Archie Bell to Tighten Up Tejano SOUL Cruise
Archie Bell to Tighten Up Tejano SOUL Cruise
By Ramón Hernández
Archie Lee Bell says, “ ‘There’s Gonna Be a Showdown’ on the Carnival Valor cruise ship that sails out of Galveston on Monday, November 13.
“We’re going to ‘Tighten Up.’ ‘Everybody’s gonna have a good time. So ‘Let’s Groove’ together by signing up for this cruise.”
Who’s not familiar with all those Archie Bell and the Drells hits? If you need to refresh your memory just check out the following links: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uN7vm-k-AaA, www.youtube.com/watch?v=47_so3zoAaU, www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEr3pzh_rvA, www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-svXGMYjLs and www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xY1BEMqxjQ.
For those who question why Archie Bell is headlining a Tejano soul gig, brace yourselves for this writer’s new revelations. Did you know of his connection to the Tejano industry and that he is Hispanic.
“To be specific, I am part Mexican, native American, and Chinese on my paternal great grandmother’s side,” Archie revealed during a telephone interview.
He had shared that information with me backstage at last year’s Patio Andaluz Reunion. He gave me his telephone numbers, but I had not had the time to follow up on getting all the details until a few days ago.
As for Archie’s connection to Tejano music, he said, “It all came about when Sunny Ozuna of the Sunliners was doing the radio promotion for his follow up hit to ‘Talk to Me’ and he went to see Skipper Lee Frazier (aka Mountain of Soul) at KCOH.”
In a nutshell, Frazier, who was also Archie’s manager, told Sunny, “I’ll play your record ‘if’ you take Archie on tour with you as an opening act.” This was about the time that Archie had written and recorded a very Chicano lowrider sounding tune titled “She’s My Woman, She’s My Girl” (Ovide 222), www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_3AHMyCbFs.
“The end result is that I did the Tejano music circuit all over Texas with Sunny. And that included towns such as Seguin, San Marcos and Corpus Christi; so I’ve very familiar with Tejano music. In fact, if you listen closely to ‘Tighten up,’ you’ll hear a Tejano groove, a zydeco groove and even a country groove in there,” Archie continued. “I also recorded and included one of Sunny’s songs on the ‘Tighten Up’ album.” Listen to it at www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiWmoo51ohU.
“That’s right,” Sunny affirmed. “He wanted one of my songs and I gave him ‘Give Me Time’ (KeyLoc KL-1007). He toured with me pretty close to a year. It really helped our guys at the Municipal Auditorium and other venues. Then he made it, and before I knew it, he was opening for James Brown in Atlanta (Georgia).”
Another little known fact is that the Drells at one time included two well-known Tejano musicians. They were Abel Salazar on keyboards and Lonnie LaLanne on trumpet.
Going back to Frazier, this radio icon, television personality, record producer-record label owner (Ovide Records), music promoter and movie actor (“Reborn”) is also the author of “Tighten Up … The Making of a Million Selling hit.” On a sad note, the radio icon died on Friday, October 14, 2016.
Another connection is that Sunny’s producer, Huey Meaux, recommended “Tighten Up” to Atlantic Records, who took his advice and sold more than three million copies, holding both the number one R&B and the ‘number one’ pop spot for two weeks on Billboard’s charts in spring 1968. And it was even released in Spain as “Aprieta.”
As for the name of these the four vocalists – Bell, James Wise, Willie Pernell and Billy Butler – the then E.O. Smith Junior High School classmates wanted to go with something like The Dells because it rhythmed with Bell. “However, that name was taken so E.C. Watson, a buddy of mine inserted an ‘r’ and came up with the Drells,” Archie said giving credit where credit is due.
Thus you now know that Drell is an offshoot of Bell.
“It’s not a recognized word. You won’t find a definition for it, but we coined it; so we came up with our own definition –a drell is a gentleman and the ultimate entertainer.” However, Rocktober magazine reporter James Potter wrote that Drell also meant “a singin’ and dancin’ [email protected]#ker!” And you’ll understand why when you see the YouTube.com videos.
For the story of Archie Bell and the Drells, one can go to his website, www.archiebell.net. Readers and also google them and find several links and with that in mind, I will stick to my finding, which you won’t find on the World Wide Web.
The only thing I will add is Archie’s regret on losing out on countless gigs because “Tighten Up” was released after he had joined the U.S. Army.
“I was making $135 a month with Uncle Sam when I could have been making $100,000 a night.”
The revelations continue …
Last year, I was taken aback when I saw Archie wearing a cowboy hat, especially after seeing him sporting a large round afro and wearing outlandish, colorful disco outfits. So what gives?
“The truth is that my father, Langston Bell, had a 1944 Ford and back them all they played on the radio was country and western music, so I grew up on all the Hank’s and Bob Wills music,” Archie continued.
“I’m also into what’s known as Carolina beach music. In fact, it really big all over the east coast from Florida on up to Virginia. Some of it has a blues shuffle (rhythmic structure) and the style of dancing it is the Carolina shag. It’s something similar to the Texas country two-step.”
I found this eye-opening information intriguing and after some researching it, I found out Carolina beach music was instrumental in bringing about wider acceptance of R&B music among the white population nationwide. Thus it was a contributory factor in both the birth of rock and roll and the later development of soul music as a subgenre of R&B.
Asked how he was exposed to this music genre, the 5-foot-9 ½ inch tall singer-songwriter said, “My wife’s from North Carolina.
As a solo artist Archie recorded a blues album, plus after professing a love for country music, a few C&W tunes. One of those tunes was “Warm Red Wine,” which is included with songs in a compilation also featuring Glen Campbell, Tanya Tucker and Roy Clark.
“In fact I’m presently working on some recordings with Mickey Gilley and Roy Head.”
So there you have it, a few exclusive never-before known facts on the extremely musical versatile Archie Bell.
Best of all, readers will not only have the opportunity to see him perform in an intimate setting, but hang out with him in the ship and ports of call during the November Tejano Soul Cruise.
Other artists scheduled to perform are Jimmy Edward, Joe Jama, Augustine Ramírez, Ram Herrera, Hugo Guerrero, Chris Q, Stephanie Lynn, Tracy Pérez, and Candace Vargas. Also MC2, the Mambo Jazz Kings, Los Hermanos – all under the musical direction of Wild Bill Perkins with the musical backing of Houston’s Robert Dorantes’ Avizo Band.
For more information on the five-day cruise making port stops in Cozumel and Progresso, Yucatan, Mexico, go to www.tejanosoulcruise.com.