The most prolific artist on Jesse Jones’ fabled Atlanta Note/Tragar group of labels was the wonderful Eula Cooper. Although she was born in Opelika, AL she was living in Atlanta in her early teens and was just fourteen when she made her first record. Although the top side “Shake Daddy Shake” was a moderately interesting dancer, the flip Heavenly Father is a fine ballad, on which Eula sounds really young, but with more than enough spark to hint of better things to come. And amazingly enough both sides were credited to her as the writer. The disc made enough noise locally to interest Atlantic, but even their famous promotional techniques couldn’t make it a national item.
The commercially sounding beater “Try” led her next 45, and even though it didn’t click at the time, the Northern soul dance scene has made it a big track since then. As ever I much prefer the flip, a very tasteful version of Martha & The Vendellas super deep ballad Love Makes Me Do Foolish Things. Eula is much more confident on this one, stretching out the words, and using some lovely “delay” timing to get her message across. This was followed by the uptempo, funky “I Can’t Help If I Love You” coupled with a real oddity. Her cut of the evergreen “Since I Fell For You” was a duet with an uncredited male vocalist and was split into two parts – both on the same side of the 45.
Her one outing on Jones’ new Super Sound logo is another Northern favourite “Let Our Love Go Higher”, but on the deeply soulful flip Have Faith In Me Eula gives a much more emotional performance, soaring around the melody and sounding totally convincing. Jones started a new label, Note, in 1970 taking Eula with him. And in general I think the standard of her releases on the this label are of a higher calibre than her previous tracks, partly as Jones used studios in Muscle Shoals, with their better production facilities and partly as the material Eula was asked to sing, often by Bill Patterson, was better constructed.
Her first Note release had the attractive beat ballad “Standing By Love” on it. But the flip was her true masterpiece, I Need You More. This superbly melodic number was beautifully played by the guys at Muscle Shoals Sound – check out Jimmy Johnson’s lovely guitar licks – and Eula responds to this setting by giving her most committed vocal to date. The excellent arrangement is credited to Wade Marcus on this first issue.
Jones himself obviously thought a lot of this track as he put it out twice more – the final time changing the arrangement credit to Harrison Calloway! On the song’s second appearance it was the B side to a fine piece of sultry southern funk entitled “Mr Henry” – think Roberta Flack’s “Reverend Lee” for example.
Before her third solo Note single, Eula was involved in a one-off project as part of a group called Cherry Blend. The other members were school friends of hers called Shari Billingslea and Deborah Tolls. Although “Warning (Of Danger)” was a fairly good southern funker, the Muscle Shoals Sound recorded Love Is Gone was a fine harmony ballad, nicely sung and well arranged. The 45 was picked up by King for national distribution but still didn’t make much of a noise sadly. The girls went their own separate ways and didn’t record any more tracks.
Cooper’s third Note release of “I Need You More” had the thumping uptempo “Beggars Can’t Be Choosey” as its top side. The rhythm for this quality dancer from those master songsmiths David Camon and Sam Dees, was cut at Fame, and the Fame Gang do their usual impeccable job. I really like the changes of volume on this one – and the occasional horn blasts. The final Note 45 on Eula’s musical CV was also recorded at Fame. “My Man Is More Man” is a clip-clop rhythmic funker that ought to be recognised as a fine southern soul track. It was released with another outing for "Standing By Love".
After Jesse Jones closed his Atlanta record business in the late 70s he moved to LA, and Eula went with him. And although he really left show business, he couldn’t resist trying yet again with a new label, Adventure One. The most celebrated release on the label is probably Willie Hightower’s, but it was Eula who kicked the label off. I can vividy recall my intense disappointment when I first listened to the two tracks “Feel So Right” and “You’re The Best” bought as a new 12” in 1984. And listening to them again for the first time in almost 30 years that feeling is redoubled. Although Eula – or what you can hear of her over the blaring battery of synths – seems to be in good voice the almost rock style backing does her, and any listener, no favours at all.
What a deeply sad way to finish such a wonderful recording career. But better news was her return to the stage recently for a couple of really well received concerts in New York, and Eula delighted her many UK admirers with an appearance at Prestatyn too. Let's hope for more of the same from her in the future.
There is a good discography here – but please note the Adventure One release is not listed.
1. You can find most of Eula’s recordings on the excellent Numero Group double CD “Eccentric Soul: The Tragar & Note Labels” an absolutely essential purchase if you don’t already have it. And for terminal obsessives like myself the best news is that not all the Eula tracks are the takes used on the 45s.
2. The other reason for buying this CD set is that Eula receives royalties from sales of the CDs from those nice guys at Numero. And as you can read at her own website here Eula has been having money troubles which may involve the loss of her house. It is not clear whether foreclosure on her property has actually taken place yet but any donation you can make towards her expenses will still surely be welcome in any event.
3. You can find an early demo of “Beggars Can’t Be Chosey” on the UK Kent CD “Full Time Groovers”.