PART OF SWAMP DOGG'S SOUL & BLUES COLLECTION
Originally released in 1969 on Canyon, this record is now considered by many to be the GREATEST DEEP SOUL ALBUM of all time.
Our freshly REMASTERED CD DIGIPAK version features a BOOKLET with NEW LINER NOTES by producer Swamp Dogg, as well as RECENTLY UNEARTHED PHOTOS OF THE SESSION. This amazing album also features Duane Allman on guitar.
LINER NOTES BY SWAMP DOGG
Tired of being a backup singer for Nina Simone and other crazies with a star on their forehead, Doris Duke was introduced to me by Troy Davis, a fantastic writing partner, later to become her road manager, a con man and master thief. Oh yeah, but he knew talent.
I remember the time Doris was playing at the Continental Club in Miami and she gave him money to buy her some stage gowns. Troy came back with a bunch of clothes on his back with the cleaning tickets unremoved. I digress… In 1969 I met Doris Wilingham for the first time in my house in East Elmhurst, Queens, New York. Gary Bonds and me had written and picked most of the songs on this album but we didn’t have an outlet. In spite of this, I called Phil Walden, Otis Redding’s manager, and cut a deal to use his studio and rhythm section. We agreed and Doris and I flew to Macon, Ga., and commenced to record with some strangers who became our best friends after the first take. I’m talking Paul “Berry” Hornsby (organ), Johnny “Duck” Sandlin (drums), Pete “Beaver” Carr (guitar), Robert “Pops” Popwell (bass). They were calling themselves the Zoo. I had not given birth to Swamp Dogg, therefore I wasn’t yet Zoo status. I played piano and Jim Hawkins engineered the session while still building the studio. He was fantastic… still is.
The album that I’m alluding to is “I’m A Loser.” Doris had this great sad quality in delivering a song that could only be compared with Billie Holiday. You believe she has lived through every story on the album. Even though Doris hates me and my fondness for her has dwindled, I still have to give her credit for being one of the greatest female vocalists in the world. Just touring with Nina Simone for years is enough to tell you how great she is. Nina didn’t stand for one bad note or your ass was out of her picture.
We left Macon with vocals and with all great rhythm tracks. Now I needed strings. Phil was only fronting the studio and rhythm section. That’s all right… I jumped on a plane to Philadelphia and convinced Richard Rome to write the string lines for our “If Come” deal. When Richard writes, he writes for a symphony. I couldn’t afford the players in Philly so I hopped another plane to Detroit and visited George McGregor, one of Motown’s original drummers, with a master’s degree in music from the military and college, writer and producer. “George… I need to go in to the studio and put strings on all of this shit, but I don’t have a dime… and can I bunk here with you and Marsha?” In order to accomplish this I had to make it a union session, that way the musicians wouldn’t be looking to get paid that day. George fronted as the contractor and I left him checks for everybody, which he was turning in to the union as late as possible. By the way, you may be wondering what Doris is doing at this time… well the fuck if I know. I managed and produced her for about five years and I never knew where she lived, so naturally I never visited her home. I think she was living in New Jersey.
Now I’m back in Macon for the mix-down which you are hearing now or soon will be. It was a family affair with Jim Hawkins having the final say. His mixes are impeccable. I was going to add horns on three of the songs but I couldn’t afford them. So fuck it … hum your own horn lines. I got turned down by every record company in New York. I even tried to convince Vanguard, Mainstream, a dope dealer in Harlem, and Big Jack of Rojac Records. Everybody said it was too depressing. I went to Tommy Small a/k/a Dr. Jive, who was doing A&R for Josie-Jubilee Records. He was willing to release “To The Other Woman” and if it hit he would release the entire album. I even went to Date Records (CBS), who no one wanted to sign with and they kicked me out too, even though Eddie Matthews, the V.P., was a dear friend. By this time I’m convinced that “To The Other Woman” is my carrot and I was not going to give it up.
