A Florida singer – possibly from Tampa or Gainesville – Gene Middleton had several fine southern soul 45s in the 60s and 70s. Classic southern soul from the Golden Age.
Both sides of his first 45 for Charles Fuller’s D & B were good solid uptempo efforts. But his second 45 raised the standard quite a bit. When A Boy Becomes A Man is arguably his best – a rip roaring deep song with Middleton giving his all over an excellent rhythm track from local garage band the Rare Breed, and some fine horns. Love the key modulations as the song progresses.
His next 45 for another of Fuller’s labels Soul Town is almost up there. A Man Will Do Anything really shows off Middleton’s gritty delivery – great horns again. The repetition of the refrain in gradually increasing volume really turns the screw – it becomes almost hypnotic as Middleton ad libs over the top.
His version of Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You is simply the best I’ve heard. Unlike the hit track from Wilson Pickett this is taken at a funeral pace with Middleton’s hoarse cries really emphatic. No horns this time just a female chorus and a rhythm track but even so what a wonderful 45. I guess this must have been cut after Pickett’s trip to Philly which makes it a 70s cut.
UPDATE ~ Naoya Yamauchi has studied the matrix numbers and dated the Soul Town 45 to 1965 making it his first disc. The discography below has been amended to reflect this.
NEW UPDATE ~ Greg Burgess writes with this link here for the members of the Rare Breed group who backed Gene on his Soul Town release.
FURTHER UPDATE ~ I'm delighted to say that both Gene's grandson, Christopher Gadson, and James Belmont of the Rare Breed have been in touch. Christopher has very kindly sent these details about his grandfather:-
"He was born December 20,1940 in Hawthorne Florida . He moved to Connecticut in 1969. He founded a church in 1979 in Bridgeport. There he remained a pastor until he relocated back to his home state in Florida in 1987. He then became a pastor in Florida in 1989. He also served as board member for the Community Redevelopment Association for the City of Leesburg. He passed away July 17,2011 leaving behind a wife, four children, four siblings, eight grandchildren; a host of nieces and nephews, and the members and friends of Mount Calvalry Baptist church."
It's sad to hear that Gene Middleton is no longer with us, but I am very grateful to Christopher for the brief biography of him.
James Belmont says that in addition to backing Gene on the Soul Town release, the Rare Breed also appear behind him on the first D & B 45 as well. Additionally they also backed him on many personal appearances. James has kindly sent a link to the Rare Breed website which you can find here. I'm very grateful to James as well for his helpful background info.
man will do anything / You can get it now ~ SOUL TOWN 1 (1965)
You need love / Stop where are you ~ D & B 102 (1967)
When a boy becomes a man / You need love ~ D & B 103 (1967)
Don't let the green grass fool you / No one to love me ~ FUNK FACTORY 5506 (early 70s)
Many thanks to Naoya Yamauchi and Greg Burgess for extra info.