IT MAKES me proud to think that Britain has contributed something very tangible to the progression of Soul music. In the past, many soul oriented acts have acclaimed various influences from British musicians but one never quite knew if they were just being polite or if they actually meant what they were saying. But Bloodstone can thank Britain directly for the Gold Disc that they recently hung up on their office wall because they were 'discovered' in this country and it was, in fact, a 'Blues & Soul' sponsored concert that led directly to the group signing with Decca Records, whose long patience has been handsomely rewarded after some doubt must have crept into their minds.
Between the signing and the success, though, was a disappointing album debut that even the group itself wasn't happy with. "We were given just twelve days to complete that first album," Charles McCormick — known to all and sundry as Mac and whose crystal clear voice is so evident on "Natural High", now finally making its ascent of the British charts. "And we didn't have the experience it requires to make an album," he continued, "because up until then, we had only made singles."
As a group, the basis of Bloodstone has been in existence for more than ten years, though it's only the past six years that can be seriously considered. They all were based then in Kansas City, Missouri — now they acclaim Los Angeles as 'home' — and played in various local and insignificant little groups.
In 1962, they were all taking part in a talent contest at the Central High School in Kansas City and they got to talking backstage about the situations within each member's group. Willis Draften and Melvin Webb were playing in an instrumental combo; Charles McCormick and Charles Love were in one vocal group and Harry Williams and Roger Durham were in another. They learned that the other members of their groups were not as interested in seriously pursuing their careers and so they decided to pool their talents together and form a new super-group.
Initially, they became the Sinceres and only changed their name to Bloodstone some three years ago, directly before they embarked for their very first trip to Europe. In 1964, they had their first record released — "I Apologise". Three years later, their only other release was made on the New York-based Zeni label, entitled "Angel".
"But the company went downhill from the start," Mac half-laughed, "and so did the record!" During that time, Willis Draften had a solo release, too. Entitled "Don't Waste My Time", it was on the Pzazz label but the company, too, went out of business.
So, how did the group's affinity with Britain come about? "Well," Mac picked up the story, "we were playing at a club in Los Angeles called the Peyton Place and a group of friends of our manager, George Bronstein, came by and saw us. They liked us and they kept telling George how good we were. Now, George's father is well known in show business circles so George knew what was a good act and what wasn't. Finally, he came down and saw us — we were still the Sinceres in those days and, as he'll tell you right now, he fell in love with our music right away.
"He became interested in us in a business way, too, and he became our manager. He felt that it was getting increasingly difficult for a new group to really get off the ground in America and he suggested we try to get to England, where we might stand more chance and from where so much starts in the music business, anyway. Then, as you know, we were on stage one night with the Al Green concert and it all really started from there."
Charles Love — who is known as Smut to his friends because of his very dark complexion — picked up the British 'love' story from there: "You know, we'll always have a soft spot for England. In fact, we've only recently got back from England from recording our third album. Mike Vernon produced it down at his studio in Chipping Norton.
"We were only there to record, too — I find I write better songs even in England because it's so quiet and peaceful. That's perfect for me to create my music. You know, the basic idea for "Natural High" was written during my national service many years ago and it was in England that I put it together."
Because of their frequent stays in England, Bloodstone are considered in the States to be a British group. "That's right," Smut confirmed, "because when we first went into the Apollo and on the American Al Green tour, people were always calling us British. Now we've had the hit, though, they know but we really don't mind at all — in fact, we're really quite proud of it."
The group's third album is due to be released in the States quite soon. It will be called "Unreal". "It's a far better album than either of the previous two," Mac acclaimed, "because we had so much more time to do the recording. We also have the advantage that we are a self-contained group and that's where Mike's studio is so good. We can spend all the time we like rehearsing our material and then spend a minimum of time in the studio itself."
Mac, by the way, was once offered a very tempting (!) offer to join the Temptations — when Eddie Kendricks left. "The way I heard it was that Eddie, who is a close personal friend of mine, recommended me," he said unobtrusively, "but my heart has always been in Bloodstone so I didn't pursue it."
The six-man group recently became a quintet when Roger Durham died, He had suffered with a kidney infection for quite a few years but it came to a head recently. The group don't intend to replace him — because he is simply "irreplaceable". And, just before the recording of the "Unreal" album, drummer Eddie Summers left the group and was replaced by Darrell Clifton.
Now, as "Natural High" starts to descent the American charts, a new single has been culled from the "Natural High" album. Entitled "Never Let You Go", the group are quietly confident that it will establish them as anything but one-hit wonders in the States. And there certainly aren't many Britons who would question that, are there?