On to Los Angeles for the first time. I know this record is going to knock the West Coast on its ass. It goes without saying that I was turned down by all the majors, independents and “wannabees.” I got turned down by another good friend, Warren Lanier, who was running Mutt & Jeff records. By now, I’m so desperate I no longer want an advance, just put this super-bad motherfucker out! Last stop, Wally Roker, who had Canyon Records and a partnership with Ampex tapes for the 8-track distribution. Wally loves and wants the record but he’s broke. Ampex promised him four million dollars but was holding back after laying out two million without seeing any concrete results. We made a deal, after all it’s two weeks before Christmas and I had four daughters depending on this nigga’ who calls himself a record producer/daddy. We made a twenty five thousand dollar deal. A seventy five hundred dollar check full of rubber was the first installment. He asked me if I had someone in New York who would cash it. I knew my jewelers Germano & Geradi would hold it a week and then drop it in for me. That worked smooth. Wally went to press with the single immediately and the record busted wide open throughout the country. Ampex sent two million dollars to him by jet and we were in business. I figured out later that the record was a woman’s story and very few men could relate to it. We didn’t have any women in power in the business in 1969 and 1970.
Doris’ name was on the lips of every promoter and booking agent in the country. She was working her ass off at a thousand to two thousand dollars per night. I bought her a Buick Estate wagon, gave her money for clothes. The Apollo theatre begged me for her and I would not relent unless she was the co-star. They brought in the Delphonics as the headliners and Doris as the co-headliner. She killed em’. Left them in the aisles screaming for more.
With all this new fame Doris decides I’m her valet and introduces me as such. I didn’t say shit because I was making money. She also carried a half pint of cognac in her purse at all times but I wasn’t aware of this. I just couldn’t figure out why I was a sweetheart during the first part of the day and as night approached, I became a sack full of motherfuckers. The cognac was doing a Jekyll and Hyde on her. To top that, I took some press and photographers up to her dressing room and she opened the door with all of her teeth out. I didn’t know she had false teeth. James Brown sued me because she missed her flight to Cincinnati to be on his show because she had to find her boyfriend who was going to travel with her; some info I wasn’t privy to.
She fired me as her manager at least once a week and called me and told me things like the venue promoter is taking over her career. I ran in to one hard-ass that shot the tires off of the station wagon, with the band in it, and gave her less money than we contracted for. He was going to show her how to make her money grow. Doris refused to come back from that North Carolina gig, so I called Nate McCall, the executioner, who I had recorded for and became friends with. I told him the story and in two days, Doris was flying to Atlanta for her next gig and the promoter was in traction in a North Carolina hospital. Doris started missing gigs so I sent Sandra Phillips on the road as Doris, because no one knew what the fuck she looked like. Thank God all black people look alike. Doris’ record broke in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and St. Louis based on Sandra’s appearances.
Just a footnote… when you look at the cover of the album you’ll see the lining of her pants hanging down. I deliberately used that photo because of all the aggravation she caused me. Oh! She went to England and signed with my pseudo dear friend, John Abbey of Contempo Records while still under contract to me. I think she’s still under contract to me because I put it in suspension, never reversed the action and I legally own the fuckin’ name. So I guess I’m Doris Duke. – SWAMP DOGG
A masterpiece of soul singing, song writing, and production. – FUNK MY SOUL
Though considered the finest deep soul record of all time by no less than soul expert Dave Godin, "I’m a Loser" was rejected by dozens of labels before it finally surfaced on Wally Roker’s Canyon label. Although the first single, "To the Other Woman," cracked Billboard’s R&B Top Ten, Canyon soon spiraled into financial disaster, destroying the album’s commercial momentum. – ALL MUSIC
I’m a Loser convincingly proves Duke is the equal or better than more popular soul singer divas. Every gritty note rings with pain and pride. The words and music betray the darker side of life. – Steve Horowitz / POPMATTERS