From time to time, a beautiful blending of cultures happened in Houston. When soul groups found inspiration in the guitar-driven sounds of rock music, leading to some of the most unique compositions imaginable. If only for a brief moment, a few local groups traded in their blow-out combs for distortion pedals and acid. Here are three of Houston’s best examples of psychedelic soul.
Masters of Soul, "(I Hate You) In the Daytime and Love You at Night"
Masters of Soul took a long, winding path through Houston’s music. After starting out as a doo-wop group in the late '50s called the Royal Masters, the group soon transformed to the Masters of Houston. After a single release on the Copa label, the Masters jumped ship to join Skipper Lee Frazier’s Ovide Records, where, they changed their name a third and final time, allegedly forced to do so due to a contract dispute with their former label.
Once at Ovide, the group became a local powerhouse - Houston’s answer to the Temptations, except the Masters of Soul played all their own instruments to boot, and the group's handful of singles runs the gamut from sweet soul to wah-wah funk workouts. In the Masters' sunset year of 1972, they ventured over to Don Robey’s Duke label for one last 45, a smoking black rock number about the trials and tribulations of relationships in the daytime and night.
Soul Bros. Inc., "Girl in the Hot Pants"
Last week I wrote about another of the Soul Bros.' singles and the "Slow Motion" dance craze, but here's an entirely different monster highlighting another short-lived trend I can only call "men singing like women." (In a laughing manner, of course.) Charles Conrad alternates verses with himself and a female voice, who tells us she’s going to see James Brown tonight and she’s definitely wearing her hot pants.
During the early '70s, a man singing like this wasn’t uncommon; even the Ohio Players and Funkadelic recorded a few numbers in the same fashion. If anything, "Girl in the Hot Pants" is nothing more than a tribute to all the beautiful ladies out there, and a big salute to all of those who followed that particular fashion trend. The majority of Soul Bros. Inc.'s releases - including a later work produced by Joe “Guitar” Hughes - came out on its very own S.B.I. imprint.
Little Rose, "Trip to the Moon"
Only God knows what was going on in the studio when Little Rose recorded this lo-fi wah-wah instrumental monster. Two minutes and 47 seconds of crazy guitar solo is what we’re dealing with here. And no, don’t bother adjusting your speakers around the 40-second mark, when the volume suddenly dips, it’s supposed to do that.
Palladium was a local vanity label that recorded and pressed records for artists with a little cash in their pocket and who lacked labels willing to pay for it. I can only imagine that, while recording this number, Rose was running around the studio like a madman while soloing and knocked a channel down by accident and it went unnoticed. Of course that still doesn’t explain why they pressed it like that.
Rose has recorded at least three or four other 45s, all on Palladium or his own imprint LRJ, such as “Who Can You Trust” and “Do You Feel It,” with just as much grit and lo-fi goodness as "Trip to the Moon." Yet Rose remains a man shrouded in mystery - nobody seems to know anything about him besides these spectacular recordings.
Do you know Little Rose or anything about him we don’t? Leave a note in the comments or send an e-mail. - Brett Koshkin