Bobby Purify

Bobby Purify

BandR&BBlues

"The main quality of Bobby Purify is his glorious God-given voice: rich, big, melodious, intense – and so convincing because there is sincerity and motivation in every note and a meticulous concern for the meaning of the words, the emotion that the songwriters intended to convey."-Jerry Wexler 2005

Biography

When connoisseurs of soul music hear the names Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham, David Hood, Jimmie Johnson, Reggie Young, Wayne Jackson and Carson Whitsett, they perk up, because those names are all over the credits of some of their most treasured records. It isn’t every day that these legends of Memphis and Muscle Shoals lore come together, but the entire magnificent seven eagerly converged on Penn’s Dandy Studio in Nashville recently when they heard the news: Bobby Purify had returned.

Of the great soul singers from R&B’s golden age in the 1960s and ’70s, Purify is perhaps the most underappreciated. Although he’s the contemporary—and equal—of such southern soul legends as Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge and Solomon Burke, his stature has been obscured by a twisted career path and some basic confusion. The singer/guitarist’s real name is Ben Moore, and he worked with and behind the likes of Otis, James Carr, James Brown and the Tams before becoming half of Ben & Spence, who cut a number of sides for Atlantic in the ’60s before hooking up with James Purify in 1971. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Moore was the third individual to take the name Bobby Purify, although he’s answered to that moniker for close to 35 years. These and other circumstances conspired to deny him the fame he deserved, and he’s had some hard times, especially in recent years—but one thing that couldn’t be taken away from Bobby Purify was his gift. And that makes his unexpected and triumphant return a joyous event for all of those who care about rhythm & blues in the original, uncorrupted sense.

After glaucoma caused him to go blind in 1998, Purify was thrown into the depths of despair, frightened and alone. Then one day the phone rang, and Bobby found himself talking with Ray Charles. “I had met him awhile ago out there on the road,” he explains, “and a friend of mine told him that I had went blind. So Ray called and told me, ‘You don’t need no eyes to have soul. If you got soul, keep on goin’. Just use that thing in there as a crutch for bein’ blind, to keep your mind occupied.’ So I started goin’ back out on the road, blind, but without Ray, I’d still be sittin’ back there in that room.”

So he resumed eking out a living on the chitlin circuit, as before, still well under the radar, aside from a 2002 appearance in a made-for-PBS soul special featuring Aretha Franklin, Jerry Butler, Lou Rawls and other fellow veterans. One night, back home in Pensacola, Florida, Bobby was invited to a party at another friend’s condo. He brought his guitar and started singing for the guests, one of whom was songwriter Hoy “Bucky” Lindsey. According to Purify, when Lindsey realized who was singing, “He said, ‘Man, I thought you were dead.’ I said, ‘No, man, I went blind and I come off the circuit for a while. And he said, ‘I gotta get somebody down here to listen to you, ’cause you sing better now than you sang 30 years ago!’”

That somebody was Lindsey’s writing partner, Dan Penn. Since co-writing the title song for Solomon Burke’s critically lauded 2002 comeback album, Don’t Give Up on Me, with Whitsett and Lindsey, the legendary writer/producer had been wanting to cut an album of pure soul, and the three longtime collaborators had continued writing with that idea in mind. There was just one problem—a dearth of pure soul singers.

So it was with some excitement that Lindsey called Penn in Nashville to tell him about his surprising discovery. “I went on down there,” Penn recalls, “and when Bobby started singin’ and playin’ the guitar, right away, it stood all my hairs up on my arm. He was singin’ R&B like they did in the ’60s, which is the only kind of R&B I know, and you just don’t hear that no more. What they call R&B these days, that ain’t the real thing.”

Blown away by what he’d just heard, Penn told Purify, “I’m gonna get in touch with some people, see if I can get you a record deal.” Sure enough, several months later, he called Bobby to tell him the news, “I got some guys in from London and they’re comin’ down to hear you sing.” The visitors were Proper Records founder Malcolm Mills and his business partner, Paul Riley. “They come in and listen to me,” says Bobby, “and after I got through singin’ four or five songs, they said, ‘Man, shoot, we gonna do a deal on you.’ And I thought they were just talkin’, you know. But three or four weeks after, the contracts came in. They had already hired Dan to do a CD on me.”

