Songlines: ‘Ah! Soul’ / ‘Uranus’

In October of 1969, Bob Brunning asked Peter Green if he would be interested in joining the Brunning Sunflower Band in the studio to cut a few tracks for their new album.  Green said yes.

The album that they were recording was a follow-up to the 1968 “Bullen Street Blues”, credited to the Brunning Sunflower Blues Band

Brunning had, for all intents and purposes, left the music business, near the end of 1967.  Married, and soon to be a Father, he sought greater stability and steadier employment as a school teacher; and he certainly found it, as he stayed with the work for thirty years. 

For him, that first LP was a bit of a lark, an opportunity to play and record once again; for Bob “Sunflower” Hall, it was another in an already overflowing date book of sessions that he played on; the band never played a single live show.

Although only six months had passed when the label contacted Brunning about doing a second LP for them, the drummer, the lead guitarist and the vocalist from the first session had already all moved on.

Rhythm guitarist Colin Jordan (who had played with Brunning in his first band, Five’s Company) remained available and Pete Banham was brought in on drums.  Green was being brought in to augment the new four-man line-up.  He would be credited on the original LP as “Peter G_”

A little more than a year earlier, Green had played on sessions for his friend Duster Bennett and a new Blue Horizon signing, Gordon Smith.

Along with John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, he played on three tracks for Bennett’s first LP, and then added harmonica to one song on Smith’s debut.  (McVie and Fleetwood played on two other numbers for Smith)

For this session, Green would play lead guitar on five of the LP’s eleven tracks, taking the lead vocal on three of them.

Among the tracks that Green took the lead on was an instrumental titled ‘Ah! Soul’. 

Brunning Sunflower Band

Peter Green: guitar / Bob Hall: piano /

Bob Brunning: bass / Pete Banham: drums

Recorded October 1969 (exact date not known)

 Saga Studios, London

Released onTrackside Blues (Saga 1969) (U.K. only)

Brunning Sunflower Band – Ah! Soul

Writing up the number for my book I wrote (only half-jokingly) that this was the best Freddy King instrumental that King had never recorded.

Thanks to John Whitehill, I discovered that King had in fact recorded it, under the title ‘Funny Bone’

Freddy King

Freddy King: guitar /

Bobby “Blanco” King or Fred Jordan: guitar /

Benny Turner or Bill Willis: bass /

Philip Paul: drums

Released on Freddy King…Gives You a Bonanza of Instrumentals (King 1965)

Freddy King – Funny Bone

Further research revealed that King himself  had in fact already used the distinctive riff three years earlier on a number titled ‘Just Pickin’’ back in 1962.

Freddy King

Personnel probably same as above

Recorded April 05, 1961

Released, B-side of Federal single, ‘Come On’ (June 1962)

Freddy King – Just Pickin’

There is no doubt that Green knew the earlier recording as it appeared on “Let’s Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddy King” which served as something of a primer for budding blues guitarists on both sides of the Atlantic.  Among the album’s twelve tracks were: ‘Hide Away’, ‘Sen-Sa-Shun’, ‘Side Tracked’, ‘The Stumble’ and ‘San-Ho-Zay’.

Listening to the Brunning Sunflower Band recording, it seems obvious that they were using ‘Funny Bone’ as their template, not ‘Just Pickin’’, although the first break seems to have been lifted from the latter.

On ‘Funny Bone’ King employs a “thin” tone and one can faintly hear a second guitar playing beneath his lead and the patter of sticks on cymbals. 

Green’s tone is thicker, with a hint of reverb; Banham counters that with the dry rattle of his snare drum, his precise, measured foundation carpeted by the Hall’s plush undulating piano work and Brunning’s bass.

Surprisingly for a session done so quickly, Green and the band took the time to record a second take that day. Without logs there is no way to be certain which was done first, but it is easy to imagine that ‘Ah! Soul’ was the first of the two; a fairly close approximation of ‘Funny Bone’ with a little ‘Just Pickin’’ thrown in.

