When it comes to classic soul music, California as a whole (and perhaps the whole West Coast) doesn’t get as much respect compared to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis or New Orleans. Granted the northern cities on that list took on the largest percentage of The Great Migration, therefore, there was a longer term established community for soul music to develop.
When we think of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland, we tend to think of rebellious rock music foremost. It’s worth noting, beyond Phil Spector’s influence after cutting his teeth in New York, that a number of R&B acts ventured out west, to Los Angeles in particular to take advantage of looser constraints around creating music. This doesn’t take into account a lot of local talent that flourished under the rays of sun and emerged from the foggy bay.
Though I’m shying away from some bigger names and bigger hits in Soul Music created on the West Coast, Motown records, in particular, took jets to the West Coast, establishing their West Coast offices in 1964, a more future minded effort than their establishing a New York branch in 1963. The Supremes 9th #1 Hit, “Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone,” is a fully Los Angeles production, hinting at what the label would do as the decade changed.
Beyond that, there’s a huge legacy of regional rhythm and blues that oft gets overlooked. Some would say, because of influences on the other side of The Mississippi, California Soul comes off as derivative of the drive from other metropolitan areas. As an emerging, newer entertainment capitol, California received heaps of influence from elsewhere, but there’s our own special sparkle among these efforts.
Although the Los Angeles basin brings us the biggest draw of talent, we have talents from all over the state. Talents like The Sisters and Mary Love hail from the Central Valley (Bakersfield and Sacramento, respectively). Although not every artist on this list was California born, their contributions to Soul Music are decidedly of the left coast/best coast variety. For the Golden State’s 166th Birthday, we have 35 gems that take you back to being down with Black and Brown throughout the Golden State during the 60’s.
1) Ketty Lester – West Coast (Los Angeles, 1965)
2) The Apollas – Lock Me In Your Heart (Los Angeles, 1965)
3) Troy Dodds – Earthquake (San Francisco, 1964)
4) Mel Williams – Jet Set (Los Angeles, 1966)
5) Gloria Jones – My Bad Boy’s Coming Home (Los Angeles, 1964)
6) Claude Huey – I Feel Good All Over (1966, San Francisco)
7) Clydie King – He Always Comes Back To Me (1966, Los Angeles)
8) Darlene Love – Too Late To Say You’re Sorry (1966, Los Angeles)
9) The Fidels – Take Away This Loneliness (1966, Los Angeles)
10) Lydia Pense – I’ll Forgive You Then Forget You (1965, San Francisco)
11) Freddie Hughes – Send My Baby Back (1968, Oakland)
12) Bobby Sheen – The Shelter of Your Arms (1967, Los Angeles)
13) The Superbs – The Big Hurt (1964, Los Angeles)
14) Betty Turner And The Chevelles – The Winds Keep Laughing (1963, San Diego)
15) Oma Heard – Daddy Cool (1965, Los Angeles)
16) The Ikettes – I’m So Thankful (1965, Los Angeles)
17) Ray Marchand – Your Ship Of Fools (1966, Los Angeles)
18) Patrice Holloway – Stolen Hours (1966, Los Angeles)
19) The Mirettes – He’s Alright With Me (1966, Los Angeles)
20) The Whispers – Dr. Love (1966, Los Angeles)
21) The Tandels – Is It Love Baby? (1966, San Francisco)
22) Jimmy Cogwell – Cigarette Ashes (1966, Los Angeles)
23) The Fifth Dimension – California Soul (1968, Los Angeles)
24) Brenda Holloway – Land Of A Thousand Boys (1964, Los Angeles)
25) The Sisters – (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons (1965, Los Angeles)
26) The Magicians – Why Do I Do These Foolish Things (1966, San Francisco)
27) The Lewis Sisters – Can’t Figure It Out (1965, Los Angeles)
28) Mary Love – Hey Stoney Face (1966, Los Angeles)
29) Sisters Of The Ghetto – What Made You Change Your Mind? (1970, Oakland)
30) Merry Clayton – Good Girls (1970, Los Angeles)
31) Sisters Three – You Can Forget It (1966, San Francisco)
32) The Olympics – We Go Together (1966, Los Angeles)
33) Oz And His Sperlings – Daddy Rolling Stone (1966, San Francisco)
34) Rita And The Tiaras – Gone With The Wind (Is My Love) (1966, Los Angeles)
35) Jackie Lee – Would You Believe? (1966, Los Angeles)