Bobby Hebb

Band members                             Related acts

- Bobby Hebb (aka Robert Van Hebb) (RIP 2010) - vocals  guitar


  supporting musicians: (1966)

- Paul (PB) Brown -- bass

- Artie Butler -- piano

- Burt Collins -- trumpet

- George Devens -- percussion.

- Al Gorgoni -- guitar

- Joe Grimaldi -- sax

- Micky Gravine -- trombone 

- Artie Kapla-- sax

- Joe Macho -- bass

- Joe Renzetti -- guitar

- Al Rogers -- drums 

- Joe Shepley -- trumpet





- Bobby and Sylvia

- The Smokey Mountain Boys





Genre: soul

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Sunny

Company: Philips

Catalog: PHS 600-212 

Year: 1966

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Country/State: Nashville, Tennessee

Comments: stereo pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4153

Price: $35.00

Cost: $1.00


Interesting how quirky things can be.  I was going through a pile of LPs I'd bought over the last couple of months and stumbled across a mono copy of "Sunny".  For some reason I pulled it out and took it downstairs dumping it in my 'to listen to pile'.  That evening I was watching the national news and saw a segment announcing that the 72 year old Hebb had died of lung cancer that morning.  I can't say I know a lot about Hebb and I'm certainly not a charter member of the Hebb fan club, but from a distance he always struck me as a class act.  


August 3, 2010



Born into a musical family, Bobby Hebb's musical career started as a child.  Barely out of diapers, he started dancing and singing with older brother Hal and by the mid-1940s the pair were staples on the Nashville clubs scene.   In the early-1950s he became a member of Roy Acuff's Smokey Mountain Boys.  The mid-1950s found him living and working in Chicago.  Following a three year tour in the Navy (he spent the entire three years playing in a Navy band), he returned to Nashville and started a solo career with support from WLAC disc jockey John Richbourg.  Signed to Richbourg's Rich label, he made his debit with a pair of singles: 

- 1960's 'Night Train To Memphis' b/w 'You Gotta Go' (Rich catalog number 0001)

- 1960's 'Cherry' b/w 'Feel So Good' (Rich catalog number 0006)


The early-1960s found Hebb working on the New York City club circuit, including Sylvia Robinson's Blue Morocco Club.  When Robinson's partnership with Mickey Baker ended, she drafted Hebb as Mickey's replacement, the act aptly renamed Bobby & Sylvia. 

Having scored a massive international hit with the exceptionally cool single 'Sunny' b/w 'Bread' (Philips catalog number 40305), it was only natural that Phillips would rush Hebb into the studios to record a supporting album.  What's interesting is that unlike most "rush-job" supporting LPs, 1966's Jerry Ross produced "Sunny" was surprisingly impressive.  Equally interesting, at first the set didn't come off as being a traditional soul album in that it was too diverse for such a genre label.  Gifted with an exceptionally versatile voice, Hebb took capable stabs at pop ('Where Are You?'), blues ('Got You On My Mind') and even Motown-styled soul ('Good Good Lovin'').  That said, the underlying feel was soul and some of the strongest songs, including 'You Don't Know What You Got Until You Lose It', Hebb's own 'Crazy Baby' and 'Bread' had a distinctive soul feel.  The title track remained the standout performance, but the entire LP was worth hearing.  The big mystery is how come Hebb was never able to come up with a follow-on success.  Had he been able to follow-up 'Sunny' (and there were several first rate candidates on the album), he could have easily enjoyed the same degree of success as other mid-'60s soul artists who crossed over to pop audiences.


"Sunny" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Sunny  (Bobby Hebb) - 2:45  rating: ***** stars

Geez, the title track to this LP is literally one of the first songs I remember hearing on the radio as a child ...  Ironically it wasn't until I was in my twenties that I found a copy of the parent LP, let alone learned 'Sunny' wasn't a love song to a woman, rather a tribute to Hebb's older brother Hai who was killed in a mugging the day after John F. Kennedy's assassination.  About all you an say is that the song's a pop and soul class.  YouTube has several live performances of the song.  This 1972 television clip is my favorite: 

2.) Where Are You?   (Harold Adamson - Jimmy McHugh) - 2:34 rating: ** stars

While Hebb turned in a nice vocal on 'Where Are You?' with heavy orchestration and shrill female backing singers this one was simply too MOR to have much appeal.  Shame.