The “alternate”, while remaining true to its source, is a far more free-wheeling affair, running almost a minute longer.

Brunning Sunflower Blues Band

Peter Green: guitar / Bob Hall: piano /

Bob Brunning: bass / Pete Banham: drums

Recorded October 1969 (exact date not known)

 Saga Studios, London

Released onI Wish You Would (Saga 1970) (U.K. only)

Brunning Sunflower Blues Band – Uranus

There is a slight uptick in the pace and Banham’s drumming is far looser.  Also coloring our perception is the fact that Hall is now much higher in the mix, as is Brunning.  Hall’s fills and accents towards the end of the number are another reminder, (as if any were needed) of why he was (and remains) such an in-demand session player.

Green also sounds less like King here, and more like himself.  He hasn’t bent notes like in the studio since his Bluesbreakers days. 

“Then Play On” was a few months old and ‘Oh Well Pts. 1 & 2’ had just hit the stores at the time of these recordings.  In the studio, Green’s own compositions had taken on a more serious, darker hue.  What comes across on these two recordings (and the others done at this session) is that he actually seems to be having fun, something that could still be heard in the concert recordings from the time, but on the studio recordings, not so much and that was unfortunate.

Some have bemoaned the fact that Green recorded these songs without acknowledging King as their source, but it was actually Brunning who took the credit where none was due.  A look at the label of the original LP reveals that the four covers that Green performed at the session were all credited as “Trad. Arr. Brunning”.

When Sanctuary Records began reissuing the recordings on various compilations in the early 2000’s they corrected the songwriting credits for Green’s three vocal numbers but were apparently unaware of the origins of ‘Ah! Soul’ and its alternate take, ‘Uranus’, listing Brunning as the sole writer on those numbers.

Worse, in the liner notes written for the Sanctuary “Two-fer” combining “Bullen Street Blues” and “Trackside Blues” Brunning still states that all of the songs, on both LPs, were originals.

Before these recordings, another musician had taken a shine to King’s composition, Buddy Guy.  At one of his last sessions for Chess Records in 1966, he recorded a song titled ‘Going to School’.  Chess apparently didn’t think much of it as it remained unreleased until 1992 when it appeared on the 2CD “Buddy Guy – The Complete Chess Studio Sessions”.

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy: guitar & vocal /

Other Personnel not known

Recorded July 1967, Chess Studios, Chicago, IL

Released on: Buddy Guy – The Complete Chess Studio Sessions (Geffen / MCA / Chess 1992)

Buddy Guy – Going to School –

In 1967 Guy re-recorded the number under the title ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ on his first LP for his new label, Vanguard.  They liked it enough to release as a single. 

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy: guitar & vocal /

Wayne Bennett: rhythm guitar / Otis Spann: piano /

Jack Myers: bass / Fred Below or Lonny Taylor: drums

Aaron Corthen, Bobby Fields and Donald Hankin: saxophones

Recorded September 1967 (location not known)

Released: A-side, Vanguard 45 (March 1968)

Buddy Guy – Mary Had a Little Lamb –

In 1968, the great Earl Hooker used the tune for his “Two Bugs and a Roach” (thanks to Christopher Conklin for bringing this one to my attention)

Earl Hooker

Earl Hooker: guitar & “vocal” (talking) /

Andrew “BB Jr.” Odom: “vocal” (talking) /

Joe Willie (Pinetop) Perkins: piano /

Chester “Gino” Skaggs: bass / Bill “Levi” Warren: drums

Recorded Sound Studios, Chicago, IL, November 1968

Released: Two Bugs and a Roach (Arhoolie 1969)

Earl Hooker – Two Bugs and a Roach –

Note: like Bob Brunning, neither Buddy Guy or Earl Hooker credited Freddy King for the number

If anyone knows of any other songs, before or after the King recording, built on this riff, please let me know and I will add it to this post with full accreditation.

Related Posts

Enter your keyword