It's as if a forest of sequoias toppled in one killer wind. After losing Ted Jarrett and Johnny Jones within months--not to mention Theodore "Little Teddy" Acklen Jr., whose father ran the renowned Del Morocco club--it didn't seem that 2009 could hold any worse news for Nashville's R&B community. But it did. On New Year's Eve, Earl Gaines, one of the finest vocalists in any genre to record in Nashville, died at St. Thomas Hospital. He was 74.
Gaines is best remembered for the 1955 smash "It's Love Baby (24 Hours a Day)" by Louis Brooks & His Hi-Toppers, on which he sang lead vocal. But when labels both here and overseas began to reissue his vintage '50s and '60s Nashville recordings in the mid-1990s, a new audience discovered his classic sides for Excello, Poncello, Champion and other imprints. Rougher-voiced than his life-long friend and fellow Nashville R&B giant Roscoe Shelton, Gaines made a song sound emotionally immediate but never rushed his way through it: as proof, check out his fine 1975 cover of Joe Simon's "Nine Pound Steel" above.
From Michael Gray, who co-produced the Country Music Hall of Fame's monumental "Night Train to Nashville" exhibit and CD sets (and wrote a moving tribute last week to Jarrett and Jones for the Scene), we have word that Gaines' funeral services will be held tomorrow at St. Luke CME Church, located at 2008 28th Ave. N. Visitation begins at 10 a.m., followed by a musical tribute at 11. The funeral itself is scheduled for noon.