James Radcliffe Was born on November 18, 1936, in New York City's Harlem Ghetto and could boast of being among the few talents from the Ghetto to survive. There he attended school and the All Souls Episcopal Church, as an alter boy and choir member. As a teen he worked for a year at the Jewelry Sales Corp. on 44th Street from September 1952
Jim enlisted in the airforce in 1954, immediately signing with the entertainment corp. He sang lead with a five man group called The Fascinators, and sang solo accompanying himself on guitar. In 1957, he made his television debut on the armed forces network in Germany, the same network on which Elvis Presley would appear a year later.
Upon leaving the service in 1958, he put together an act together with some of the other street corner crooners of his teen years playing local clubs and nighthalls. By 1959 he had gained a reputation for his stage performances and had recorded a couple of demos of his own material, acquiring some radio play. This led to his signing with Aaron Schroeder, who had just founded Musicor Records with then United Artist President, Art Talmedge. He along with Aaron, Wally "It's My Party" Gold, and a young Al Kooper were in house writers for January Music. Aaron had used some of the money he made from writing songs like "It's Now Or Never" for Elvis Presley and purchased both January Music And Sea Lark Publishing Companies from Dick Clark who at the time was under investigation for 'Payola' and conflict of interest, forcing him to sell off some of his entertainment properties. At the time Aaron purchsed the publishing outfits they contained such classic songs as "Sixteen Candles" and Danny & The Juniors "At The Hop"
Predictably, Jim first record release appeared on the Musicor Label. Twist Calypso was designed to capitalize on the West Indian sound sparked by Harry Belefonte's 1956 Calypso album. Both sides of the record were written by Jimmy and Phil Stern, his longest writing partner. Their collaboration lasted until 1970 when they wrote "Everybody Needs Love" for The Harlem Globetrotters Cartoon Series.
One of the other co-writers names most often seen next to Jim's was Carl Spencer. Among the duo's compositions were This Time Tomorrow, recorded by Tammy Montgomery aka Tammi Terrell, during her brief stint at Checker Records under the tutelage of legendary producer Bert Berns, before reaching fame with her duets with Marvin Gaye, and Deep In The Heart Of Harlem, A Billboard R&B hit for both Walter Jackson and Clyde McPhatter. The ex-drifter McPhatter and Mercury Record Chief Shelby Singleton were such fans of Jimmy's songs they included five of them on Clyde's 1964 Songs Of The Big City album. The tracks were My Block, A Suburban Town, Three Rooms With Running Water, Coney Island and Deep In The Hearrt Of Harlem. My Block had ben a #67 chart entry on Billboards Hot 100 a year earlier for The Chiffons, recording as The Four Pennies. One of the most recognized of Jim's writing partners was Joey Brooks, later of You Light Up My Life fame. Between 1963-65 they wrote some 21 songs together. It was Brooks who wrote My Ship Is Coming In a radio hit in the U.K. for Jim in 1965. (refered to by Bob Pruter in "The Blackwell Guide To SOUL recordings as one of the greatest tracts to come out of New York during the era) The white cover version by the Walker Brothers was a #3 pop hit in December 1965
Aside from recording his own songs, Jimmy would often do disc direction in demo form for other writers and publishers. He was able to be given a song and create the vocal presentation that would best suit a specific artist. This is most evident in the case of the Ray Charles version of the Radcliffe-Scott tune, Show Me The Sunshine or the Al Kooper penned This Diamond Ring originally written for The Drifters but taken pop and to the top by Gary Lewis And The Playboys. In another instance Jim made a demo of the Gordon Mills-penned It's Not Unusual, which went on to become a #1 pop hit for Tom Jones. Jim's demo and Tom Jones' hit sounded exactly the same vocally, even down to the accenting on certain words. Jim would also do some sessions as a back-up singer. Most notable are the Drifters' sessions he recorded with The Sweet Inspirations. These sessions brought Dionne Warwick together with Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and Jimmy together with Dee Dee Warwick and Cissy Houston. Jim Liked their sound so much, he used them on his 1963 Musicor release, Through A Long And Sleepless Night which was produced by Bert Berns. Berns also produced his 1964 release Long After Tonight Is All Over, backed once again by The Sweet Inspirations. This Bacharach-David number was originally recorded by Jim as a demo for label mate Gene Pitney, but upon hearing his demo Musicor issued the record on him. Issued in the U.K. on the Stateside label and subsequently re-issued on numerous soul compilations. There is even an Italian version of the track floating around out there on a Kent Records Release. Among Bert Berns many credits he co-authored the songs Twist And Shout with Phil Medley, and My Girl Sloopy.
(Impresario Bert Berns)
In 1966 The British Invasion was in full swing, which meant that most of the popular bands were writing their own songs that were published by their record companies sub-publishers. This forced a lot of songwriters to move into other areas such as television and film scores, those that couldn't adapt were quite often forced out of the business altogether. Jimmy moved into the field of advertising, both writing and performing jingles. By the time of his death, he had worked on over 200 TV and Radio commercials and was recognized as one of the top performers in the field. Steve Karmen (of Hershey's "The Great American Chocolate Bar" and "When You Say Bud" campaigns) remembers Jim in the advertising industry: "Typically, Jim would be called to come to the studio at a designated time, in most cases not even being told the name of the product he was to sing about, thne be given about five minutes to learn a song that he had never seen before that momnet, and was then expected to deliver the "Soul" version of the commercial."
