Over the years, soul music has thrown up its share of characters and one such, definitely larger than life and indeed than his physical stature, is Jerry Williams Jr, better known as Swamp Dogg. Outrageous, outspoken, opinionated and one of the nicest guys you could meet, Swamp loves his music doubtless more than he loves the music business, an institution to which he has contributed more than his fair share of classics, many of which have gone unrecognised beyond a select - but ever-growing - coterie of fans. As an artist, songwriter and producer, Swamp’s mark on soul music has been indelible and, in “Blame It On The Dogg” we get two dozen tracks that show him in his multiple guises.
By the 1968 date that launches this CD, Jerry Williams Jr was 25 and already a veteran of the business as an artist, label owner, producer and writer. The earliest example here of his work is the Dynamo release of Inez & Charlie Foxx’s Count The Days, cut while the man himself was pacted to the parent Musicor label. A relatively short-lived stay, he moved on to Botanic and Atlantic - with further examples of his work featured here - as he told In The Basement magazine in 1998. [At Musicor] “I co-produced the Toys, Exciters, Tommy Hunt, Inez & Charlie Fox... then I got fired for taking Gene Pitney out of his bag. So I met up with Don Gardner who was setting up Botanic Records and was given the A&R position that night. Three weeks’ later I was Vice President and a stockholder. I signed Gary US Bonds immediately and Little Charles & the Sidewinders. Botanic expanded very rapidly and went out of business the same way. I called Henry Allen at Atlantic and made an artist/producer pact, cutting the Commodores, Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles, C & the Shells and the Drifters. I signed Gary Bonds to Atco. I attained chart positions on C & the Shells but the other acts did not see the light of day as far as the charts were concerned. Nevertheless, I’m as proud of the productions I did for Atlantic as I will always be of my family. However, at Atlantic, I was the square peg struggling to fit in the round hole.”
Williams became Swamp Dogg on joining Canyon Records, home to such classic Dogg productions as Doris Duke’s “I’m A Loser” and Sandra Philips’ “Too Many People In One Bed” albums (both available on Kent) after which he flirted with the Swamp Dogg Presents label, original home of four tracks here, including those by Kenny Carter and Slick ‘n’ the Family Brick, the latter being an outfit featuring the man himself. He also began a label venture with TK’s Henry Stone, Stone Dogg, from whence comes the Obe Jessie & the Seeds Of Freedom track.
Swamp Dogg’s tale continued... “Following this came a much needed hiatus because I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I developed acute anxiety, paranoia, hypertension - my doctor believed I’d suffered a heart attack and refused to change his diagnosis even when found to be erroneous. It took a top-notch shrink and about four years altogether to overcome it.” Well, it was a heck of a brief ‘hiatus’! He certainly never stopped working - his “Have You Heard This Story” album reflecting on his situation was delivered to Island Records during the period - and the tracks here from Wolfmoon, Arthur Conley, Ruth Brown, Eleanor Grant and Helen Curry all spring from this ‘nerves-span’. Tyrone Thomas had recorded in the mid-60s as Little Tommy and, under this name, Swamp produced him circa 1970 for Capitol’s then-reactivated Tower label but the project went unreleased. Dubbed Wolfmoon, the track ‘God Bless’ comes from his eponymous Fungus album.
Some of Swamp’s greatest achievements have been with female vocalists, with whom he has seemed to have a particular affinity - although it has been suggested that his working relationship with Ruth Brown (represented here with Stop Knocking) was something of a love/hate one, with emphasis on the latter. Iin 1998 he commented that he and songwriting partners, Charlie Whitehead and Gary U.S. Bonds, were all raised by strong women, which assisted in getting into a female mindset. “When I write about women I’m writing with my aunts, my mother, my grandmother and everybody. How they felt, how they acted...” The strong distaff tracks by Eleanor Grant are seeing the light of day for the first time and ex-Independent Helen Curry’s take on Shu-Doo-Pa-Poo-Poop was cut for Swamp’s Sweetheart label, just one of two outings from the venture. The title of the CD here uses the word “Blame” but it could as easily have been substituted by “Praise”. More please!
Editor: In The Basement