British R&B artists rarely got props on the American charts. Prior to the ’80s, you’d have to find a magnifying glass to find the UK acts to dent the soul listings. Heatwave (a truly international band with members from the U.S. and all over Europe) and the Average White Band (who were mostly Scottish) broke the seal in the mid-late ’70s, and a guy named Junior Giscombe raced through the door in 1982 with a danceable message song called “Mama Used To Say.”
Typical of the era, “Mama” was a ginormous hit on the R&B charts, but only managed a #30 position on the Hot 100. At that point, there were maybe five or six soul performers who got regular top 40 radio play, and Junior wasn’t one of them. Yet, the song has gone on to outlive many of the songs that outplaced it on the charts, thanks to remakes and sampling, most notably on Heavy D. & The Boyz’ 1991 hit “Is It Good To You?”
Junior’s voice is a little Stevie-reminiscent, but the star of this particular show is by far the ridiculously danceable instrumental track, which was given a bit of flavor enhancement in its American version. The video’s also worth a look, if nothing else, because THIS WAS THE WAY VIDEOS LOOKED IN 1982. Crazy, huh?
The follow-up to “Mama” was “Too Late”-a song about domestic violence that also hit the top 10 on the American R&B charts. None of Junior’s subsequent releases made a significant impact, but according to his Wikipedia page, he recorded an album with Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott before the rock legend passed away in the late Eighties. Would love to hear what that sounded like.