Whole Truth

By 1975, Klondike—a once thriving black community on the Bluff City's north side and commonly known to locals as "the most dangerous neighborhood in Memphis"—had hit a rough patch in the road, overturned, and was on fire. Miles away from Willie Mitchell's Royal Studio and Stax's East McLemore empire, Calvin Eubanks was doing his part to hold the neighborhood together. His studio—a room in the back of his 1374 Lexington Circle home—had morphed into a safe haven for a slew of Memphian soul cast-offs, none more important than Eubanks' boyhood friend Johnny Frierson.

The brother of Stax no-hit wonder Wendy Rene, Frierson had gotten his start playing guitar behind O.V. Wright as a member of the Duke label’s Sunset Travelers. He decamped to Stax in 1963 as one quarter of the Drapels, and stayed on as a songwriter while Wendy's star rose by fractions. After cutting his first solo single for Hi in 1968 as James Fry, Frierson's music career was put on ice by marching orders from Uncle Sam. When Johnny Frierson returned to Memphis in 1974, he found the city's once-thriving recording business in decline. Stax was nearing its end, and Wendy was out of the business. Hi Records was tending the guttering flame, but disco's blow was around the corner. Lost in this sea change, Frierson returned to where it all began: good old Klondike.

Eubanks brothers Calvin and Curtis had schooled and prayed alongside the Friersons at Manassas High and the Church Of God In Christ. It was only natural that a Eubanks/Frierson collaborations should return them to their roots. Whole Truth wasn't a band so much as a studio project: Frierson played guitar and sang, Calvin manned the organ, and Curtis blew a wobbly trumpet. The bassist is remembered only as "Midget," and the drummer not at all. Calvin's inexperience shows up in the final minute of "Can You Lose By Following God," when Frierson's guttural holler redlines the entire song before being abruptly panned into a trumpet solo. The recording's rawness had a direct impact on both sales and airplay for EFE Records 100, a green-labeled single that enjoyed almost none of either. Stock copies were stored in their original boxes alongside hundreds of Klondike session tapes, all tossed following Calvin Eubanks' divorce in the early 1980s. Frierson would make a successful transition into the construction business, but stuck vigilantly to his guitar until his passing in 2010.

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