A couple of R&B legends warm up Salinas just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Just the sound of Brenton Wood’s voice tells you that you’re in the presence of someone who has experienced a lot.
“Being a black musician [in the ’60s] was a big struggle,” he says. “I had to really love what I was doing to keep on going.”
The 70-year-old R&B great – appearing at the Fox Theater in Salinas Friday – made the Los Angeles soul scene fall in love during that decade with hits like “The Oogum Boogum Song” and “Gimme Little Sign.” Both reached the Top 20 on the pop charts and earned him several appearances on The Dick Clark Show. Over the years since, Wood has shared bills with everyone from The Temptations to Janis Joplin. Both Ricky Nelson and Alex Chilton have covered his music.
“Oogum Boogum” – which appears on the Almost Famous soundtrack – embodies the original R&B sound fueled by Wood’s Sam Cooke-like falsetto and upbeat tempos that ooze happy-go-luckiness. The semi-goofy lyrics accompany the melody nicely: “You wear the cute mini skirt with your brother’s sloppy shirt/ I admit it girl, I can dig it.”
“The R&B scene in the ’60s was all a reflection of good times and love,” Wood says.
As he gets on in years, Wood continues to keep the R&B spirit alive. In 2001, he released This Love Is for Real, his first album of all original material since 1977. Wood says most of the songs had been written years before, when it was hard to find distribution. The LP’s title song went on to become one of the most popular tunes of Wood’s career. On it Wood’s voice glides smoothly alongside a steamy saxophone.
Brenda Holloway, dubbed one of Motown’s sexiest singers and one of Berry Gordy’s most prized artists, will join Wood in Salinas. The soul singer started gaining notoriety for co-writing “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” a huge hit for Blood Sweat & Tears.
Rich southern soul and gospel are ever-present elements that help distinguish Holloway’s singing style from others. Her voice even seduced The Beatles, who invited her to open for them during their 1965 American tour.
There was no doubt that Holloway could have been a bigger star – she had seven Billboard hits over a three-year period – but in 1968, she became disillusioned with fame and announced her retirement. She didn’t perform again until 1995. Wood was one of the forces that helped ease her back.
“[Holloway] is not only a great singer, she’s a great songwriter,” he says.
And like Wood’s, Holloway’s voice is still in top form.
BRENTON WOOD with BRENDA HOLLOWAY performs 8pm, Friday, Feb. 10, at the Fox Theater, 241 Main St., Salinas. $25; $30; $55. 758-8459.