Bob Lance

Band members                             Related acts

- Bobby Lance (aka Ricky Lance) -- vocals, guitar, percussion,



  backing musicians (1971)

- Barry Beckett -- keyboards
- Garnett Brown -- trombone
- Roger Hawkins -- drums, percussion
- Eddie Hinton -- guitar, slide guitar
- David Hood -- bass
- King Curtis --  tenor sax
- Joe Newman -- trumpet
- George Soule -- piano
Richard Tee -- organ
- Frank Wess -- flute, tenor sax

  backing musicians:(1972)

- Dick Bunn -- bass

- Jimmy Evans -- drums, percussion

- Mitch Kerper (RIP)  -- keyboaads

- Kenny Mims -- guitar, slide guitar




- The Escorts (Bobby Lance)

- Free Spirit (Kenny Mims)

- Ric Lance and the Spirals

- Ricky Lance





Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  First Peace

Company: Cotillion

Catalog: SD 9041
Year: 1971

Country/State: Brooklyn, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: promo copy; sticker on cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $35.00


New York-based Bobby Lance earned his initial successes as a songwriter.  Working with his sister Fran Robins (who effectively adopted Lance after the death of their parents),, the pair placed material with a host of acts including S&B singer Maxine Brown, The Sidekicks, and Goldie and the Gingerbreads.  Their best known effort came for having Aretha Franklin record and score a top-40 hit with 'The House That Jack Built.'  


His earlier career is kind of a mystery though he seems to have written and recorded a number of early-'60s teen idol and doo-wop tracks under the names Bobby Lance, Ric Lance and Ricky Lance.  This is just speculation and conjecture on my part, but I think the following may all be part of his catalog:





Under the Square label as Bobby Lance:

- 'Mama Says No' b/w 'Baby I'm Gone' (Square catalog 45-S106)




Under the Hollywood-based Planet label as Rick Lance:

- 1962's 'When You're In My Arms' b/w 'I Don't Know' (Planet catalog number P-501 A/B)

- 1962's 'The One Little Girl For Me' b/w 'No Place To Park' (Plaza catalog number P-502 A/B)


Under Mercury Records as Ric Lance & the Spirals

- 1963's 'Remember the Lonely' b/w 'Bird Man' (Mercury catalog number 72164)


The publicity spawned by Aretha Franklin's hit saw Lance sign a recording contract with Atlantic's newly established Cotillion subsidiary, but for some reason he also signed a songwriter contract with Motown.  The resulting legal entanglements resulted in an odd agreement where the two labels agreed to split any profits derived from the collection.  The agreement also insured that neither label put much effort into promoting the results album.  Why would you devote resources to a collection where you only got half of the profit?  Besides, the album sold poorly and there weren't any profits. The legal negotiations also saw release of Lance's album "First Peace" delayed until 1971.   


Self-produced, "First Peace" was recorded in Muscle Shoals with the cream of the studio's sessions players (The Swampers) providing support. Allowing Lance to produce his own debut was an unusual move for Atlantic - the label displaying considerable faith in the artist.  Equally impressive, Cotillion allowed Lance to record all original material.  All eleven songs were co-written with Lance's older sister Fran Robins.  Musically tracks like the MOR ballad 'Somewhere In Between' and '' underscored Lance's blue-eyed soul roots.  At the same time, material like 'I May Not Have Enough Time' and 'Shake Down Blues' recalled the country-soul/Gospel catalogs then popular with artists like Delaney and Bonnie, Don Preston and Don Nix.  Supposedly featuring an un-credited Duane Allman on slide guitar, best of the lot was the atypical straight-ahead rocker 'More Than Enough Rain.'  While I liked Lance's voice, time after time his melodies and hooks struck me as weak, made worse by over-the-top vocals (c'mon, listening to a tune like the opener 'Somebody Tell Me' it was hard to understand lots of times less-was-more), and big, overwhelming and haphazard orchestration.  Not to pile on the criticisms, but the album almost sounded like a demo tape intended to showcase Lance's writing skills in an effort to place more songs with established artists.  Hey Solomon Burke check out 'One Turn You're In.'  Clarence Carter you might be interested in covering 'Walkin' On A Highway.'   Norman Whitfield, I can mimic your psych-soul sound on 'It Can't Be Turned Around.'  Best description I can come up with - spotty.


