Otis Redding aside, if you had to pick one artist on the Stax label’s roster who best exemplified the sound and soul of the label, you could do worse than pick Eddie Floyd. Born June 25, 1937 in Montgomery, AL, Floyd spent most of his early years in Detroit, MI, and came up in the same R&B scene as many of the acts that would define the Motown sound of the ‘60s. Floyd defected to Memphis in 1965, joining Stax as a songwriter and, the following year, as a performer.
His first single was a song he co-wrote with guitarist Steve Cropper - a little number called “Knock on Wood,” which would launch him onto the pop chart and score him a No. 1 R&B hit. The song has been covered numerous times, by acts as disparate as Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, Eric Clapton and Amii Stewart, whose disco version hit No. 1 on the pop chart in 1978.
Floyd scored another R&B hit in 1967 with “Raise Your Hand,” a track that proved influential to Janis Joplin (who performed it at Woodstock), as well as the J. Geils Band and Bruce Springsteen, both of whom performed it live and put covers of the song on live albums. Such was the power of Eddie Floyd’s version; there’s probably an R&B or rock band somewhere who’ll perform it on some stage this very evening.
1968 was a good year for Floyd. His song “I’ve Never Found a Girl” took him to No. 2 on the R&B chart. The soul shuffle was tailor-made for wooing the object of one’s desire, and certainly that happened many times, in many places (you never know how far and wide such a song can reach).
Also in 1968, Floyd’s cover of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me” landed him an R&B Top 5 hit and a Top 20 hit on the pop chart. Floyd’s version has a different rhythmic feel than Cooke’s, but its impact is just as hard.
READ MORE: Still Sending Us: Eight Songs of Sam Cooke
Floyd’s final hit of any consequence was “California Girl,” which topped off just outside the Top 10 on the R&B chart. It’s a creamy, string-laden pop song that’s pleasant enough, but not on par with his best material. The B-side, however, is a randy little song about either his skills as a lumberjack, or his sexual prowess … or both. It’s called “Woodman.”
Eddie Floyd embodied the best Southern soul had to offer during an important period in the music’s history, and he should be remembered fondly for it.