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From the Land of Band Box Records

Bertrand Russell Berns

Bert was born November 8th, 1929 Bertrand Russell Berns in the Bronx, New York.

He only lived for 38 years but during that time more than left his mark as a top-notch song composer.  He began his career as a mambo dancer first in New York and then in neighboring Cuba before that country headed in another direction politically.

Bertrand returned to the United States and found his way into the famed “Brill   Building” at 1650 Broadway working as a song composer at a salary of $50 a week.  It wasn’t long before the move to composer paid dividends.  A young group of singers out of Richmond, Virginia would record “A Little Big of Soap” which was released in July of 1961 by Roulette Records.

The song would go to number 12 on the Hot 100 and number 7 and the R&B charts giving the Jarmels their only charting single

The Jarmels

Then, in August of 1961, another Berns’ composition fell into the hands of producer Phil Spector.  Atlantic Records’ brought a young duo into the studio, “The Top Notes” who were Derek Ray and Howard Guyton.  Berns was present during the recording session and was aghast at the results.  This was not one of Spector’s shining moments.

Spector completely altered a good hunk of the song and thus, “Twist and Shout” would go nowhere for Atlantic and Berns.  Later Atlantic Records’ executive Jerry Wexler admitted that he should have trusted the still-young Russell with production duties.

The Top Notes

As we all know – fortunately, in the summer of 1962, another upcoming group of singers from Ohio, “The Isley Brothers”, would enter the recording studio accompanied by Berns.  The Isley’s were looking for something to get them back on track.

In the fall of 1959 they had landed near the middle of the Hot 100 with “Shout – Part 1” which reached a respectable number 47 on the pop charts – But it did not manage to catch the attention of the R&B market.  The Isley’s weren’t especially confident in the song’s potential – especially since it originally was slated to be assigned as the “B” side to Jerry Butler’s “Make It Easy On Yourself”.

Much to everyone’s delight the song roared into the Top 20 of the Hot 100 reaching number 17 and gave the Isley Brothers their first R&B hit, going all the way to number 2!

The Isley Brothers

“Twist and Shout” firmly established Bert Berns as a composer to be respected.  Although his health would cast a dark cloud over the time he had remaining, he left his mark.  Wexler would bring him into the Atlantic stable as their staff producer in 1963, replacing the great team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

Berns proved himself able to adapt, composing hits during the British Invasion era for American artists and hits for the Invaders as well.

In 1965, Berns teamed up with three others to form the “BANG” record label – taking first initials of the four operatives to name the label: Burt – Ahmet (Ertegun) – Nesuhi (Ertegun) and Gerald (‘Jerry’ Wexler).  A year later Berns would establish the Shout record label where he had R&B hits by Freddie Scott and Erma Franklin.

Bert Burns would succumb to a failing heart – resulting from rheumatic fever contacted as a child.  He died on December 30th, 1967 at the very young age of 38.  He entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.  His life was honored in the off-Broadway production of “Piece of My Heart – The Bert Berns Story”.

Bert Berns Selected Discography

Songs composed co-composed by Bert Russell/Berns

45 – Roulette 3098 – The Jarmels – “A Little Bit of Soap” – Number 12 Hot 100 – Number 7 R&B – July, 1961

45 – Wand 124 – The Isley Brothers – “Twist and Shout” – Number 17 Hot 100 – Number 2 R&B – April, 1962

45 – Atlantic 45-2131 – Solomon Burke – “Cry To Me” – Number 44 Hot 100 – Number 5 R&B – February, 1962

45 – United Artists UA 544 – The Exciters – “Tell Him” – Number 4 Hot 100 – Number 5 R&B – December, 1962

45 – United Artists UA 629 – Garnet Mimms & the Enchanters – “Cry Baby” – Number 4 Hot 100 – Number 1 R&B for 3 Weeks – September, 1963

45 – Tollie 9001 – The Beatles – “Twist and Shout” – Number 2 Hot 100 – March, 1964

45 – Atlantic 45-2221 – The Vibrations – “My Girl Sloopy” – Charted Number 26 Hot 100 – Number 12 R&B – March, 1964

45 – Columbia UK DB 7247 – The Animals – “Baby Let Me Take You Home” – Number 21 – British Charts – April, 1964

This was the Animals debut charting record globally

45 – Atlantic 45-2225 – The Drifters – “One Way Love – Number 56 Hot 100 – Number 12 R&B – May, 1964

45 – Atlantic 45-2241 – Solomon Burke – “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” – Number 58 Hot 100 – Number 4 R&B – July, 1964

45 – Parlophone R 5173 – “One Way Love” – Number 9 British Charts – October, 1964

45 – Decca UK F-12017 – Lulu – “Here Comes the Night” – Number 50 British Charts – November, 1964

45 – Parrot 45-9749 – Them – “Here Comes the Night” – Number 24 – May, 1965

45 – BANG B-501 – The Strangeloves – “I Want Candy” – Number 11 Hot 100 – June, 1965

45 – BANG B-506 – The McCoys – “Hang On Sloopy” – Number 1 – August, 1965

45 – United Artists UA 995 – Garnet Mimms – “I’ll Take Good Care Of You” – Number 30 Hot 100 – Number 15 R&B – April, 1966

45 – Shout S 207 – Freddie Scott – “Are You Lonely For Me” – Number 39 Hot 100 – Number 1 R&B for 4 Weeks – December, 1966

45 – Atlantic 45-2381 – Wilson Pickett – “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” – Number 29 Hot 100 – Number 19 R&B – February, 1967

45 – Shout 221 – Erma Franklin – “Piece of My Heart” – Number 62 Hot 100 – Number 10 R&B – October, 1967

45 – Columbia 44626 – Big Brothers & The Holding Company – “Piece Of My Heart” – Number 12 Hot 100 – August, 1968

45 – Gordy 7083 – Edwin Starr – “25 Miles” – Number 6 Hot 100 – Number 6 R&B – February, 1969

45 – Columbia 4-45379 – Janis Joplin – “Cry Baby” – Number 42 Hot 100 – May, 1971

45 – RCA PB-13204 – Bow Wow Wow – “I Want Candy” – Number 62 Hot 100 – May, 1982

45 – Capitol 2654 – The Beatles – “Twist and Shout” – Number 23 Hot 100 – August, 1986

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