I’ve often been rude about Detroit – using the name as a shortcut for the sort of lightweight pop fluff that passes for soul music in certain quarters. But of course tarring all the recordings from a city with as vibrant a musical scene as the Motor City is ludicrous. I shall try not to be so cavalier in future.
Nelson Sanders is a case in point. Although he only cut a handful of sides in his spare time from the day job of driving a fork-lift truck they are all uncompromising raw soul as befits a man from Bessemer AL. His throaty tenor voice really got to grips with his material and he communicated with great passion. His discs are about as far removed from the Supremes as you can get and still be in the same musical niche.
His first 45 for Charlie Bannister’s Petcol label (named after a local diner apparently) set the tone very nicely. Although the dancers go for the strong beater “Your Sweet Love” side the bluesy ballad top side suits this page better. This Is The Way Of Love is a fine recording especially when Sanders cuts loose at the end. Great band support too. His next release for La Beat was just a tad better. The funky screamer “This Love Is Here To Stay” is very good, and the deep flip Tired Of Being Your Fool may just be his most committed vocal. Or perhaps the small band setting gives more emphasis to his lead. Anyway it really is a great release.
Sanders third single for La Beat’s Rambler subsidiary “I’m Lonely” has long been a cult deep favourite – and rightly so. It features another powerful and gut wrenching performance and if the strings are maybe a tad intrusive that’s just nit-picking as the side has real class written all over it. In 1970 Sanders cut sides for Goldsoul but it wasn’t until 1991 that I Hold The Key / “It’s Real” came out on Soul King. Although these sides are clearly little more than demos “Key” in particular is another fine throat tearing vocal performance from Sanders.
He was the featured vocalist on Lonne Givens “Living On A $10 Budget” (G & G 2633) in the early 70s and that ended his recording career. Although he still sings in his local church, and appear occasionally at one of Lonne’s blues shows these days it is strictly gospel music only.
is the way of love / Your sweet love ~ PETCOL 1001 (1966)
This love is here to stay / Tired of being your fool ~ LA BEAT 6608 (1966)
I’m lonely / Mojo man ~ RAMBLER 3001 (1967)
It's real / I hold the key ~ SOUL KING 402 (1991)
Note :- You can find the La Beat and Rambler 45s on the Grapevine 2000 UK CD "Detroit Soul" (GVCD 3029).
Acknowledgements to Dave Welding