Jim's best know commercials were "You Deserve A Break Today" for McDonalds 1971 and the 1969-70 Pontiac, "breakway in a wide tracking pontiac". The 30-second commercial was expanded for general release to try to capitalize on it's popularity. It was released as Breakaway, by the Steve Karmen big Band featuring Jimmy Radcliffe. As Karmen recalls, "Unfortunately jingles that are written to work in 30-seconds are not easily expanded into record length without the addition of some other piece of creative material. In the case of Pontiac I had stretched the middle section hoping to keep it completely instrumental with no vocals at all. During the wrap up, all the singers would enter and Jim would provide the"ad-lib" fills to inspire America to re-call the commercial and then rush out and buy Pontiacs. At the session, my client asked Jim if he could ad lib something over the middle section about what it would feel like to be free, or to be set free or to break away. Whay you hear is his first and only ad lib reading. After he finished, completely bowling over everyone in the booth, my client was seized with the desire to script and improve upon Jim's ad lib. But Of Course, the performance we used was the first one, because it was the best and the most honest.
One Afternoon while sitting in the Turf Restaurant and bar, with partner Buddy Scott, working on the song Far From The Fairest Of Them All intended for Ray Charles, Jackie Wilson approaches them. As it turns out he over heard the song and loves it.... A few weeks later it's out on the street with a differant title, The Fairest Of Them All as to not offend his fans, as the A-side to the disc that has Whispers (Getting Louder). The Radcliffe-Scott team would also score this year on a collaboration with composer Bert Kaempfert. Their But Not Today song would end up in the Universal Motion Picture A Man Could Get Killed starring James Garner, Melina Mercouri, Sandra Dee and Tony Franciosa. But Not Today would also later be covered by Late Great Jazz trumpeter Chet Baker & The Mariachi Brass. 1967 Saw Aretha Franklin departing from Columbia Records and Columbia execs looking for a replacement. In Step Jimmy Radcliffe & Buddy Scott with Buddy's than girlfriend Pat Lundy. Jimmy, Buddy and John Hammond produced Pat's first album titled after the teams Soul Aint Nothin' But The Blues song. The initial single City Of Stone made a little splash in a big pond. They also scored with two songs The Devil In Your Eyes and Something Stirring In My Soul on Lou Rawls' Carryin On album.
1969 saw Jimmy signing with RCA in both capacity as an artist and producer and releasing his final record under his own name Funky Bottom Congragtion that year. The tract would also supply the title track for an RCA compilation album that featured among other things Johnny Nash's version of "Deep In The Heart Of Harlem" from 1965. This was also the year Jim started working with a newly signed RCA artist, Carolyn Franklin. The third Franklin sister to get a recording contract, Carolyn's first two RCA albums were produced by Jim. He also contributed a song to each - More Than Ever Before on the Baby Dynamite album from 1969 and Right On from the Chain Reaction album in 1970. Jim and Carolyn Collaborated on on a number of projects aside from Carolyn's albums, most notable was the music for the Broadway Play Daddy Goodness, A music production company called DUIT-TUIT with Big sister Aretha, and wrote the song Pullin for Aretha's Spirit In The Dark album 1970. Jim And Carolyn would aslo collaborate on the lyrics and music for Daddy Goodness, A New Soul-Rock Musical, based on the play by Richard Wright and Louis Sapin.
Early 1972 Jimmy bagan work on what was to be his first album, mixing both his songs and covers of contemporary soul and pop tunes. His first choice of co-producer was the now legendary Al Kooper, hot off his work with Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Blood Sweat And Tears and being the first 'long- hair' staff producer at Columbia Records, an old buddy from the early days of crafting bubble gum and R&B tunes for Aaron Schroeder. One of the songs they planned on cutting was the band Badfinger's "Day After Day" that was scorching it's way up the charts. Unfortunately Their perspective work schedules pervented them from actually getting into the studio together, something Al regrets to this day.
At this time Jimmy had decided to control his weight. For most of his life he was heavy set. He was also suffering from high blood pressure due to dietary intake. It was a sometimes opinion that one of the reasons Jim's career as a performing artist didn't come to fruition was his weight. Jim was hospitalized with high blood pressure, which was causing a major strian on his kidneys. This strain eventual led to the removal of one of his kidneys and his being put on dialysis once a day. In the following months he suffered a minor stroke and lost the sight in his left eye. But his Jovial Personality was ever present, he changed the name of his production Company to Black Patch Productions after the ornately embroidered patches he now sported. Over the ensuing months, the amount of time spent on dialysis increased from once a day for an hour to three and four times.
Although it had become more and more difficult to work Jimmy had set up his eight room apartment at 257 Central Park West as one third recording studio, one third hospital and one third living quarters and took on another project in early 1973 - Carolyn Franklin's third album, titled after his Darling I'd Rather Be Lonely tune. From the onset Jim had problems with RCA over the amount of money he was spending on the production and he was eventually replaced by Wade Marcus, who had done some arrangements on Chain Reaction. By this time Jim's health had deteriorated more, with his remaining kidney failing. This caused him to spend most of the day on dailysis while waiting for a transplant. Carolyns album still in production, with neither Carolyn nor RCA happy with the way it was shaping up. So they decided to rehire Jim to complete the project. He managed to complete the A-side of the album before his condition took a turn for the worse. He entered the veterans administrations Hospital in the Bronx on July 2, 1973. Twenty five days later on July 27, 1973 James Radcliffe died of natural causes at the age of 36. He was interred at the Long Island National Cemetary on August 2, leaving to mourn his wife Judy and two sons, Christopher and William.
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