Somebody Loan Me A Dime
The Mellow Giant of the blues, one of the blues' finest composers, most melodic singers and sensitive and subtle guitarists. "Absolutely haunting power"--LIVING BLUES
Fenton Robinson, Guitar and Vocals
Mighty Joe Young, Rhythm Guitar
Bill Heid, Keyboards
Cornelius Boyson, Bass
Tony Gooden, Drums
Horns Arranged by Dave Baldwin:
Norval D . Hodges, Trumpet
Elmer Brown, Jr., Trumpet
Dave Baldwin, Tenor Sax
Bill Mcfarland, Trombone
Produced by Fenton Robinson and Bruce Iglauer
Recorded at Sound Studios, Chicago
Engineered and mixed by Stu Black
Cover design by Ross & Harvey/Chicago
Cover photo by Dan Coha
Liner photo by Jan Loveland
Thanks to Roy Filson, Jim O'Neal and Amy van Singel
Special thanks to Bob Koester of Delmark Records
When Boz Scaggs recorded (and claimed he wrote) Somebody Loan Me A Dime in 1969, few rock fans had ever heard of the song or its true composer, Fenton Robinson. Now Scaggs' pop version, featuring Duane Allman on guitar, ranks as a classic of modern blues rock music, yet Fenton Robinson remains unrecognized in the rock world. Still, to the black blues fans of Chicago and the Deep South, and to the dedicated white blues addicts, he is known as one of the finest, most creative artists in modern blues -- an unusually gifted and introspective man whose progressive musical ideas and continual reshapings of the blues form set him apart from his contemporaries.
Fenton originally recorded Somebody Loan Me A Dime for a small Chicago label in 1967. Just as the record was breaking, a severe snowstorm sabotaged the company's national distribution lines. Yet it was still a local smash, the biggest hit Fenton or Palos Records ever had. Fenton's strong, sensitive performance seems just as remarkable today as it did then, and the record continues to sell across the country and overseas. B B. King's band backed Fenton on the session, but it was Fenton's own lithe, soaring vocals, fleeting guitar runs and memorable lyrics that made the song a masterpiece. Applause and cries of recognition still erupt when Fenton sings Somebody Loan Me A Dime in a Chicago tavern or on the road.
Fenton's reputation doesn't just rest on one great song, however. He's been consistently in the forefront of the modern blues movement as composer, recording artist, live performer, bandleader and sideman. He's written for Lowell Fulson and Larry Davis, as well as dozens of songs for himself. His original version of the blues standard As The Years Go By inspired renditions by Albert King, Elvin Bishop, Eric Burdon and Maggie Bell. Soul radio stations continue to play his singles regularly, and an LP of his early sides has been bootlegged in Europe. He's done studio work in Chicago and Houston, backed Sonny Boy Williamson, toured with Charlie Musselwhite and gigged with his own bands all over the Midwest and South.
Fenton has been a bluesman on the move, in fact, ever since he was sixteen, when he moved to Memphis from the Leflore County, Mississippi plantation where he was born on September 23, 1935. From Memphis he went to Little Rock, began recording, and toured through Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. Chicago has been his home since 1962 but Fenton never hesitates to take off for Indianapolis, St. Louis, Memphis or California, confident that he can find a steady gig anywhere.
His music -- solid, thoughtful, probing, often adventurous, and mellow rather than harsh -- reflects his personality. When he talks about his music, he could just as easily be explaining his restless travels: "You listen to my playing, I never stay at one level. I'm always moving about. A musician should always want to go further, and this is the type of musician I am. There's always something I want to learn, something I want to do. I guess I'll be that way the rest of my life." In recent years, Fenton has taken up formal musical training, rare for a bluesman.
Never satisfied, still developing, still creating, ever eager to learn, Fenton's always been that way. Back on the plantation, inspired by the blues he heard on the radio, he constructed his own baling wire guitar. T-Bone Walker's records inspired him. "T-Bone was my idol of blues playing during that time," Fenton says, "It was always a thing in my mind that someday I would be good enough to play his licks, and from that I built a style of my own. It didn't take me long to learn to play. I had the feel of music."
With the help of a friend, guitarist Charles McGowan, Fenton made his recording debut on the Memphis-based Meteor label, cutting his classic Tennessee Woman. He made his name in the South through a series of fine singles for Duke Records, and continued recording in Chicago, putting out one excellent 45 after another, on U.S.A., Palos and Giant. In Chicago, Fenton gigged with Sonny Boy, Junior Wells, Otis Rush, and the Prince James jazz combo before forming his own band. He now plays constantly at clubs like Pepper's, Walton's Corner, The Silver Moon and Ma Bea's and has earned an intensely loyal local following.
Despite all his achievements, Fenton has not, until now, had an album truly representative of his unique talents. A recent album with Nashville studio musicians left Fenton with no room for artistic freedom or creativity. But now, he says with satisfaction, things are different: "This is the first time I've really ever done an LP on myself. The other LP was somebody else. But this is mine, and I've got a lot of confidence in it. I feel that I have a better outlet on music now than I have in a long time."
--Jim O'Neal, Editor, Living Blues
Appearing with Fenton on this album are three veterans of the Chicago blues scene and one extremely talented newcomer. Mighty Joe Young is considered one of the finest guitarists on the West Side. His innumerable studio credits include work with Magic Sam, Tyrone Davis and Jimmy Dawkins. He's recorded two fine albums of his own, for Delmark and Ovation. Cornelius "Mule" Boyson, 38, is a graduate of the Bobby Rush band, and has been Joe Young's bassist for two years. Tony Gooden has recorded and toured with Bobby Rush and travelled through Europe with Randy Weston, and he, too is presently touring with Joe. Bill Heid, 26, has immersed himself in black music all his life, from his father's recording studio (specializing in black vocal groups), to years of organ trio work in the Pittsburgh ghetto, to jamming regularly with Lou Donaldson, James Moody and Grant Green. He presently fronts his own band in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Since the release of this record in 1974, Fenton Robinson went on to record two more albums for Alligator as well as recording for European labels. His early sides have been reissued extensively. Fenton now lives in Springfield, Illinois. He still tours, and although he has never become the major blues star he deserves to be, his name and music are still revered by blues fans worldwide. Joe Young still tours nationally with his own band. Cornelius Boyson rarely performs these days, and Tony Gooden died tragically as the result of a train wreck he was in while on tour with the Son Seals band. Bill Heid lives in Chicago and Michigan, and holds the award for most miles travelled by hitchhiking in the Guiness Book of World Records.