Jerryo’s Boo-Ga-Loos

When I’m out wandering the Interwebs, looking at lists, checking out blogs or clicking from link to link at YouTube, there are many names in the musical universe that catch my eye and make me either stop or click back to see what I’ve missed. Among those names are those of Funk Brothers Benny Benjamin and James Jamerson, drummer and bassist, respectively, and the foundation of much of Motown’s 1960s musical genius.

They popped up again today as I was idly sorting through videos of singles from the Billboard Hot 100 from September 30, 1967, which happened to be my sister’s seventeenth birthday. Sitting at No. 1 on that long-ago day was “The Letter” by the Box Tops. Anchoring the Hot 100 from its Bubbling Under spot at No. 135 was “Been So Nice” by the Righteous Brothers.

And just eleven spots north of “Been So Nice” was “Karate-Boo-Ga-Loo” a release on the Shout label by a performer calling himself Jerryo. I’d heard of neither the record nor the performer, so I headed to YouTube. The first video of the record I found was a little off in its sound, so I kept clicking, but not until I read that first video’s statement that the Funk Brothers, including Benjamin, Jamerson and pianist Popcorn Wylie, had provided the backing for Jerryo on “Karate-Boo-Ga-Loo.”

It’s well known, of course, that the Funk Brothers frequently moonlighted, working sessions for record labels other than Motown, a practice that just as frequently annoyed Motown’s Berry Gordy. And I suppose that the moonlighting practices of Bemjamin, Jamerson and the rest are now so legendary that their names have been appended all over the Internet to music they had no part in making. So it was with a grain or two of salt that I listened to “Karate-Boo-Ga-Loo” this morning. And all I can say is that it sounds like Benny Benjamin on the drums, and – perhaps a little less definitively – like James Jamerson on the bass.

Shout was a subsidiary of the Bang label and the listings at Discogs.com show releases – nearly all 45s – starting in 1966 and ending in 1975. Scanning the list of singles at that site, I see two that are familiar to me: Freddy Scott’s “Are You Lonely For Me” from 1966 and Erma Franklin’s “Piece Of My Heart” from 1967. I’ve no doubt heard others but evidently not frequently enough to know them by their titles.

Jerryo, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, was actually Jerry Murray, who with Robert “Tommy Dark” Tharp made up the duo of Tom & Jerrio (and why the spelling is different, I have no idea). Before Jerry’s single was released on Shout, the duo had two records on ABC-Paramount: “Boo-Ga-Loo” went to No. 47 (No. 11 on the R&B chart) in the spring of 1965 and “Great Goo-Ga-Moo-Ga” bubbled under at No. 123 for one week in August of that year.

“Karate-Boo-Ga-Loo” went to No. 51 (No. 16 R&B), and I thought for a minute about the reasons for including the word “karate” in its title. It seems to me, based on vague memories, that pop culture at the time was going through one of its occasional fascinations with Asian martial arts. I have no specific memories or citations on which to base that, except that the cheap aftershave called Hai Karate, also trading on our fascination with those martial arts, showed up on shelves during the same year, 1967, a memory confirmed at Wikipedia.

As for Jerryo, he had one more single get some airplay: “Funky Boo-Ga-Loo” spent one week at No. 40 on the R&B chart in early 1968. Are there Funk Brothers there? I don’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

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