Archive for March 8th, 2020

Garnet Mimms

When I was about eleven, I remember getting the posthumous album, Pearl, from Janis Joplin. This was pre-boombox and Walkman, the era where vinyl still ruled the musical roost and eight-track and cassette tapes were the new pretenders to the throne. My copy of Pearl was on tape cassette and I listened to it incessantly on a little personal tape recorder, the kind someone might have used for dictation. Even with the limits of the technology, Janis’ album was a revelation, especially for a kid living out in the country who spent much of his time alone.

What I didn’t know until yesterday is that a couple of tracks from that album were songs that were originally performed by one artist, an early Soul and R&B artist by the name of Garnet Mimms. I was listening to a quirky local channel that plays a weird mix of old music, a station that I sometimes jokingly call Offbrand Radio because they often play versions of hit songs performed by artists other than the hitmakers. I often find myself scratching my head wondering why a certain song that I’ve heard and enjoyed a thousand times before just doesn’t sound right. Or is suddenly downright awful.

But every so often things go the other way and I am thrilled with what I am hearing.

Such was the case yesterday. The song Cry Baby which Janis immortalized on Pearl with a scorching rendition came on the radio but it was man’s voice. I prepped myself to laugh or yell “Why would you do that?” at the radio. But it was good. Really good.

I Shazammed the song to find out who it was because this channel almost never identifies the singers or bands it plays and found that it was a name I was not aware of– Garnet Mimms. I did a quick search on him and was shocked and a little ashamed that I had never heard of him. Along with Cry Baby, Mimms also did the song My Baby from Pearl. Several other songs were minor hits in the early 60’s and later were covered by the Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin and many others.

Listening to many of his songs, I was really pleased with the high level of quality in his performances and in the songs themselves. Great stuff.

Reading his bio, Garnet Mimms, who is 86 now, had a lot of success before retiring from music in the 1980’s and turning to a life of ministering the gospel to incarcerated prisoners. But even with his success and the fact that he is often cited by those familiar with his work as the first Soul singer, the equal of legends like Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson and an influence on singers the likes of Janis Joplin and Otis Redding, his name is not well known. As one pop music critic wrote, Garnet Mimms is “criminally underappreciated.”

As someone who works in a creative field, that is something I can understand and appreciate. Being criminally underappreciated may be the next best thing to being celebrated at the highest levels. There’s evidence for people to find. The work is still there and it is consistent and timelessly strong enough to still turn heads.

Criminally underappreciated.”

I can only hope that someone will someday say that about my work.

So, while I am ashamed that he has been off my radar for so long, it is my great pleasure to play a couple of songs from Garnet Simms here for this Sunday’s morning music. First up is his version of Cry Baby and then A Quiet Place, which is a title that meshed well with my own work.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: