Thursday, November 6, 2008

Nathaniel Mayer, R.I.P.

Soul music in Michigan lost one of its pioneers this week, when Nathaniel Mayer died following a series of recent strokes. "Naydog" was 64 and just about the finest entertainer I’ve ever known.

Mayer was just a teenager in 1962, when he and his band, the Fabulous Twilights, hit the Top 40 with his timeless “Village Of Love,” a tune that still pops up on oldies radio, even if its singer and his importance on the Detroit soul-music landscape is lost on most of the squares who tune in.

He had a couple of regional hits with “Love and Affection (Not the House of Correction)” and “I Had a Dream,” but thanks to poor distribution, his national hits dried up after “Village of Love.”

But what a tune.

In recent years, Mayer had seen something of a rebirth. He hooked up with younger Detroit garage-soul aces The Shanks and even waxed a killer LP for Fat Possum Records. A second record, “Why Don’t You Give it To Me,” with Outrageous Cherry’s Matt Smith and other came out last year on Alive records.

All that ended with his death over the weekend. Gone is that killer smile, those twinkling, mischievous eyes and one of the greatest, raspiest, most-emotive voices in soul music. Another voice of Detroit’s cultural heritage has been silenced.

From a personal perspective, I can say that I was fortunate enough to know Naydog a little. He played a couple of absolutely killer shows at my record store some years back and I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to knock back a couple of beers with someone I consider to be a true hero.

Here’s Nate performing “I Had a Dream” with the Shanks. (For all you trainspotters out there, extra points to the first who can name the Ann Arbor legend singing backup vocals and banging the tambourine.)


Anonymous said...

Dan Mulholland.
I'm tired of winning anonymously, I'm going back to Stella....

John the Revelator said...

That's right, Stella! None other than Dan Mulholland, the hipster-iffic singer of such great Ann Arbor bands as The Urbations, the Watusis, the Stomprockets and, currently, Kentucky Chrome. And one of our best chums.

For providing the correct answer, Stella wins -- wait for it! -- our undying appreciation for her deep knowledge of meaningless Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti trivia.

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel Mayer – Detroit's Baddest!!