Patti Drew

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  (1963-)

- Patti Drew -- vocals



- The Drew-Vels

- Front Line



Genre: soul

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Tell Me

Company: Capitol

Catalog:  ST 2804

Country/State: Evanston, Illinois

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 31099

Price: $40.00

I'm a big '60s soul fan and have to admit in all of my collecting years, I'd never heard of Patti Drew.  My introduction came when I was sitting at home during to Coronavirus shutdown, doing some on-line crate digging.  "Tell Him" showed up and though it had a cover that screamed MOR-covers, I decided to check her out via YouTube.  It took me about two minutes to buy the album.  Is it just me, or did Drew's cover photo bare an uncanny resemblance to a young Lil' Kim?


Raised in Evanston, Illinois Drew's musical career traces back to the church and then The Drew-Vels which featured Patricia (Patti) and her sisters Erma and Lorraine.  


In one of those to-good-to-be-true stories, Patti's mother was working as a housekeeper.  One of her clients was Capitol Records promotional manager Maury Lathowers.  Taking motherly pride in her singing daughters Mrs. Drew convinced Lathowers to check out her girls. Lathowers apparently saw the girls performing at their church, subsequently auditioning them at his home. An audition tape was brought to the attention of Chicago businessmen Don Caron and Peter Wright.  Caron was a Chicago-based bandleader who operated a production company.  Signed by Capitol, the sisters made their debut with a cover of The Duvals 'Tell Her' (the title and lyrics slightly modified for the girls).



- 1963's 'Tell Him' b/w 'Just Because' (Capitol catalog number 5055) # 90 pop


Over the next year the sisters recorded a series of equally impressive 45s.  




- 1964's 'Everybody Knows' b/w 'It's My Time' (Capitol catalog number 5145)

- 1964's 'Creepin'' b/w 'I've Know' (Capitol catalog number 5254)

- 1965's 'True Enough' b/w 'Chilly Kisses' (Quill catalog number 100)


The third release, 1965's 'True Enough' saw a shift in personnel with Patti replaced by younger sister Cynthia and sister Erma shifting to lead vocals



Lathower and producer Wright suggested Patti embark on a solo career, releasing her debut on the small Chicago Quill  imprint:


- 1965's 'Suffer' b/w 'Where's Daddy'' (Quill catalog number 101)

- 1966's 'It's All Over Now' b/w 'Mirror, Mirror' (Quill catalog number 107)



While neither 45 was a commercial success, they attracted enough attention to bring Capitol Records back into the picture; signing Drew to a solo deal in 1967.


With Carone and Wright at the helm, 1967's "Tell Him" featured a collection heavily geared towards Southern soul cover tunes.  Included in the line-up were tracks from  from George Clinton, Eddie Floyd, Otis Redding and two Joe Tex compositions.  About half of the tunes had already enjoyed popular exposure. The oddball tracks were a a remake of the Drew-Vels' title track, a cover of country musician Dallas Frazier's 'Been Rained On' and a big band arrangement of the standard 'You've Changed'.  In my experience, covers normally reflect a hastily recorded album focused more on sales than trying to showcase the artist's talents.  This was one of those exceptions.  Capitol's goal may well have been to issue a "quickie" album, but Drew's voice was so impressive, she managed to "own" of these performances.  Who would expect a cover of a classic track like Otis Redding's 'My Lover's Prayer' or Joe Tex's '' to be memorable?  Well, Drew just killed these tracks.  The title track was awesome, but there were plenty of other highlights including he cover of George Clinton's 'I Can't Shake It Loose' and even better, the single 'Stop and Listen'.


"Tell Me" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Tell Him  (Carlton Black) - 2:30  rating: ***** stars

Penned by The Duvals Clinton Black, The Drew-Vels version of 'Tell Him' was a fantastic performance.  To this day I find it hard to believe that Drew was only 19 when she sang it; her sisters Erma and Lorraine even younger.  Having repeated listened to the two versions side by side, the solo version is equally good.  The arrangement is a little slower, Drew's vocals a little lower and producers Carone and Wright added horns.  Interesting, just like on the original, Black was back to handle the bass vocals.  I just can't decide which version I like better ...




