arranged by Bob Holmes. Ted Jarrett took charge of production, while Freddie Waters unleashes a vocal that’s a mixture of frustration and despair.

Between 1966 and 1969, Johnny Truitt released a quartet of singles for Excello’s A-Bet imprint. However, the one that got away was a cover of Ed Townsend’s Crying Won’t Help You Now. It was produced by Bob Holmes and lay unreleased until it featured on Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul. It’s a powerful and poignant cover of a familiar song from Johnny Truitt.

Jimmy Church only ever released a handful of singles during the sixties. This included Right On Time, which was released on Southern Artists in 1965. On the B-Side was Right In The Palm Of Your Hand, a Bob Holmes production. It features an outpouring of emotion and despair from Jimmy Church on a single that as too good to languish on a B-Side. Someone at Sound Stage 7 realised this too, and in January 1967, Right In The Palm Of Your Hand released as a single.

Closing Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul is Ruthie’s 1980 single on Guiding Star, Let’s Try Love Again. It was penned by Robert Fisher and Bob Holmes, who arranged and produced this smooth, soulful ballad. As is often the case with compilations, the best has been kept until last. That is the case with Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul.

Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul which features twenty-four songs, including five unreleased tracks is a reminder of Bob Holmes’ career as a songwriter, arranger, conductor and producer. Bob Holmes was also a talent spotter, who discovered several artists that featured on Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul. This included The Hytones, Sandra King, The Avons and Eddie Frierson. These artists were guided by Bob Holmes during their nascent careers. He wrote, arranged and produced songs for them, and help launch their careers, during what was a golden age for soul, R&B and jazz in Nashville.

At the heart of Nashville’s soul, R&B and jazz scene during the sixties and seventies was Bob Holmes. His talents were constantly in demand, and he worked with some of the giants of music, including JJ Cale, Cannonball Adderley and Duke Ellington. However, as the years passed, Bob Holmes didn’t just produce soul, R&B and jazz, but gospel, rock, classical and the music that made Nashville famous, country. Bob Holmes was a versatile and talented producer.

Still, though, Bob Holmes continued to teach within the public school system in Nashville, where he passed on his love of music. Many young people going through Nashville’s school system were fortunate enough to be taught by Bob Holmes. Music and education it seemed were Bob Holmes’ two passions in life. Sadly, Bob Holmes passed away on the ‘16th’ December 2000. However, Bob Holmes left behind a rich musical legacy, including the music that features on Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul.

Bob Holmes’ Nashville Soul. 

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