Singled Out: Billy Price's Same Old Heartaches
Blues-soul singer Billy Price is gearing up to release his new album "Dog Eat Dog" on August 2nd and to celebrate we asked him to tell us about the song "Same Old Heartaches". Here is the story:
There are eight songs debuting on Dog Eat Dog, my new album on Gulf Coast Records, seven of which I co-wrote, but I'm going to write here about one of the four cover songs on the album because of the story behind it. The song is "Same Old Heartaches," written by the songwriting team of Melvin and Mervin Steals, twin brothers originally from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania who sometimes wrote under the pseudonym of Mystro and Lyric. In the 1970s, the Steals Brothers wrote several big hits for the Trammps, Gloria Gaynor, Major Harris, and many other soul artists, but their biggest hit was "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love," a #1 platinum smash hit by the Spinners.
I was living close to Aliquippa in Pittsburgh, PA when the Steals Brothers were writing their big hits, and when I first met them, I had just come off the road with the great guitarist Roy Buchanan, with whom I had recorded two albums for Polydor Records as lead vocalist, That's What I'm Here For and Live Stock. I was working with my horn-based band at the time, the Rhythm Kings, playing blues, R&B, and soul music, just as I do now.
Eventually the Rhythm Kings and I crossed paths with Melvin and Mervin. They came to see us play at a club in Pittsburgh, and soon we were talking with excitement about working together. There had been a popular and successful blue-eyed soul group in Philadelphia, the Soul Survivors ("Expressway to Your Heart"), who worked with the great songwriting/production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, and the Steals Brothers hoped that they could have similar success with us in Western PA-we were going to be the Gamble & Huff/Soul Survivors of Pittsburgh.
We learned three great Steals Brothers songs, and we were all excited about their potential. Our excitement peaked when Roy Buchanan's manager, Jay Reich, arranged for a private audition for us with the president and founder of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun, in a recording studio in Pittsburgh. We did our best to sell the songs with our performance, but for whatever reason, Mr. Ertegun did not hear what he was listening for, and eventually we all moved on. One of the songs the Steals Brothers had written for us turned up years later on an album by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes; the others are lost to posterity.
Melvin and I stayed in touch and remained friends over the many decades since we had worked together. A few years ago, I was excited to hear a new EP by the Chairmen of the Board called Words Left Unsaid that the Steals Brothers had worked on and written for. Although it came out in 2017, it had the classic Philadelphia soul sound that I associated with Gamble & Huff and with the Steals Brothers, and I got in touch with Melvin as soon as I heard it to congratulate him. I updated him on what had been going on with my career, and we talked in a general way about my doing a Steals Brothers song on one of my albums sometime. Just as I was starting to write and pick songs for Dog Eat Dog, Melvin came to hear me sing at one of my shows, and I asked him to send me any songs he had that he thought might work for my current style.
The first one he sent me, "Same Old Heartaches," knocked me right out. The recording he sent was by the Impressions on an album they did several years after Curtis Mayfield had left the group to pursue a solo career. It was a great soul song that never got the exposure that it deserved. I sent it to my producer, Kid Andersen and, like me, he loved it instantly. He texted me as soon as he heard it: "Yes, definitely!"
We dug into it at Greaseland, Kid's studio in San Jose, CA, and we brought in the great northern California gospel group the Sons of the Soul Revivers to sing background vocals, with James Morgan of the Sons echoing my lead vocal during the verses. After I sent a rough mix to Melvin, I was proud to read his reaction:
The musicianship of the gifted and talented guys who played on this SBC (Steals Brothers Classic) not only rivals-if not surpasses-that of the A-rated L.A. studio musicians McKinley Jackson originally used, but you have also put inimitable Billy Price phraseology on the only Blues song Mervin and I ever wrote. And in the course of doing so you have made it your very own!!! The Steals Brothers are extremely pleased with and more than a little proud of what you and your crew have done with our song. Tell them that I really loved their soulful contributions to this song...you have, in my estimation, truly made SAME OLD HEARTACHES another iconic Billy Price Classic. Some things in life are well worth waiting for; and Billy Price's finally recording and releasing a Steals Brothers Classic (SBC) on one of his well-produced albums is without a doubt one of them.
More than 40 years after I first met the Steals Brothers, I'm finally releasing a recording of one of their many great songs. I'm proud to have it on Dog Eat Dog.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!
Singled Out: Billy Price's Same Old Heartaches