Soul, For Real: The Music of Gloria Ann Taylor

Listen Up Toledo  |  By Kelly Thompson  |  10/05/2015

Fans of funk and soul: you don’t need me to tell you that good music never goes out of style. And if you’ve never heard the powerful voice of Gloria Ann Taylor, you should give it a listen. Thanks to several reissues by Luv ‘N Haight, you now have a better chance of owning her music.

(Right: Gloria Taylor, c. 1970s. Photo courtesy: Ubiquity Records)

Last month, Luv ‘n Haight reissued a 45” single of Taylor’s “Love is a Hurtin’ Thing” (Selector Sound, 1972) coupled with the B-side “Brother Less Than a Man” (House Guests, 1971). It’s a big deal, because Taylor’s 45s are extremely rare, and much sought-after by music fans and collectors — original pressings have sold on sites like eBay and Discogs for $1000 or more.

This November, the label will also release a vinyl retrospective that will include 7” and 12” versions of the hit “Deep Inside of You” (1972) along with four other rare singles originally issued by Selector Sound, a label that Gloria, Walt and her brother Leonard owned in the early 1970s.

Toledo roots

A North Toledo native, Taylor got her start at a club called the Green Light in the early 60s, when James Brown’s production manager, Walt Whisenhunt, heard her sing. “[Whisenhunt] was a promotion man who came to Toledo from Detroit, he heard me, and he wanted me,” she said in a September 22 interview. “He ended up being my husband, my manager — he ended up being everything. And then, we went for it, we got a hit.”

It has already been noted by several collectors and audiophiles that the very sound of her music is unique, especially when compared to the other Motown radio hits of the time. “Deep Inside of You,” for example, relies almost completely on minor scales, compared to singles like the Temptations’ “Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)” or The Dramatics’ “What You See is What You Get.

According to the singer, her trajectory to the Motown limelight happened fairly quickly, and the recording process was done locally for many of her singles. “Most of the music was produced right here in Toledo . . . before [Selector Sound], CBS took my music, and due to the fact that he was a producer and a manager, my husband released our record ‘Deep Inside of You’ in Detroit,” Taylor explained.

Post-1970s

After moving to California with Whisenhunt, Taylor was nominated for a Grammy in 1970 for the tune “You’ve Got to Pay the Price” (Aretha Franklin won for “Share Your Love With Me”). By that time, however, the relationship had become strained, as was her time in the music business. Taylor returned to Toledo after their breakup, and while her pop music became more and more obscure, she continued to sing in local churches.

Several years ago, representatives from Ubiquity Records, the umbrella company for Luv ‘n Haight, contacted Gloria about re-releasing her music. “When [Ubiquity] approached me about my music, I didn’t know what to think,” she recalled. “I prayed about it . . . We dealt with them for about two years or so before making an agreement.” She sought out local legal advice, and found it in attorney Larry Meyer, who specializes in music copyright. After the first one-hour consult, he was shocked to learn who his client was.

“After her first visit, I knew that it might be a little more complex than previous cases,” Meyer said of meeting Mrs. Taylor. “So she leaves, and I Google her name, and I’m finding all of these people asking about her music — you know, ‘where is this woman, whatever happened to her, it’s the greatest soul 45 I’ve ever heard,’ stuff like that,” he said. “I listen and I flip out, because her music is just incredible.”

Meyer also said they were able to settle an agreement with Ubiquity that works for both the artist and the label.

As her iconic work sees a revival this fall, Taylor, 71, was frank about her future plans. “I plan to make personal appearances,” she quipped with a smile. “I can sing.”



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