Now, Purify and Penn have a little bit of history together, dating back to the ’60s, when Penn was engineering records at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where he recorded and wrote songs for Ben & Spence, including the R&B hit “You’re the One for Me.” Penn, of course, went on to become a renowned songwriter and producer, working primarily out of Memphis’ American Studios accumulating a thick resume as producer on such hits as “The Letter” and “Cry Like a Baby” for the Box Tops, and as a co-writer on such cla

Discography

SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY

JIMMY TIG AND THE ROUNDERS:
Spar 770 Foolish Lover / Small Town Girl
Jora 1001 Small Town Girl / Come Home

BEN AND SPENCE

Bell 650 Woman Hang Your Head In Shame / You’re The One For Me (1966)
Atlantic 2460 Ooh Poo Pah Do / I Do (1967)
Atlantic 2509 Get It Over / I Can’t Stop (1968)

JAMES & BOBBY PURIFY (Mark 2)
James Purify (born in Pensacola, Florida, May 12 1944)
Ben Moore (born in Atlanta, Georgia, August 7, 1941)

US Casablanca UK

12/1974 812 CBX520 Do Your Thing / Why Love
CAN119 Gonna Give Her All The Love I’ve Got / You Talk Too Much
04/1975 827 You And Me Together Forever / A Man Can’t Be A Man Without
A Woman
1975 830 Gonna Give Her All The Love I Got / Why Love

1975 7011 CAL2025 YOU & ME TOGETHER FOREVER (LP)
Includes all above single tracks.
A Papa Don & Tommy Cogbill Production.
Arrangers: Harrison Calloway, Shane Keister, Gary Paxton.
Recorded at Pete’s Place, Nashville, Tennessee.

US Mercury UK

1975 73767 6167.324 I’m Your Puppet [A UK HIT]/ Lay Me Down Easy
1976 73806 6167.380 Morning Glory / Turning Back The Pages
1977 73884 I Ain’t Got To Love Nobody Else / What’s Better Than Love
73891 6167.500 Get Closer / What’s Better Than Love (as Ben Moore?)

1977 1134 9100.028 JAMES & BOBBY PURIFY / PURIFY BROS. (LP)
Includes all above single tracks.
One track, “Everything Must Change”, by Ben Moore only.
“Get Closer” by Ben Moore & Sherry Kramer.
Produced by Don Schroeder for Papa Don Productions.
Arranged by Bergen White.
Recorded at Creative Workshop, American Studio, Pete’s Place and
U.S. Recording Studio, all in Nashville, and Advision and Phonogram
Studio, London, UK.

BEN MOORE

US Mercury
1977 73919 Fire’s Burning / Slow Dancing

US Roadshow
1978 BXL1-3443 SLOW DANCIN’ (LP)

UK DJM
1979 DJS10882 Slippin’ Away / Love Music

1979 DJF20552 PURIFIED (LP) (reissue of US Roadshow LP)
Papa Don Productions by David Chapman and Bill Utley.
Arranger: Bergen White
Recorded at Sound Lab, American Studio, Woodland Studio and Creative
Workshop, all in Nashville, and three tracks at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.

US Priority
1982 JU37724 PURIFIED (LP) (gospel recordings, not same as above)

US Columbia
? P18687 PURIFIED (LP) (reissue of US Priority LP)

US AIR (Atlanta International Records)
1984 10084 ROLL, RIVER, ROLL (LP)

Set List

I'm Your Puppet
Ain't No Way
Better To Have It
I'm Qualified
Things Happen
What's Old To You
Forever Changed
My Life to Live Over
Nobody's Home
Somebody's Gotta Do It
Hate To See You Go
The Pond
Testimony of a Fool
You Make Me Dig
Only in America
Shake a Tailfeather