Capitol released the remake as Drew's debut single:


- 1967's 'Tell Him' b/w 'Turn Away From Me' (Capitol catalog number 5861) # 85 pop; # 22 soul




2.) Turn Away From Me   (Darksdale - McGill - Allison - Carter - Junior - Graces) - 2:08   rating: **** stars

This tale of female empowerment would easily give Aretha, Etta James or Laura Lee a run for their money.  Packaging it with a great melody made it even more precious.  You had to wonder why Capitol relegated to the flip side of the 'Tell Me' 45 when it was strong enough to have been an "A" side.

3.) Tired of Falling In (and Out of) Love   (Jimmy Jones) - 2:45   rating: **** stars

I was familiar with the Otis Clay cover of this song and as good as that version is, Drew's take is even better.   Simply stunning !!!

4.) Knock On Wood   (Eddie Floyd - Steve Cropper) - 2:58   rating: *** stars

The only side one performance that doesn't knock me out.  I'm not saying the performance was bad, rather the Eddie Floyd original was just such a classic take, there just wasn't any way to better it.

5.) I Can't Shake It Loose  (George Clinton - J. Barnes - R. McCoy - J. Jackson) - 2:32   rating: **** stars

Hearing Drew's gravely, soulful voice you just have to wonder how it is radio managed to overlook her immense talent.  And she makes it sound so easy ...  She literally didn't sound like she's breaking a sweat on this performance.  Good grief, it should have been a massive hit.

6.) My Lover's Prayer   (Otis Redding ) - 3:14   rating: **** stars

The problem with covering a classic tune is you set yourself up for comparisons to the original.  No matter how good your performance, chances are you are going to come out on the wrong end of the comparison.  That's fully what I expected here and I'll readily admit I was dead wrong.  While you may not forget the Otis Redding original, Drew's cover is dynamite and comes ever so close to outdoing the original.  I've listened to it dozens of times trying to figure out what makes it so good and I've concluded it's a result of Drew not trying to over-sing.  She lets the song stand on it's own.  Stunning performance.


(side 2)

1.) Stop and Listen   (R. Adams - J.J. Woods) - 2:38   rating: **** stars

As much as I love the title track, 'Stop and Listen' was even better.  This was the kind of performance Dionne Warwick could only dream about - infectious Motown-styled melody (love the sax solo), coupled with a more sophisticated vibe.  Should have been a massive hit when dropped as a single:


- 1967's 'Stop and Listen' b/w 'My Lover's Prayer' (Capitol catalog number 5969)




2.) Show Me  (Joe Tex) - 2:52   rating: ** stars

Modifying the lyrics to give the song a feminine slant was cute, but otherwise this was a rote copy of the original Joe Tex arrangement.  And like the earlier Eddie Floyd cover, the Joe Tex original was so firmly implanted in my head, it didn't matter how good Drew's cover was. It just could not compare with the original.  I'd also add that this was the one track where Drew actually sounded like she was trying too hard.

3.) Someone To Take Your Place  (Joe Tex) - 3:25

4.) Been Rained On  (Dallas Frazier) - 2:36  rating: *** stars

It was an odd choice for the album, but souled-up cover of Frazier's country tune song wasn't bad.

5.) You've Changed   (Carl Fischer - Bill Carey) - 3:25

Billie Holiday may have recorded the best know version of 'You've Changed', but it's one of those standards that dozens and dozens of artists have included in their repertoires.  With a big band arrangement, Drew's version is neither the best, nor the worst I've heard.  


Drew has a FaceBook presence:




Phil Wright's production and arrangements are rooted in the contemporary Chicago sound developed by Brunswick and Chess but also serve as the unacknowledged precursors to the incomparably lush sound of early 70s Curtom. The album is filled with many subtle arrangement flourishes: the jazzy piano fluttering around on the verses of "Tired of Falling In (and Out of) Love" surely made Donny Hathaway sit up and take notice. The build up to the chorus on that song is really tremendous, shedding light on the secret weapon of Chicago soul arrangers: the baritone sax.

It was an inspired choice to cover early Drew-Vels pseudo-hit "Tell Him", slowing it down just a tad and updating the arrangement to provide Patti with one of her precious few bonafide chart hits. "I Can't Shake it Loose" is a George Clinton-penned track that Funkadelic would release as a single 2 years later. Here it is led along by a jaunty piano figure, sounding closer to the Parliaments (for whom it may well have been intended) than Funkadelic. The album's unquestionable highlight, and one of Patti's most sought after tracks, is the Northern favorite "Stop and Listen". A friend who has about a 15 year headstart on me collecting soul 45s describes this song as the most perfectly produced soul 45 he has ever heard.