"First Peace" track listing:
(side 1) 

1.)  Somebody Tell Me   (Bobby Lance - Fran Robins) - 2:17   rating: ** stars

Lance had a likeable voice that was clearly well suited to blue-eyed soul.  Unfortunately in the case of 'Somebody Like Me' he mistakenly attempted to compensate for a mediocre melody with an irritating vocal that tried to power through the tune.  The Sweet Inspirations bleating away in the background didn't improve the results.
2.)  Somewhere In Between   (Bobby Lance - Fran Robins) - 3:41
   rating: ** stars

As much as I wanted to like it, 'Somewhere In Between' pushed Lance into lounge act "love man" ballad territory.  It was a waste of the man's talents.
3.)  One Turn You're In, One Turn You're Out   (Bobby Lance - Fran Robins) - 4:09
   rating: ** stars

Lance reaches into his Solomon Burke catalog for a deep soul ballad.  Nice, but to be honest, I'm at a loss as to why you'd want to listen to this when you could listen to Burke, or any number of far superior soul singers.
4.)  More Than Enough Rain   (Bobby Lance - Fran Robins) - 5:50 
rating: **** stars

'More Than Enough Rain' broke away from the blue-eyed soul, opting for a much harder rock sound. Showcasing Lance's grittier voice, the performance was quite good and has gotten some attention as a result of speculation an uncredited Duane Allman provided the slide guitar.   No idea if Allman actually participated, but the tune was included in the 2013 seven CD set "Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective" (Rounder Records 11661-9137-2).
5.)  I May Not Have Enough Time   (Bobby Lance - Fran Robins) - 3:08
   rating: ** stars

If you are a fan of Delaney and Bonnie, then you'll probably enjoy the southern-rock-gospel tune 'I May Not Have Enough Time.'  I actually like Delaney and Bonnie, but can't say the same for this track.  The Sweet Inspirations threatened to bury Lance on this one.
6.)  It Can't Be Turned Around   (Bobby Lance - Fran Robins) - 2:20 
rating: *** stars

Geez, the first time I heard' It Can't Be Turned Around'  I can remember wondering if I'd mistakenly slapped a Norman Whitfield produced Temptations album on. Very Motown-ish.  Perhaps not a surprise since Lance had previously signed with the label as a songwriter. 


(side 2)
1.)  Brother's Keeper   (Bobby Lance - Fran Robins) - 3:25   rating: ** stars

The album's second single, 'Brother's Keeper' featured a patented early-'70s "help one another people" lyric. Ah, an era when people actually thought they could help one another ...   I'm sure Lance's sentiments were sincere, but to my ears the lyrics came off as pedantic and irritating.  Imagine a really bad Clarence Carter tune.





- 1971's 'Brothers Keeper' b/w 'It Can't Be Turned Around' (Cotillion catalog number 45-44113)






2.) Trouble Is A Sometimes Thing   (Bobby Lance - Fran Robins) - 3:47   rating: ** stars

Pretty, but forgettable soul ballad ...
3.) Cold Wind Howling In My Heart   (Bobby Lance - Fran Robins) - 3:35
   rating: ** stars

Up-tempo singer/songwriter number with some pounding Barry Beckett piano that was just so over-the-top ...
4.) Shake Down Blues   (Bobby Lance - Fran Robins) - 3:07 
rating: **** stars

Easily the best song on the album, 'Shake Down Blues' had a hard driving funky melody and some of Lance's strongest vocals.  Easy to see why it was released as the album's second single.





- 1971's 'Shake Down Blues' b/w 'Shake Down Blues' (Cotillion catalog number 45-41129)






5.) Walkin' On A Highway   (Bobby Lance - Fran Robins) - 5:05   rating: ** stars

With an extended opening vamp, Lance sounded like he was trying to out-do Clarence Carter. Unfortunately, when the vocal actually kicked in, Lance pulled out his worst lounge act voice.   Very Vegas show club-esque.  No matter how hard the Muscle Shoals crowd tried, there was no way to save this turkey.   




Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Rollin' Man

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: SD 7218

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold; sticker on cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1207

Price: $25.00


Usually folks who make a living as professional songwriters aren't particularly impressive performers on their own.  For every Carole King the cutout bins are filled with releases by the likes of Burt Bacharach, and Jimmy Webb - talented songwriters, but mediocre performers on their own.   One of the apparent exceptions to the rule was Bobby Lance.  Who ?   Seriously, that's exactly what I was thinking when I stumbled across this album.


Lance started out as a songwriter working with his older sister Fran Robins, enjoying his initial success when Aretha Franklin covered 'The House That Jack Built' (which I'd always thought Bacharach and Hal David had written).  Since there's little information on Lance, this is just speculation on my part, but I'm guessing the Aretha connection caught the attention of Atlantic Records management, which signed him to a recording contract. with their newly established Cotillion subsidiary.  Whatever the circumstances, by the time Lance went to record his second album, Atlantic displayed considerable faith in Lance, allowing him to self-produce and arrange 1972's "Roliln' Man".   You just don't see that happen very often with a new and un-tested act.  And listening to this blistering set of Southern blue-eyed soul, it's easy to see why Atlantic went out on a limb.  Exemplified by tracks like 'Bar Room Sally', 'Hot Wood and Coal', and 'John the Rollin' Man' about half of this set was the kind of material Delaney and Bonnie struggled for years (unsuccessfully) to record.  Lance had a charismatic voice that was capable of handling a broad range of genres, though not all of them were equally good.  When he concentrated on Muscle Shoals-styled soul and more up-tempo numbers, the results were simply great.   When he caved-in to the demand for more commercial genres like pop ballads ('She Made Me a Man' and 'Last Stop Change Hands'), the results were fare less impressive or enjoyable.  Still, an intriguing album and you're left wishing Lance had been given another shot at recording.


