The Soul Superiors

Fred Burns got his robe hemmed in Poole Deading, a tiny sharecropping parish outside Louise, Mississippi, in the heart of the Delta. The ranks of the Louise Jubilees, a venerable local group, had traditionally drawn from generations of the area’s Pinkstons and Broomfields, but Burns’ precocious abilities broke through tradition. At 15, he was picking cotton on his family’s plantation and touring nearby Vicksburg, Indianola, and Greenville with the Jubilees. In 1963, at age 22, he married his high school sweetheart and followed a job opportunity to Detroit. Working the palletizer at a Faygo Beverage plant by day, Burns was almost immediately roped into another gospel group, the Bethlehem Spirituals. He maintained the low-key gig for two years, though his talent far exceeded his role in the perennial opening act.

Burns’ invitation to join prolific crossover gospel act the Fantastic Violinaires put his gospel career briefly into overdrive, as he spent much of 1966, 1967, and 1968 on the road. Homesick, he returned to Detroit and set up the leisurely-paced Soul Superiors with former Detroit Trumpets lead Lawrence Gaudi. The Soul Superiors were rounded out in 1969, when they secured the clutch membership of brothers—and former Violinaires—baritone Aaron and falsetto Bobby Green. Two originals, “Faith” and “Don’t Blame The Children,” were brought into the reputable United Sound Systems in 1971, tracked by Don Davis on a miniscule budget. Issued on the Burns-run WARFELL label—its name an acronym for then-current membership: Walter, Aaron, Robert, Fred, Leon, and Lawrence—the “Faith” single somehow found its way into the hands of Designer Records’ Style Wooten.

Signed to the sprawling Memphis concern in the fall of 1971, the Soul Superiors would cut two singles in Wooten’s modest Park Avenue Studio: 1971’s “A Great Day” b/w “Whatever You Do, Do Good” and 1973’s “Amazing Grace” b/w “Up Above My Head.” These 45s, the first credited as “featuring Bobby Green,” derailed the group, as another Memphis-based operation would scoop up the Green Brothers for a secular run. Signed to Stax in June 1974, Aaron and Bobby would record only one 45 for the Truth subsidiary before being caught up in Stax’s bankruptcy proceedings. A modified version of the Soul Superiors would emerge in the mid-‘70s with an LP on Savoy, and continued to perform in apparent perpetuity.

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