8 May 2022

14 Karat Soul's first TV appearance


I had despaired of ever seeing it but 14 Karat Soul's first ever TV appearance, on Saturday Night Live on January 24th, 1981, can now be viewed online at the Internet Archive website, which is cause for celebration if you care for this sort of thing.

I saw this line-up around a year or two later in the UK, and for me this will forever be the group. They appeared in the original modest workshop-type production of The Gospel at Colonus and Sister Suzie Cinema at the Edinburgh Fringe, and I saw their normal stage act quite a few times over the next few years in Scotland and England. 

I've written about this experience several times, so I won't rehash it - links below if you care to explore - but the most important point, which I never tire of repeating, is that their subsequent studio recordings were but a pale shadow of the excitement of seeing the group, propelled by the bass voice of Reginald "Briz" Bisbon, performing in theatres. Even now I can't find the words to describe adequately how I felt over the nights of seeing them during a week's residency at the Mitchell Theatre in Glasgow in the early eighties: there was a moment of what I can only term rough magic during their opening number, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, when the blending of their voices produced ... well, I don't know what. Their acapella single of that song doesn't have the studio effects of later recordings, so ought to be close to that experience, but isn't, at least according to my memory.

 The visual and audio quality of the SNL appearance is adequate rather than good, at least in the form in which it can be accessed online, but along with a UK appearance on Channel Four around that period it probably represents the closest we will get to a record of the group live then. The numbers on SNL are I Wish That We Were Married (with founder Glenny T on lead, though I'm pretty sure I heard another group member sing it on a later occasion) and That's My Baby, also with Glenny T. 

No, not the "Yes Sir ..." song but a ditty written by Walter Spriggs and recorded by the Flamingos during their final session for Parrot Records before they signed with Chess. The performance didn't see the light of day until 1976, even though the Parrot masters ended up with Chess in late 1956. Unlike Golden Teardrops the Flamingos' version of the song wasn't a glorified acapella recording - a band is an integral part of the overall effect - but even so it still sounds pretty good as done sans instruments by the younger group. It was kept for near the end of the act at the Mitchell Theatre, as I remember.

I can't embed it here, unfortunately, but the SNL appearance can be found in the Internet Archive website here. It starts 50'25" in; That's My Baby can be heard around 53'30", following a prolonged bout of applause for I Wish That We Were Married. It reminds of what I've written earlier, namely that they were so well received that it's hard to understand why they weren't bigger, though maybe you had to be there, marvelling at the effects achieved without any studio trickery.

 Below is a round-up of earlier posts about this remarkable group:

A clip from a 1983 appearance on the Channel Four programme Switch can be found here; they sing Crazy Little Mama and Take Me Back Baby. Again, quality is okay rather than great but it gives a suggestion of what it felt like to be there.

Here is a session they did for the BBC station Radio One around the same time. (I've linked direct to youtube as the clip doesn't seem to be opening in my post, which is here.)

Here is the first post I wrote about them.

 And here is a post about the Flamingos' original recording of I Found a New Baby.

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