It's the last Saturday night before Labor Day with another summer winding down, and since you've got to enjoy it while you can, and since we were in Cape May, we made our way down to The Boiler Room. This is the club at the end of the street that Elton had written about. It is funky but chic, dark with bare brick walls, and has a metal bar and red lighting. As usual, it was packed with a mixture of the swells who were staying upstairs at Congers Hall and blues fans from Philly who came out to support the headliner an interesting mix of music lovers.
We found our spot to the right of the stage near the original boiler pit and soundboard, the exact spot where we discovered George Wesley last year. In fact we were hoping to see George, but he was out gigging somewhere else.
This time the group was a Booker T and the MG's/Fabulous Thunderbirds blues/soul kind of deal and they were grooving. As I settled in I was thinking that it was a shame Wesley wasn't in the house, but then something wonderful happened. The singer of this combo stepped up to the mike and started in on Tyrone Davis' "Turn Back the Hands of Time."
What!? Great tune! I hadn't even thought about it since it was a hit over 30 years ago. I was totally blown away, not only by the choice of material, but by the vocalists' flowing and flawless performance. It is a wonderfully cool song and I was wondering who this guy who executed it so perfectly was? I wondered if, in fact, this guy could be Tyrone Davis. Why not? Could be he had a hit back then and was still out working.
Around the same time a week before, I was strolling by The Wolf Den up at Mohegan Sun and caught a rock group doing "Easy to Be Hard." They had it going on and I marveled at how much they sounded like Three Dog Night. Turns out it was Chuck Negron, the group's lead singer. Point is when I woke up that morning I had no idea that before the day was over I'd hear the former singer from Three Dog Night, soooooooo it seemed perfectly possible that this guy in the Boiler Room was Tyrone Davis.
He wasn't. In fact, I have since learned that Mr. Davis suffered a stroke in 2004 and died in 2005. Turns out the singer I saw was "The Southern Gentleman of the Blues," Frank Bey.
He is a pure 100% soul singer in the tradition of Wilson Pickett, Levi Stubbs, Sam Moore, or any of the greats who ever sang with the Stax Volt Review. In fact, I learned that in the 60's he toured with the Otis Redding Review, and it was a thrill to hear his version of "Try A Little Tenderness." Not many can pull this Otis classic off. It's interesting that not only did Bey do a hell of a job with it, but in the 70's, Three Dog Night recorded a real good bar band version of the tune.
Frank's version was more authentic because he is authentic, the real deal. Let me put it this way the only difference between Bobby 'Blue' Bland, Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, Issac Hayes, or B.B. King and Frank Bey is . . . fame. He's as good as the greats and belongs in that elite fraternity. He's just not as well known as the others.
His set alternated between soul classics like an emotionally charged version of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," and straight-ahead blues material from his CD, "Steppin' Out." "Girl, I Want to Be With You," which he wrote, and "Cookie Jar" are highlights. He also excels on a cover of Ray Charles' "Drown in My Own Tears."
Frank gigs around Philadelphia and New Jersey, so don't miss any opportunity you have to see him. He is a classic soul man.
For more information about Mr. Bey and his CD, check out: www.frankbey.com
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