"Rollin' Man" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Bar Room Sally   (Bobby Lance) - 4:22   rating: **** stars

Geez, where in the world did this young, white, hippy dude guy get such a deep, soulful voice ?   Seriously impressive Muscle Shoals moves on this one with Kenny Mims adding some slide guitar that would have made Duane Allman proud.  The only thing stopping this from getting five stars was the stupid barrelhouse piano closing segment.

2.) Hot Wood and Coal   (Bobby Lance) - 8:35   rating: **** stars

I love Lance's southern-toasted voice and adding some Latin percussion to Mitch Kerpe Hammond B-3 moves and Mims wonderful jazz guitar made 'Hot Wood and Coal' just as good as the first track.   Can't say there are many eight minute plus jam tunes that can keep my attention.    

3.) Something Unfinished    (Bobby Lance)- 3:22   rating: **** stars

'Something Unfinished' opens with some of the heaviest lead guitar I've ever heard and then transitions into a sweet country-tinged ballad.   It shouldn't work, but somehow Lance managed to cobble it together into a mesmerizing composition.   

4.) She Made Me a Man   (Bobby Lance) - 2:30   rating: *** stars

Pretty Gospel-tinged, keyboard-powered ballad, but was probably a touch too MOR-ish for Lance's own good. 


(side 2)
1.) John the Rollin' Man
   (Bobby Lance) - 4:35   rating: **** stars

Wow, other than a handful of special folks (George Soule comes to mind), not a lot of white guys can really nail a funky groove, but with a big assist from guitarist Mims (I'd love to know how he got that wild sound out of his guitar), Lance did so with utter conviction on 'John the Rollin' Man'. 

2.) Last Stop Change Hands   (Bobby Lance) - 5:08   rating: ** stars

' Last Stop Change Hands' was another highly orchestrated pop-flavored that sounded a bit like an early Neil Diamond tune and was probably intended to maximize airplay.  Unfortunately,  in spite of some nice Mims guitar moves, the track only succeeded in selling Lance short.   Lance probably would have better had he left it to a more MOR-oriented artist to cover.  The track was tapped as a promotional single:





- 1972's 'Last Stop Change Hands' (mono) b/w 'Last Stop Change Hands' (stereo) (Atlantic catalog number 45-2897)







3.) You Got To Rock Your Own   (Bobby Lance) -  4:11  rating: *** stars

Nice, if somewhat pedestrian boogie number.  Again, Mims' blistering country-tinged guitar licks and Dick Bunn's thumping bass line  provided the true highlights.  With a slightly modified title the track was released as Lance's final single:





- 1972's 'Rock Your Own' b/w 'Hot Wood and Coal' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2914)






4.) Played the Reals    (Bobby Lance) - 3:58   rating: ** stars

Probably the worst track on the LP, 'Played the Reals ' was a forgettable slice of country blues.  

5.) A Tribute To a Woman   (Bobby Lance) - 1:16   rating: ** stars

Bland slice of top-40-ish pop.   Short and another one that was completely forgettable.  




And as far as I can tell, the earlier singles and the two Atlantic albums represent Lance's entire recording career.  Atlantic briefly kept him on the payroll as a staff writer.   He eventually dropped out of music, went to college and moved into teaching.



A couple of years ago I stumbled across some posts guitarist Mims had posted online.  I hope he won't mind having them replicated here:

I'm Kenny Mims, and it was my first professional gig. I was only 18 at the time. (1971-72). The guy I was just talking to was Dick Bunn. He was the bass player, and we're still good friends after all these years. I got this job right out of high school. I'm from Muscle Shoals and was prone to hanging out with the local studio guys (when they'd let me). I made friends with a guy named Tippy Armstrong, who played guitar with the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm section (along with Eddie Hinton, Wayne Perkins and Pete Carr plus others.  They were hot as a firecracker at the time and worked constantly. They had done an album with a guy from New York earlier that year (1971)(Bobby Lance-A Separate Peace), and at release time he tried to hire studio guys as his band.(which was out of the question for them).