Despite appearing on a major label, Patti Drew records are not a common sight. If you see any, I highly recommend picking them up.

1968 "Hard to Handle" 93 40
1968 "Workin' On a Groovy Thing" 62 34
1969 "The Love That a Woman Should Give to a Man" 119 38
1969? "Hundreds of Guys" - -
1969? "Keep on Movin'" - -
1969? "My Lover's Prayer" - -

Singer Patti Drew had the first hit version of "Workin' on a Groovy Thing," later a 1969 Top 20 R&B/pop hit for the 5th Dimension. She began her singing career as the lead singer of the Drew-vels, which included her sisters Lorraine and Erma and bass vocalist Carlton Black. Born December 29, 1944, in Charleston, NC, Drew grew up in Nashville, TN, and later moved with her family to the Chicago suburb of Evanston. During her teens, she attended Evanston High and sang with her mother and sisters in church. Her mother was a domestic worker whose employer, Maury Lathowers, was the regional promoter for Los Angeles, CA-based Capitol Records. She invited Lathowers to come to her church to hear her daughters sing and, impressed, he invited them to his home for an audition and got the group a deal with Capitol. Their debut single, "Tell Him" was a huge local hit around the Chicago area and charted number 90 R&B in early 1964. The Drew-vels broke up later that year, and in 1966, Drew signed to Peter Wright's Quill label. The following year, Drew signed a solo deal with Capitol. Her first single, a re-recording of "Tell Him," hit number 22 on the R&B charts in fall 1967. A Capitol LP, Tell Him, was also issued. One year later, her recording of the Neil Sedaka/Roger Atkins song "Workin' on a Groovy Thing" made it to number 34 R&B. A Workin' on a Groovy Thing LP was issued along with two more Capitol LPs, I've Been Here All the Time (1969) and Wild Is Love (January 1970). Drew's other singles were "Hundreds of Guys," "Keep on Movin'," and "My Lover's Prayer." In 1971, she left the music business. She resurfaced with a release on Carl Davis and E. Rodney Jones' Innovation Records in 1975. During the '80s, she reunited with Carlton Black in the group Front Line and performed around the Evanston area. Most of her Capitol singles can be found on the Collectables 1994 CD Tell Him: Golden Classics Edition.



"Workin' on a Groovy Thing," composed by Neil Sedaka and Brill Building lyricist Roger Atkins, became Patti's biggest seller, her emotional approach ideal for lines like '...ecstasy is a reality.' It was a top ten hit in many cities around the country in the summer and fall of 1968, but somehow couldn't muster enough juice nationally to get into the top 40! A year later, a fine but far less definitve version by The 5th Dimension reached the top 20 on the strength of the group's momentum and superstar "Aquarius" status of '69, in the process all but burying the memory of Patti's version...except in cities where her recording had been a big hit and stations chose to ignore the 5D remake (as was the case in Los Angeles, where I grew up). "Hard to Handle" came next and she gets points for doing a fearless female cover of Otis Redding's hit, but it misfired. The label had failed to "Capitolize" on the admittedly limited success of "Workin'." Her career seemed to fall short of expectations at every turn, her fabulous voice unappreciated due to timing or, perhaps, some intangible factor; Capitol released a dozen singles and four albums between 1967 and 1970, but beyond generally positive reviews, nothing really caught on.

A heavy tour schedule was an entirely different sort of challenge for the singer. She traveled with a band but preferred the time when her sisters were with her. She performed at the original Playboy Club in downtown Chicago, where they billed her as "Pretty Patti Drew." Too often she played for unappreciative audiences in small towns where her songs weren't even known. She began using drugs as a way to deal with all the pressure. In the summer of '69, "The Love That a Woman Should Give to a Man" (an early effort by film composer Angelo Badalamenti) had a brief run on the R&B charts. When Capitol dropped her around the beginning of 1971, even Peter Wright (by that time part owner of Twinight Records, the label that broke soul singer Syl Johnson) was no longer interested. She emerged briefly in 1975, drug free, with a disco 45 on the Innovation label, "The Mighty O.J." For a time in the 1980s, Patti and brother-in-law Carlton Black sang at events in the Chicago-Evanston area. Frustrated that all the hard work had left her with so little notice or monetary gain, Patti Drew packed it in, a premature decision, perhaps, but the music business is often unforgiving, even to those with obvious talent.