Spanish For Mary

I started off this week with ‘Take A Letter To Mary’, so it seems fitting that I end with ‘Take A Letter Maria’. Ronald Bertram Aloysius better known as R.B. Greaves wrote this song.  He was half Native American, and he was raised on a Seminole reservation in California.  Sam Cooke was his uncle, until the gospel and soul singer was shot and killed by a Los Angeles motel manager in 1964.  Greaves was born on Nov. 28, 1943, at an Air Force base in Georgetown in what was then British Guyana.  In 1963, R.B. Greaves moved to England and performed under the name Sonny Childe with his band called the TNT’s.  In 1969, he returned to America to record ‘Take a Letter, Maria’ on Atco Records along with the Burt Bacharach and Hal David song ‘Always Something There to Remind Me’ that reached #27 in 1970, both of which appeared on his album R.B. Greaves.  Greaves moved to Los Angeles and began to work in the technology industry after a failed attempt to revive his recording career in the late 1970s.  Greaves died from prostate cancer on September 27, 2012 at the age of 68, but he will be remembered as a gifted man who sang beautifully with true passion.

In this moving on song, a businessman finds his wife with another man and he understands that it is time to breakup with her.  He knows that he has been working hard putting in all of these extra hours to provide a good life for him and his spouse, and when he arrives home late one night, he discovers that all this overtime has cost him his marriage.  He accepts that it is over, and he might be more angry with himself than he is with his wife.  He does not make a scene, he just packs up some of his things already having decided that he will make a new life for himself on the horizon.  He is not going to be caught in this marriage trap any more, as he will file for divorce, even though he realized that at one time he did really love his wife.  He has a loyal secretary named Maria, and he requests that she type a letter and send it to his wife and make a copy of this letter for his lawyer.  He tells Maria that he never noticed how sweet she is, then he tells her that he is free this evening and asks her if she would like to have dinner with him.

Greaves recorded this song in Sheffield, Alabama at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.  The studio was owned by the musicians who worked there and played on this track, including guitarist Jimmy Johnson, drummer Roger Hawkins, bass player David Hood, and piano player Barry Beckett.  Eddie Hinton played lead guitar and Mel Lastie was the trumpeter on this song, both of whom were not owners.  These musicians broke off from FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) Studios, where they played on many hits for Atlantic Records artists, and Jerry Wexler at Atlantic financed their new studio.  Greaves was one of several Atlantic artists sent to Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, but the first one to have a hit there.  ‘Take a Letter Maria’ was a very big deal for the studio, which successfully competed with FAME over the next decade, but even though the South was still a very much segregated 1960s and ‘70s, in the studio racial tensions were put aside, so they could make music that most outsiders assumed was made by black musicians.

Muscles Shoals follows the path of FAME Studios owner Rick Hall, who grew up poor and whose life story is told to a certain degree in the song ‘Patches’, a heart wrenching story about a boy nicknamed patches because his old clothes were patched together that grew up on a family farm in Alabama.  He had his first hit with Jimmy Hughes’ ‘Steal Away’ in 1964, and they kept coming as FAME gathered steam with Arthur Alexander’s ‘Anna’ and ‘You Better Move On’, and Sledge’s ‘When a Man Loves a Woman’.

‘Take a Letter Maria’ became the first gold record for Muscles Shoals, certified by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling more than a million copies.  On October 12th 1969, ‘Take A Letter Maria’ by R.B. Greaves entered Billboard’s Hot Top 100 chart at position #61, and on November 16th, 1969 it charted #2 coming in just behind ‘Wedding Bell Blues’ by the Fifth Dimension lasting for 1 week, however it did spend 15 weeks on the Top 100.  It also reached #10 on Billboard’s R&B Singles chart and it also got to #3 on the Adult Contemporary Tracks chart.  His self-titled album peaked at No. 85 in 1970.

The R.B. Greaves album was produced by Ahmet Ertegun, who by 1969 was running Atlantic Records.  Ahmet Ertegun was a Turkish-American businessman, songwriter and philanthropist.  Ertegun was best known as the co-founder and president of Atlantic Records and for discovering and championing many leading rhythm and blues and rock musicians.  Ahmet Ertegun was the right producer for the legendary Swampers and in 1983, Ahmet helped establish the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with Jann Wenner, the founder and editor of Rolling Stone, Jerry Wexler, Seymour Stein, Allen Grubman, and Bob Krasnow. They approved plans for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame museum to be constructed in Cleveland, Ohio.  Ahmet was inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Last night as I got home about a half past ten
There was the woman I thought I knew
In the arms of another man
I kept my cool, I ain’t no fool
Let me tell you what happened then
I packed some clothes and I walked out
And I ain’t going back again
So take a letter Maria, address it to my wife
Say I won’t be coming home, gonna start a new life
So take a letter Maria, address it to my wife
Send a copy to my lawyer, gotta start a new life
You’ve been many things but most of all a good secretary to me
And it’s times like this I feel you’ve always been close to me
Was I wrong to work nights to try to build a good life
All work and no play has just cost me a wife
So take a letter Maria, address it to my wife
Say I won’t be coming home, gonna start a new life
So take a letter Maria, address it to my wife
Send a copy to my lawyer, gotta start a new life
When a man loves a woman it’s hard to understand
That she would find more pleasure in the arms of another man
I never really noticed how sweet you are to me
It just so happens I’m free tonight
Would you like to have dinner with me
So take a letter Maria, address it to my wife
Say I won’t be coming home, gonna start a new life
So take a letter Maria, address it to my wife
Send a copy to my lawyer, gotta start a new life
So take a letter Maria, address it to my wife
Send a copy to my lawyer, gotta start a new life

Written for FOWC with Fandango – Trap and for Sheryl’s A New Daily Post Word Prompt – Horizon.

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