Johnny & Jackey

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Johnny Bristol and Robert "Jackey" Beavers enjoyed a five-record career on Gwen Gordy and Billy "Roquel" Davis' (aka Tyran Carlo) Anna Records and Gwen and Harvey Fuqua's Tri-Phi label. Bristol, from…
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Johnny Bristol and Robert "Jackey" Beavers enjoyed a five-record career on Gwen Gordy and Billy "Roquel" Davis' (aka Tyran Carlo) Anna Records and Gwen and Harvey Fuqua's Tri-Phi label. Bristol, from Morgantown, NC, met Beavers, from Cartersville, GA, when the Air Force transferred him to Fort Custer in Battle Creek, MI, where Beavers was stationed. After competing with each other in Air Force talent shows, the two singer/songwriters decided to form a musical duo.

Battle Creek was home to the El Grotto Lounge, a rocking, bucket-of-blood establishment where Junior Walker & the All Stars performed as the house band. Johnny & Jackey progressed from talent shows to cash money gigs at the El Grotto, backed by the All Stars, and were discovered by Gwen Gordy, who signed them to Anna Records and became their manager. An initial single, "Lonely & Blue," a Beavers, Bristol, and Billy Davis composition, was released in March 1960. It only got local recognition, but was featured in the El Grotto's jukebox. A second Anna release came out October 1960, but "Hoy Hoy" was strictly local, in fact, many are unaware of Johnny & Jackey's Anna recordings.

Anna dissolved when Davis left to form Check Mate Records, encouraged to do so when Gwen Gordy switched her affections from him to Harvey Fuqua. Gwen Gordy and Fuqua started Tri-Phi & Harvey Records and Johnny & Jackey went along. Their first Tri-Phi single, "Carry Your Own Load" (1961), received more exposure than previous singles, but never charted very high; Junior Walker recorded it years later on Soul Records. "Someday We'll Be Together," released January 1962, lacked a full-blown promotional effort but got some play in surrounding states. With Fuqua's clout, the duo performed at bars and venues in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, performing at times with the Spinners, Shorty Long, the Challengers Three, and the Quails. "Someday" sold millions when Bristol cut it using Diana Ross & the Supremes; Beavers co-wrote it with Bristol and Fuqua. The final Johnny & Jackey single, the groovy "Baby Dontcha Worry," did little; Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell later recorded it on one of their albums. Johnny & Jackey performed a lot, with Beavers being the vocally dominant member.

A negative cash flow caused Gwen and Harvey Fuqua to fold and throw in with Motown. The duo became Motown artists and songwriters by default; Bristol stayed but Beavers left, opting to try his luck with Roquel, who was now Chess Records' A&R director. Bristol started writing and producing with Fuqua for the Spinners, but really hit his stride on Gaye and Terrell's first album, Edwin Starr's "25 Miles," David Ruffin's "My Whole World Was Empty (The Moment You Left Me)," and Diana Ross & the Supremes' monster. Bristol became family with Barry Gordy -- he married Iris Gordy, Barry Gordy's niece. But when dissension with Motown began (Johnny wanted to sing) and his marriage hit the skids, he left, divorced his wife, and started producing acts like Tavares and singing again. The only chance he got to shine at Motown was cueing Diana Ross on "Someday We'll Be Together." He scored his biggest solo success when "Hang on in There Baby" assaulted both the R&B and the pop charts. Initially, Beavers' move to Chess appeared promising, and he enjoyed his biggest single, "Sling Shot," on Checker Records. But the deal was short-lived and he moved on to record for a string of labels with little success. While flops, they're valued Northern soul items, including "Come Back My Love" on Nation, "Singing a Funky Song for My Baby" on ZS7, "Bring Me All Your Heartaches" on Grand Land Records, and "We're Not Too Young to Fall in Love," credited as the Jackey Beavers Show.

Beavers cranked out secular music until the late '70s. He's credited with more than 110 songs registered with B.M.I., many of which he wrote and produced for others, including Joe Simon, Ella Washington, and Mighty Elegant's beautiful "I'm Falling in Love With You" on Westbound Records. Beavers later produced records for Nashville DJ John Richbourg (WLAC) and toured with the Continental Showstoppers. He ran the Brothers Three nightclub in Cartersville for a while with his brother, but gave it to his brother after realizing he couldn't stand nightclubs.

Moving back to Cartersville, where he picked cotton as a youngster, Beavers went to college, earned a degree, and became an ordained minister, pastoring at New Hope Baptist Church and at Glory Harvester Church. He served as executive assistant to Joe Frank Harris, the Governor of Georgia, for eight years; executive assistant to Bobby Whitworth, the Commissioner of Georgia's Department of Corrections, for three years; and aide to Tom Murphy, Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, for seven years. In addition, he became a columnist for the Daily Tribune News in Cartersville. Bristol remained in the Detroit area and produced, performed, and wrote gospel music.