A SHORT SERIES of modestly produced but convincing and memorable records in the early ’60s established Alexander as a source-figure for British rhythm and blues.
In his late teens, after some experience with a local gospel group, Alexander became associated with Muscle Shoals producer Rick Hall for whom he recorded ‘You Better Move on’ (Dot, 1961), which reached the Top Thirty in the USA. It was followed by the Barry Mann–Cynthia Weil composition ‘Where Have You Been?’ and his own ‘Anna’ (both 1962), his only R&B Top Ten entry. These and ‘Go Home Girl’ (1962) were taken up by innumerable British groups as readily assimilable down-home soul corollaries of contemporary Drifters or Ben E. King work. ‘Anna’ and ‘You Better Move on’ appeared on early records by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones respectively. (The latter was revived by Ry Cooder.) ‘A Shot of Rhythm and Blues’, the original flip-side of ‘You Better Move on’, also became a sub-cultural anthem and was memorably recorded by Johnny Kidd.
Subsequent unsuccessful records for Dot, Sound Stage 7 and Monument, and a period of illness, put Alexander out of the record business until 1972, when he recorded Arthur Alexander (Warners), which included ‘Rainbow Road’, Dan Penn’s fictionalised account of the singer’s life. He had a minor hit with ‘Every Day I Have to Cry Some’ (Buddah, 1975), an earlier hit for Steve Alaimo (Checker, 1963), and recorded with Carl Perkins on Koala in 1979. He subsequently retired to become a busdriver in Cleveland. A posthumous album, Lonely Just Like Me, was issued in 1993 but his essential R&B legacy was assembled on A Shot of Rhythm and Soul (Ace, 1982).
© Phil Hardy, Dave Laing, Faber Companion to 20th Century Popular Music, 2001