December 31, 2009
The year 2009 has come to a close. As the end-of-the year and/or decade lists pile up in the blog world, it’s hard not to wonder which musicians have been overlooked. As much as we try to follow our intuition and stay on the cutting edge, sometimes we can’t help but feel like we’re in the middle of a pack of lemmings, all hurtling in the same direction at cyberspeed. That’s why we thought this story seemed fitting as a sort of atypical end-of-the-year post. It reminded us that it’s hard to say which of our favorite bands of 2009 we’ll want to revisit in ten, twenty, thirty years, and it’s exciting to think that a group we’ve overlooked this year might get a break long after we thought that time had passed.
Chicago’s Walter Smith, Cliff Frazier, Brad Donaldson, and Keith Donaldson (along with Brad and Keith’s brother, David, now deceased) recorded in the sixties and seventies as the Green Berets, High Society, Walter & the Admerations, and, with Andre Williams, as Velvet Hammer. They started singing soul music together in their early teens, and like so many young artists, they came away from the studio with no money and none of the rights to their records. Because they were all drafted during Vietnam – just as one of their records began to chart highly – the Green Berets could never fully take advantage of their shot at stardom. But in the forty years since their studio days, the Green Berets’ records have become much-desired by collectors, selling for up to $5000, and in June they were contacted by Bob Abrahamian to conduct an interview on his Chicago-based radio show, WHPK’s “Sitting in the Park.”
As the story goes, Richard Lewis of Dig Deeper heard them singing on the show and just had to get them out to New York to perform in concert. Richard, and Michael Robinson, the other man behind Dig Deeper, track down their favorite soul singers, many of whom have fallen off the radar for decades, and bring them to Brooklyn to perform in their monthly Dig Deeper concert series. JezebelMusic.com recently talked to Richard and Michael about what it means to them to get an opportunity to see these artists perform their own songs live, so we decided to talk to the artists, too, to see what this comeback show of sorts meant to them. Erin Sheehy sat down with the Green Berets just hours before their Dig Deeper show at Southpaw in late October. You can also read her interview with the Dig Deeper guys here.
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