Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sundia - "Stand Up and Be a Man"

The Fabulous Sundia: "Too hot to stop!"

Try finding out anything about Sundia (the performing name of Audrey Garvin, aka "Sundia Garvin") and you'll find little beyond the liner notes to this outstanding 2008 Jazzman/Now-Again compilation CD of Carolina funk musicians that I only recently discovered in the Enoch Pratt Central Library's awesome R&B Compilation CDs collection:

Carolina Funk: First in Funk 1968-1977
(Jazzman/Now-Again, 2008)

And that's a shame because, despite a limited output, Sundia was a Soul Sistah Superstar whose 1975 "Stand Up and Be a Man" single on Columbia, SC's United Records (U-0278) is at once not only a specific ethnocentric slap to the face of urban Soul Brother machismo but also one of the all-time great feminist anthems. Like most of the tracks on this compilation, it's a song dying to be heard by audiences larger than its limited edition pressing of 1,000 copies. (Carolina's dearth of major urban centers has resulted in its musical output being limited to single towns, with bands and their records seldom venturing further than the state line - until now thanks to archivists like Jazzman/Now-Again.)

 Full of catchy lines that would go on to become common catchphrases in the African-American community (like the future Tyler Perry film title embedded in  "I don't need you to help me do bad - I can do bad all by myself") - with my personal faves being "You can practice your kung-fu fighting in the welfare line" and "There's no romance without finance" - and sassy funk-soul backing music by her band, this 1975 single stands as an all-time great platter of urban cool. The song's official title is "Stand Up and Be a Man (Part 1)," which is significant because the flip side's "Stand Up and Be a Man (Part 2)" isn't merely an instrumental version of the song (a common practice from the days when bands with one song struggled to put out 45's), but a longer, different version with more backup singing. (A YouTube clip of this version is included later in this post.)

Sundia not only sang, but played guitar on it as well; the other musicians in her "Sunshine Band" (not to be confused with K.C.'s disco band!): Carol and Elaine Jackson - backing vocals; "Hump" - horns/reeds, male spoken parts; "Big John" - horn/reeds; Rex Garvin - keyboards; Austin Jones - guitar; "Lil" Earl Warp - bass; Robert Brown - drums. The Jackson Sisters hailed from Baxley, GA, while the rest of the band was made up of former members of the Soul Brothers and Savannah, GA's Chico & The Magnificents.

Sundia was a Black Seminole Indian born in Ocala, Floria, who grew up listening to doo-wop music before moving to New York and marrying bandleader Rex Garvin in 1962. She spent the next decade in Harlem before settling in suburban Mount Vernon and recording R&B-styled sides with the Hearts, Mighty Cravers and others at at New York's A-1 sound studio. By 1971, according to the Carolina Funk liner notes, Sundia was ready to move on to new sounds.

Sundia claimed she was "tired of the the old doo-wop and boring girl groups," and "wanted to hit hard and do the rock scene, and go to England." 

So she formed a not-boring girl group called Full Speed with Gayle Austin, Kay Miller and Ursula Anderson. Full Speed actually recorded an early version of "Stand Up and be a Man," but it was never released.  Full Speed did release a Sundia song called "It Must Be Love" b/w "Put 'Em on the Right Track"  (Real Thing, RT-101), produced by Buddy Scott, which you can hear below.

Listen to "It Must be Love."

Listen to "Put 'Em on the Right Track."

Full Speed A-side: "It Must Be Love"


Full Speed B-side: "Put 'Em on the Right Track"

If you can't find this rare single, look for it on compilation CDs like Doo Wop Shoo Bop's Girls It Ain't Easy - Female Group Soul, Vol. 1.

The ladies later sang backup on "Sugar Mama," a single by Allentown, South Carolina-based Benny Gordon.

Benny Gordon - "Sugar Mama Part 1"

Listen to "Sugar Mama."

The record's success justified Full Speed's subsequent move to Allentown, SC where they backed him regularly at his Soul City club. Their Northern Soul style was now infiltrating Southern Soul.

Ursula, Kay & Sundia of Full Speed. Branmor Hotel, Old Lyme, CT, 1971

Nancy, Richie, Grant & Carmen of Full Speed


Nancy, Ursula & Kay of Full Speed

But financial issues (Gordon allegedly underpaid his backing singers) caused Sundia to jump to Savannah, Georgia, where James Jenkins - owner of Jay's Paradise nightclub - offered her work with his new Sun-Jay Productions (yes, Sundia was the Sun part of the collaboration!). Jenkins booked time at United Music World's studios in West Columbia, SC, hoping that a promo record would lead to higher-paying gigs.

The result was a rerecording of "Stand Up and Be a Man" with her new Sunshine Band, as included below.

Listen to "Stand Up and Be a Man." 

Following is a longer version (over 4 minutes compared to the CD's 3:32 running time) different from the Carolina Funk mix. It is either the single's B-side "Stand Up and Be a Man (Part 2)" or (this being the digital age when every obscurity is eventually found and uploaded to the 'Net!) possibly even the earlier, unreleased Full Speed version.

And here's another YouTube version of "Stand Up and be a Man" with amusing pictures added.

According to Carolina Funk 's liner notes, engineer Jim Stanton had faith in the song, suggesting a pressing of 1,000 copies, and offering to help with the promotion."

But it was Sundia's live act ("Too hot to stop!") that ultimately proved more lucrative than her records, with Sundia getting steady work in the Savannah and Miami markets before eventually curtailing her full-time touring career. At least part of Sundia's live appeal may have been her physical appearance, which came off as exotic in some Bible Belt pockets of the Deep South.
"When I came South, I had to reinvent the wheel. I looked like someone from out of space to them, and they would show up just to see what I looked like and if that was my hair, which most of the time it was, since I am Black Indian Seminole, the first of my clan to do this. Most people are not aware of the history so I have to remember my ancestors in all I do and leave something for them."

Sundia left us "Stand Up and Be a Man," a signature slice of sassy feminist self-affirmation that's more than enough to remember her by, thanks to the archivists who've unearthed this soulful rarity.

By the way, the Jazzman label is to be commended for making an art form of the regional compilation CD. Their geographically organized rare funk series follows on the heels of their similarly outstanding Midwest Funk, Texas Funk, and Florida Funk collections that document regional rarities from the late 1960s to the early-to-mid-70s with the extensively informative liners notes fans of the series have come to expect.

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Anonymous Agencja Aweo said...

Dobrze powiedziane!

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Agencja Aweo said...

Dobry wpis. Znalazłem Twojego bloga w google.

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

its a beautiful thing 2 C something written about Sundia after all these yrs (my cousin)growing up in NY. Experiencing her love for music & family grow was such a blessing.. :)

5:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for this site what a surprise to see our music being remembered i was one of the back ground singers on many of sundia recordings...this is a treat to see that someone posted our work...musically yours.

12:58 PM  

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