3.) Got You On My Mind   (Howard Biggs - Joe Thomas) - 2:40 rating: **** stars

To my ears, 'Got You On My Mind' was one of the album's biggest surprises.  I simply did not expect Hebb to turn in a credible blues number like this, but he made it sound effortless.   One of my favorite songs on the LP.  YouTube has a clip taken from a 1966 performance on Nashville DJ Hoss Allen's  "The !!!! Beat" television show.  Ditching some of the blues for what sounded like his best Otis Redding- styled performance, it sounds like a live vocal over a canned music track.  Love the go-go dancers:    

4.) Yes or No or Maybe Not  (Bobby Hebb) - 2:29 rating: *** stars

Another Hebb original, 'Yes or No or Maybe No' underscored that Hebb could belt out a true soul track without any problem.  Delivered with a likeable raw vocal, this was another one of the LP highlights.   

5.) Good Good Lovin'   (Cynthia Weil - Barry Mann - Weil) - 2:45 rating: ** stars

I think Darlene Love and the Blossoms had the original hit.  Hebb's remake turned this Weil-Mann classic into a  breezy, mid-tempo performance.   The result was okay, but ultimately a bit too middle of the road for the song's own good.  The heavy strings and female backing vocals just pushed the performance over the edge into saccharine.  Go with The Blossoms' version.

6.) Love, Love, Love   (Jerry Renzetti - Jerry Ross) - 3:30 rating: **** stars

'Love, Love, Love' was probably the album's most straight-out commercial track, which makes you wonder why it wasn't tapped as the second single (it was the 'B' side for the sophomore 45).  Great upbeat melody with a hook that wormed its way into your head and a warm and winning vocal performance.   YouTube has a later date clip of Hebb lip synching the song for Ian Levine's documentary "The Strange World of Northern Soul": 


(side 2)

1.) A Satisfied Mind   (Red Hayes - Jack Rhodes) - 2:47 rating: *** stars

Previuosly a hit for country star Porter Wagnor, 'A Satisfied Mind' started side two with an unexpected folk-tinged arrangement of the song.  Admittedly, the song got better as it went along - particularly when Hebb unveiled his 'pissed off'' voice, but it wasn't particularly commercial which left you to wonder why Philips tapped it as the follow-on single.   





- 1966's 'A Satisfied Mind' b/w 'Love, Love, Love' (Philips catalog number 40400) 






2.) You Don't Know What You Got Until You Lose It   (Kenny Gamble - Jerry Ross) - 2:45 rating: *** stars

In spite of the clunky title, the heavily orchestrated ballad 'You Don't Know What You Got Until You Lose It' was probably one of the tracks best suited for mid-1960s top-40 airplay.  Pretty melody and Hebb turned in a nice vocal on the number. 

3.) I Am Your Man   (JImmy Roach) - 2:31 rating: ** stars

At its core 'I Am Your Man' was a soul number, but producer Jerry Ross effectively buried the song's guts with a bland pop sheen.  Shame since Hebb turned in a growling voice that would have been far better served by a rawer R&B arrangement.   

4.) Crazy Baby  (Bobby Hebb) - 2:15  rating: **** stars

Sounding like it had been recorded way too fast, 'Crazy Baby'  was the third and final Hebb original.  The song also had the album's most rock-flavored feel and sound which served to make it one of the standout performances.   Would have made a good choice for a single.  

5.) Bread   (Jerry Renzetti - Jerry Ross) - 2:28 rating: **** stars

Anyone who doubted Hebb's credentials as a soul singer need only check out 'Bread'.  I'm not sure I can aptly describe it, but on this one Hebb's delivery had a weird little whine that actually reminded me a little bit of the late Otis Redding.  Fantastic song.  The video quality isn't great, but YouTube has a fuzzy, black and white clip of Hebb lip synching the song on Dick Cark's Where The Action Is:  Hysterical to see the young hippies groovin' to the tune.

6.) For You   (Van McCoy) - 2:41 rating: **** stars

To my ears 'For You' sounded like Hebb trying to channel Sam Cooke.  As a big Sam Cooke fan, that wasn't meant as a criticism.  Another song that served to showcase Hebb's soul roots and would have made a good choice as a single.  Love the melodic bass line on this one.