One day while hanging out (and possibly smoking one of the left handed cigarettes), Tippy asked me if I wanted a gig. "Gig ... gee... never had one before" (I was still in high school).  He referred me, and Bobby came down and auditioned me... and I got the gig! I'd never really been anywhere, and a couple of weeks after my 18th birthday I was off to New York... skyscrapers and everything.  And 'local guy' named Jimmy Evans (from Iron City, TN) was hired as the drummer so we drove up together. He was a good bit older and much more experienced. I think he must have been mid-30's.  Well, next thing I know I'm introduced to Dick Bunn, who had moved from Chicago (bass player), and little spindly Mitch Kerper, a Jewish jazz piano player from from Manhattan. I think Dick was about 30, and Mitch was maybe 23.

What an unusual combination of persons and musical backgrounds.

Bobby Lance was way off into the soul music thing and played a "deadly" rhythm guitar. Simple but with impact like getting hit by a train.  Jimmy Evans played drums pretty much in the Roger Hawkins style. He played guitar too (better than me I thought).  Dick Bunn's dad was a professional bass player in Chicago, so Dick had been there, done it, seen it, and played it for many years.  He was the first really consummate musician I ever met. Lord oh lord was he terrific.   Then there was Mitch. He was a jazzer and oh how he could play. I know I drove him crazy as I didn't know the first thing about jazz (or music in general really).

Then there was skinny little me. Like 125 pounds skinny. I had no clue about anything. I guess I grew up real quick.  

If you're are still reading along, I might mention (in my own defense) there may have been at least one attribute that worked in my favor... I was hoping I could play studio guitar one day, so I would "do like and be like" the pro guys I had met in Muscle Shoals. Eddie Hinton always played (electric) a Les Paul standard with the heaviest strings he could find. He'd use a Twin Reverb and play it as loud as possible, just up to the distortion point. Naturally I did the same.  Well... in guitar world that translates to a monstrously huge tone. A single note would knock you down. Big and FAT. I think the guys really liked that.

So as the story goes, Bobby was close friends with Gerry Wexler, and Atlantic agreed to pay us a salary while we worked up the band, and developed the arrangements in preparation for a new album. We rehearsed every day at Atlantic Studio "B" @ 60th & Broadway. Maybe three or four months later it was announced the studio was scheduled and we would actually be recording. The sessions were at Atlantic studio "A". The album was produced by a guy named Geoff Haslam, who had produced Cactus, as well as quite a number of jazz record.

It was my first time in the studio, but as we had been rehearsing for months everything went quite smoothly, except that I discovered there were lots of guitar amps in the building and I had to try 'em all. Drove everybody nuts, but I believe I captured quite an innovative array of sounds during the process.

Everything seemed like a dream coming true. I knew we were gonna be big stars and bla bla bla.

When the album was finally done... well... so was the salary. We tried to work a little bit, rake and scrape, and basically starve.  I seem to remember that Bobby became 'out of sorts' , and since he still had writer royalties coming in from "House That Jack Built", he didn't seem too eager to explore the possibility of getting us a gig.  About June of 1972, the "southern guys" had to bail out back to Alabama. The gig was up, but the memory was for a lifetime. 

Where are they now? And what have they been doing?

As I said, I am still often with Dick Bunn. He moved back to Chicago sometime in the 80's. He still plays regularly (at 67). As a matter of fact he still plays the same P-bass he bought new in 1959.

I think Jimmy Evans lives in Sheffield and still plays around in various club gigs and maybe a session or two.  I talk with him every year or so.

I never stayed in touch with Mitch Kerper after the band, but Bobby did, and unfortunately I believed he passed away around 1990.

Then there Bobby. We always stayed in touch, and sometime during the 80's he came and visited me in Nashville. We used to talk every 6 months or so. He ultimately became a music school teacher, but always continued to play an occasional bar mitzvah or two. Strangely, as of this writing (March 2009) Bobby has dropped off the radar... for maybe a year now.  If anybody knows, sing out!

Then there is that skinny guitar player (me). As I said earlier, I wished to play studio guitar one day.
Let's see now. I ain't so skinny anymore that's for sure. After a few years back in Muscle Shoals, I moved to Atlanta and played on literally everybody's record. From Paul Davis, Starbuck, Mylon LeFevre, disco records, gospel records, rock records, and on and on. We even cut "Born To Be Alive" in Atlanta. Plus countless jingles and film works... and WKRP!   I moved to Nashville in 1980. Maybe check ALLMUSIC.COM for all the fine mess I've made up here.  I'm a motion designer for video and television now.

There you have it!



For anyone interested in a detailed overview of Lance's career, in 2014 Bill Kopp was hired by the Real Gone Music label to write the liner notes for a Lance reissue project that pulled together his two early-'70s albums (Real Gone catalog number RGM-0332)


You can find Kopp's biographical information at:  The Bobby Lance Story (