Leon Mitchison, “Street Scene”
Most Houstonians and (many others around the globe) have heard of the legendary Kashmere Stage Band. If not, get your Google on, but few realize how these young high-schoolers got their start playing music.
Enter one Leon Mitchison. The Fifth Ward native was the music teacher at Isaac Elementary School, where he taught young, impressionable kids how to hold trumpets and hit drums; Isaac was zoned so it eventually fed these soon-to-be musical prodigies into Kashmere.
Mitchison remained close with some of his former students, drafting bassist Gerald Calhoun, guitarist Earl Spiller and an animal of a drummer named Craig Green for his group, the Eastex Freeway Band. “Street Scene” is exactly that, a political song about the hardships of the streets, particularly those of Fifth Ward.
Calvin Owens, “The Cat”
Legendary local bandleader and trumpeter Calvin Owens, who passed away earlier this year, left a rather large mark on Houston with his Calvin Owens Blues Orchestra. “The Cat” stands as proof Owens could get down like nobody’s business, and big bands could get funky as hell.
This release on Skipper Lee Frazier’s Ovide label was the first of three different pressings: a second on the Klondike label out of Memphis, and another on Owens’ very own Sawdust Records.
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Carl Carlton, “Don’t Walk Away”
What happens when Andre Williams comes down to Houston to produce records for Don Robey’s Back Beat label and hooks up with Carl “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” Carlton? What else but the sweetest soul cover imaginable, a take on the Superlatives’ track “I Don’t Know How (To Say I Love You) Don’t Walk Away.”
Of course, Carlton simplified the convoluted title to just “Don’t Walk Away.” If all you know about Carl Carlton is “Mama Jama,” you’ve got another thing coming. (If you’ve never heard the Superlatives’ take, I suggest you find a copy of that as well.) In a perfect world, Williams would have produced numerous albums for Carlton during his pre-disco years, but the one single 45 they did make is pretty magical. – Brett Koshkin