The Groove Merchants - Lou Pride

Born on 24th May 1950 in Chigaco, Illinois, George Lou Pride performed a solo at grade school and became hooked on music. Along with his family, support came from Reverend Edward J. Cole of the First Baptist Church, father of singer Nat King Cole. Reverend Cole gave Lou advice about music as well as spiritual advice and encouraged him to sing in the choir, directed by his wife Perlina. Lou recalls meeting Nat many times, greeting him in the street and spent many days at the Cole house playing marbles with Natalie Cole. But it was B. B. King who was his biggest influence in music.

 

In the late 60s Lou was drafted into the US Army. He spent two years on bases in Germany where he joined a group called The Karls. After leaving the Army he returned to Chicago and formed a duet with a friend called LC & Lou. LC left the group to get married so Lou's manager Jim Dorman persuaded Lou to start a solo career. Lou decided to move to El Paso, Texas, where he met producer Kenneth Smith. Smith decided to sign Lou to Suemi Records, which he co-owned with Bill 'Sparks' Taylor. Suemi had a variety of country and rockabilly artists like Bobby Fuller before Lou recorded for the Label. In 1970 when Lou and his band The Funky Bunch arrived at their Suemi Studio to record "There's Got To Be Somene For Me", Kenny was impressed and excited:

 

"He showed up to our studios wanting to put out a record of his band and I was glad to have a different type band play in the studio. They had horns and I had never dealt with horns before."

Bottom: Lou Pride

Above: Lou Pride at the Suemi Studios

The Funky Bunch was a group of Lou's acquaintances from the nearby Fort Bliss army base. The session took place one afternoon, Smith remembers, the basic tracks being laid down first before Lou Pride's vocals were added later along with the horns. While he was astounded by their musicianship, Kenny wasn't so impressed of their name and began searching for a better one. He thought wrongly that Lou billed himself as 'The Groove Merchant', so when it came to naming the band for the debut 45 "There's Got To Be Something For Me" b/w "We Are Only Fooling Ourselves", "The Groove Merchants" was printed on the label. The Master was sent to to Sidney J. Wakefield & Co., a high-end pressing plant in Phoenix,  Arizona to press 500 copies of the record. Like many other independent 45s they were sold at gigs just in the local area with no official distribution.

 

While the single never broke nationally, it was played frequently by Johnny 'T' Thompson, a DJ at the time. It provided Lou with regular bookings on the chittin' circuit across Texas. Lou remembered how 'the old hard-time crusty promoters' in Texas helped him hone his stage performance: "'Boy, you're pretty good son, but you stay on stage too long! Get off the stage, son!'". That of course led him to spend more and more nights away from his family home on the road. Despite this, Kenny describes Lou thus:

 

"Lou was and still is one of those people that never complains and is always in a positive mood."

*Article with help of Robert Whatman (www.browneyedhandsomeman.blogspot.com)

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