In 1955 Gaines joined up with Louis Brooks & His Hi-Toppers as lead singer and scored a #2 R & B smash "It's Love Baby (24 Hours a Day)," which has become his signature song since. The outfit didn't score a followup hit and Gaines went solo for the same label, Excello, in addition to Champion and Poncello resulting a slew of unsuccessful singles. During this time he sang lead for Bill Doggett's band.
In 1966 he finally snagged a hit under his own name with "Best Of Luck To You" (#28 R&B) for the HBR label. He subsequently recorded record for Hollywood, Athens Deluxe/King and Seventy-Seven, including "Hymn Number 5".
Gaines recorded a single for Ace in 1975 ("Drowning On Dry Land") but then embarked on a fourteen year hiatus from the studio and working as a truck driver.
He resurged in 1989 with a new album "House Party" on Meltone Records, and this began his eventual comeback thanks in large part to producer Fred James. James, a Nashville-based producer whose affection for the classic Excello sound also resulted in the resurrection of onetime label staples including Clifford Curry and Roscoe Shelton; for Appaloosa, Gaines issued his 1995 comeback effort, "I Believe in Your Love", and in 1997 he also joined Curry and Shelton for a joint live recording. Since then he's appeared on a host of labels, culminating in his 2008 CD for Memphis-based Ecko Records. Gaines died in 2009 during sessions for his second Ecko outing, "Good To Me"
"The Best Of Luck To You" (HBR 1966)
The Best Of Luck To
"Lovin' Blues" (Deluxe 1970)
My Woman 3:05
"That's How Strong My Love Is" (Vivid Sound 1979)
1. Turn On Your
"Yearning And Burning" (Charly 1986)
1 A Certain Girl
"House Party" (Meltone 1989)
1. 24 Hours A
"I Believe In Your Love" (Appaloosa 1996)
1. It's Love Baby
(24 Hours a Day)
Roscoe Shelton, Earl Gaines, Clifford Curry "Tennessee R & B Live" (Appaloosa 1997)
1. Is It Too Late
"Everything's Gonna Be Alright" (Blacktop 1999)
1. Every Night in
"24 Hours A Day" (Black Magic 1999)
1. Best of Luck
"Lovin' Blues: THE STARDAY-KING YEARS 1967-1973" (Westside 1999)
1 My Woman
Roscoe Shelton & Earl Gaines "Let's Work Together" (Cannonball 2000)
1. Let's Work Together
"The Different Feelings Of Blues & Soul" (Blue Fye 2005)
1. What Is Love
***1/2 Since his mid-90s comeback Gaines has become a bit of a journeyman amongst Blues labels. Blue Fye suits him up with his usual horn-laded Blues. "I've Kissed My Last Ass" & "Let's Sit And Talk This Thing Over" are the standouts. To me Gaines is sounding increasingly like Albert King as a vocalist!
"The Lost Soul Tapes" (Aim 2006)
1. Turn On Your
*** Not exactly "lost", just out-of-print and relatively obscure "The Lost Soul Tapes" focuses on material that Gaines recorded for the small, obscure 77 Records label in the early '70s, including singles, B-sides and outtakes. One big plus being his voice was at it's peak.
"Crankshaft Blues" (SPV 2007)
1. Don't Take My
Kindness For a Weakness
*** The black and white photo of Earl Gaines on "Crankshaft Blues" had me thinking this was simply a re-issue of some early recordings but I'm pleased to find it's rather a collection of unreleased and rare cuts recorded during his mid-90s comeback. Gaines was one of several Excello Records giants producer Fred James brought back from retirement (also Al Garner, Roscoe Shelton, Clifford Curry). Prior to his acclaimed 1995 Appaloosa CD "I Believe In Your Love" Gaines had released only one record between 1978-1995 during which he survived as a cross-country trucker. The album in question, 1989's "House Party", barely made a blip on the radar. Then in the early 90s James asked Gaines to be part of "Excello Legends" revue at the Blues Estafette festival in Holland and this ignited a true comeback.
"Crankshaft's" 12 tracks are made up of four unreleased tracks from those '95 Appaloosa sessions ("Don't Take My Kindness For Weakness", "Where Have You Been So Long", "Good News Real Bad" & "Doctor Lady"); five tracks from the out-of-print albums "Tennessee R N B" and "Excello Legends Live" credited to the Excello Legends ("You Don't Know But I Do", "I Believe In Your Love", "Farther Up The Road", "Hey Hey I Love You" & "It's Love Baby (24 Hours A Day)" and a duet with Roscue Shelton ("Someday Things Are Gonna Change") from "Let's Work Together". Thus, like Shelton's similar "Save Me" (also released this year on SPV), this disc ranks as a surprisingly strong "new" album.
"Nothin' But The Blues" (Ecko 2008)
1. 24 Hours a Day
**** Much applause to the indomitable Ecko Records for this 106th cd release on the label. Ecko has some harsh critics in the mainstream Blues world for it's reliance on programming over the years but this loosely-titled "Nothin' But The Blues" manages to appeal to Southern Soul and 12-bar Blues fans alike. It opens with a ripping version of Gaines' signature song "24 Hours A Day". This is followed by the melodic slowie "Let's Call A Truce", containing one of Gaines' best vocals I've heard in years. Pity about Morris J's shrill background vocals though. Then we're back to some Downhome Blues ("Meat And Potatoes Man"). That's pretty much how it goes- a Blues number ("You Better Know Your Hole From Mine", "Cheat On Schedule") followed by a Soulful ballad ("Everything Sweet Reminds me Of You", "If I Could Do It All Over") and I'll grade them a B or better song wise on each (sans the blatant "Mississippi Boy"-ripoff "Good Old Country Boy").
There's real horns (arranged by Harrison Calloway) and a live rhythm section (no programs) yet John Ward still makes it sound like an Ecko LP. I'm talking the really good kind ala the first couple Bill Coday, Barbara Carr albums for the label. This translates to: Blues slobs won't complain and the chitlin' circuit will dig it as true Soul/Blues. Well done lads.
"Good To Me" (Ecko 2010)
1. I'd Like To Try
It One More Time
***1/2 Gaines passed way before sessions for his second Ecko album were wrapped up but label boss John Ward was able to piece a mighty fine album together from the new tracks that were finished ("You've Been Good To Me", "I'm Throwing In The Towel", etc.) some outtakes I'm guessing due to the production procured from Gaines' longtime collaborator Ted Jarrett ("I'd Like To Try It One More Time", "It Ain't Easy To Tell The One You Love Goodbye"), and alternate versions (different mixes) of a few tracks from "Nothin' But The Blues". Both "Let's Call A Truce" and "If I Could Do It All Over" are presented without synthetic horns and come off even more moving.
"You Got The Walk" (Phantom 2010)
1. You Got The Walk