Wednesday, July 17, 2013

R.B. Greaves--Take a Letter Maria (1969)

     Sometimes you find songs that are interesting, and people who sound like they really have a story, but just fall off the face of the earth, with just the musical document left to help decipher the kind of person they were..
     R.B. Greaves (Ronald Bertam) was born on an Air Force base in Georgetown, Guyana in 1943. He was a nephew of Sam Cooke and spent much of his growing up years on a Seminole Indian Reservation in the states. At the age of 20 he traveled to England in hopes to start up a music career. Under the name Sonny Childe with his group the TNT's, they had released records in the UK and in the Caribbean. He wrote the song, "Take a Letter Maria" in 1970, which impressed Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertgun so much that he insisted that not only should Greaves record the song himself (it had already been covered by several), but that Ertgun would produce the record himself.         
     The result was a Latin flavored vocal which had the lyrical feel of a Bacharach/David song and a musical vibe of early 60's mariachi music thanks to the well placed horns. It soared to number two on the charts in the Winter of 1969, and it's follow up, "Always Something There to Remind Me" also went top ten. After several more charting songs, he fell off the radar in the early 70's. There is a long stretch where I cannot find any information concerning the singer/songwriter until his death last November of cancer at the age of 68.


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