Wilmer & the Dukes
Band members Related acts
line up 1 ()
- Wilmer Alexander Jr. -- vocals, sax
- Monte Alberts -- bass
- Ron Alberts -- drums, percussion
- Doug Brown -- lead guitar
- Ralph Gillotte (RIP 1999) -- keyboards, backing vocals
- Bert Collins -- trumpet
- Ralph Hamstent -- organ
- Arnie Lawrence - baritone sax
- Tommy Mitchell -- trombone
- Richard Radice -- sax
- Jerome Richardson - sax
- The Legendary Dukes
Rating: 4 stars ****
Title: Wilmer & the Dukes
Country/State: Geneva, New York
Grade (cover/record): VG/VG
Comments: minor ring wear
Catalog ID: 5773
Natives of Geneva, New York drummer Ron Alberts, singer/sax player Wilmer Alexander Jr. and keyboardist Ralph Gillotte started playing together in 1957.
Originally known as Wilmer Alexander Junior and the Dukes, by the mid-1960s the racially integrated band included bassist Monte Alberts and lead guitarist Doug Brown. With a broad array of cover tunes and a couple of originals in their repertoire they'd also become staples on the New York club and college circuit, as well as an in-demand opening act for national pop, rock and soul acts touring the region.
The band's brush with national success came in 1968 when they signed a contract with Lenny Silvers' small Buffalo, New York-based Aphrodisiac label. Penned by guitarist Doug Brown, the band debuted with the blazing soul single:
- 'Give Me One More Chance' b/w 'Get It' (Aphrodisiac catalog number SME 260).
A major regional hit, the 45 also hit # 80 nationally, which was enough for Aphrodisiac to finance a self-titled LP.
Recorded in New York City with producer Gene Radice, "Wilmer & the Dukes" (note the shortened name) served as a nice showcase the band's broad and versatile chops. Apparently meant to capture the group's long standing live act, the collection showcased a mixture of popular pop and soul hits, with a couple of Doug Brown originals thrown in. Alexander had a great, raspy soul-soaked voice that was equally at home on pop, rock and soul material while the rest of the band (particularly guitarist Brown and keyboardist Gillotte) were razor sharp - a decade on the club circuit tended to do that if it didn't kill you. Certainly not the most original album of the year, but a pleasant surprise throughout. Hard to imagine why the album didn't sell throughout the States.
A surprisingly impressive one-shot release that you can still find for a reasonable price. Makes you wonder why there was never a follow-up. Well worth looking for.
& the Dukes" track listing:
1.) Living in the U.S.A. (Steve Miller) - 3:15 rating: **** 4 stars
The album opened up with a killer cover of the Steve Miller Band's 'Living In the U.S.A.' Musically it wasn't all that different from the original, though Alexander's vocal was tougher than Miller's and Brown added a slight Hendrix edge to the proceedings. Personally I think their version beats the Miller original. Very nice (would love to have heard in a club setting) and easy to see why Aphrodisiac tapped it as the album's second single.
- 1969's 'Living In the U.S.A. b/w 'Count On Me' (Aphrodisiac catalog number SME 262) #114 pop
2.) Count on Me (Andreoli - Bobby Bloom - Vini Poncia Jr. - 2:33 rating: ** 2 stars
To be honest the ballad 'Count On Me' was a little too MOR for my tastes. Alexander's rugged voice was more than up to the song's varied range, but this one sounded like something Tom Jones might have covered.
3.) Get Out of My Life, Woman (Allen Toussaint) - 2:35 rating: **** 4 stars
Their cover of Allen Toussaint's 'Get Out of My Life, Woman' offered up a classic slice of driving soul. Supported by some driving horns and a fantastic Alexander vocal (love the opening vamp), this one was probably a pretty good representation of their live act. The song was tapped as the album's third and final single:
- 1969's 'Get Out of My Life, Woman' b/w 'I Do Love You' (Aphrodisiac catalog number SME 263)
4.) I Do Love You (Billy Stewart) - 3:15 rating: **** 4 stars
Imagine what The Dynamics, or Stylistics would have sounded like had they been a self-contained band and you'll get a feel for this one. Had 'I Do Love You' been released a couple of years later it would have been a massive radio hit.
5.) Love-Itis/Show Me (Scale - Jacobs / Joseph Arrington Jr.) - 5:12 rating: **** 4 stars / ** 2 stars
Kicked along by a Memphis-styled horn arrangement and Ralph Gillotte's Hammond B-3 organ the first half of medley 'Love-Itis/Show Me' was one of the album highlights. Doug Brown's Steve Cropper-styled guitar playing was merely icing on the cake. The fairly rote 'Show Me' didn't do as much for me, though Brown was more prominent on this one. At least to my ears, part of the problem was that Alexander's vocals came off as flat and raspy giving the song an irritating edge.
Exhibiting kind of a James Brown vibe, 'Heavy Time' opened side two with a tasty slice of heavy soul.
Easy to see why it was tapped as the album's leadoff single.
- 1969's 'Heavy Time' b/w 'I'm Free' (Aphrodisiac catalog number SME 261)
2.) St. James Infirmary (Joe Primrose) - 5:36 rating: *** 3 stars
Over the years I've heard dozens of covers of 'St. James Infirmary' and while this bluesy version wasn't anything drastically different, it was better than 90% of the others. Some nice brass arrangements by Artie Schroeck didn't hurt.
3.) Get It (instrumental) (Doug Brown) - 2:40 rating: **** 4 stars
The Doug Brown penned instrumental 'Get It' served as a showcase for Alexander's sax and Brown's own Steve Cropper-styled guitar. Very Jr. Walker-ish.
4.) I'm Free (Mick Jagger - Keith Richards) - 2:37 rating: ***** 5 stars
Injecting a nice soul edge made their cover of the Stones' 'I'm Free' one of the album's standout performance. Gillotte's keyboard solo was perfect.
5.) Give Me One More Chance (Doug Brown) - 2:40 rating: ***** 5 stars
The third Doug Brown penned track, 'Give Me One More Chance' was also the best song on the album. Killer mid-1960s soul that should have provided the band with an even bigger national chart.
The band continued to tour through 1974 at which time the called it quits.
In poor health, in 1988 Alexander retired. The rest of the band reunited for a pair of charity concerts which led to a decision to resume playing as The Legendary Dukes.
They've subsequently recorded a pair of CDs:
- 1995's "Committed To Soul" (Forevermore Records catalog number 4600)
- 2004's "See The World From The Side Of The Road" (???)
"Committed To Soul track listing:
1.) Bring The Magic Back
2.) Baby, Now That I Found You
3.) One Way Ticket
4.) Rock Steady
I5.) t Won't Be Wrong
6.) I Still Do
7.) Mountain Of Love
8.) I Got The Will
9.) You Are All I Need
11.) Happy Ever After
12.) Them Changes
13.) Whiter Shade Of Pale
"See The World From The Side Of The Road" track listing:
1.) White Boy (Instrumental)
2.) Yellow Moon
3.) It's Your Thing
4.) What's Going On
5.) Give Me One More Chance
6.) Have A Little Faith In Me
7.) Evil Ways
6.) Jailhouse Rock
9.) Magic Carpet Ride
10.) Drift Away
The Legendary Dukes have a small website at: http://www.thelegendarydukes.com/default.html
Original keyboardist Gillotte died in
1999. Original drummer Rob Alberts retired in 2004. At the time
I'm writing this (2009) Alexander was still alive though in poor health,
living in California with a daughter.
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