O.V. WRIGHT – A NICKEL AND A NAIL AND ACE OF SPADES
Released early 1971- 45 years ago
The golden age of Southern soul was essentially over by 1971, but no one told O.V. Wright this. His 4th studio album showcases Memphis-style soul in grand form. Wright’s warm vocals are a wonder to behold – each song oozing with longing and hurt. Brilliant!
The Classic Pick is a weekly feature at 4pm M-F on The Home Stretch, sponsored by the Good Oak Bar and curated by Kris Kerry. Each Monday at 4pm Kris stops by KXCI’s studio to give us insight on this classic album at 91.3FM and kxci.org.
Overton Vertis “O. V.” Wright is perhaps one of Southern soul’s most un-sung heroes. His amazing vocals are often cited as residing somewhere between Otis Redding and Solomon Burke with a hint of Wilson Pickett, however Wright never enjoyed the level of success of these artists attained unfortunately.
Wright’s relatively unknown status is partly due to the fact he was not on the label most associated with Southern soul – Stax Records. A Nickel And A Nail And Ace Of Spades and most of his early catalog was on Houston based Back Beat Records, a small blues and soul label that formed in the late 1950s. It was bought by ABC Records in the early 1970s and soon discontinued. His later releases were on the higher profile Hi Record label owned by Willie Mitchell (see below).
Wright was born in rural Tennessee in 1941, and like many soul artists got his start singing in church. By the mid 50s he was fronting a touring gospel groups (The Sunset Travelers and The Harmony Echoes). In the early 60s he was discovered Roosevelt Jamison, who penned O. V. Wright’s first single “That’s How Strong My Love Is.” Wright recorded this song in 1964, but it was made more famous by Otis Redding, who liked the song so much he covered it a year later on his sophomore release, The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads.
Wright was more popular in the South, but did score a number of top twenty R&B Billboard hits, three from A Nickel And A Nail And Ace Of Spades: “Ace of Spades,” “A Nickel and a Nail,” and “ When You Took Your Love From Me.”
A Nickel And A Nail And Ace Of Spades was recorded at Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, and produced by studio co-owner Willie Mitchell. Royal Studios is considered by many to be one of the studios where Southern soul began. Mitchell, in addition to being producer, was a well-known trumpet playing soul musician in his own right, a music manager, and record executive (Hi Records). Mitchell worked with a myriad of artists and produced albums for Al Green, Ike & Tina Turner, Boz Scaggs, Keith Richards, Rod Stewart, Robert Cray, and Buddy Guy among many others.
A Nickel And A Nail And Ace Of Spades is characterized by amazing musicianship and horn section throughout the album with the Hi Record Rhythm Section studio musicians and The Memphis Horns providing the backing. These were the same group of musicians that worked with Al Green after he left Motown for Hi Records in late 1974.
Named as a major influence by Robert Cray and Taj Mahal, Wright has also been sampled by rap artists Ghostface Killah and Wu-Tang Clan.
Wright battled drub problems throughout much of his live, and was imprisoned for a while in the mid 1970s. Following his release from prison, a continuing drub problem weakened his health and he died from a heart attack at the age of 41.
Neither Wright nor Mitchell is in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of fame.