Willie 'Beaver' Hale, 'Groove-On' (1980) | Rock Candy

Willie 'Beaver' Hale, 'Groove-On' (1980)

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Willie Hale grew up in Forrest City, Arkansas, where they called him "Little Beaver." I read it was because of his teeth. If people know him at all, they know him for the music he made in Miami, where he was a session guitarist for people like Betty Wright, Blowfly and Swamp Dogg. He also made a handful of solo records, mostly under the name Little Beaver, that were sporadically great. "Groove-On" is from his disco years and is just about perfect, but you should also look into his early stuff, like "Get Into the Party Life." The first line is "Nothing in the world makes me sadder than to see a lonely person."

Last month, the blog Long Play Miami tracked down and interviewed Hale, and among other things they talked about his Arkansas days. He says he first picked up the guitar when his step-father Clarence "bought a box guitar for about 11 bucks. It was while he'd go to church and he had a couple of other guys and they like to sing gospel." He learned to play it from "this guy named Anderson that everyone around town called Sarge because he walked like a soldier." Hale became known as the only real guitarist in Forrest City, and soon had a band with a keyboard player from Pine Bluff. They'd play gigs at a spot in Stuttgart, "just a wood shed."

He also talks about why he left Arkansas for Miami. His friend Wilbert was working in Florida and "came home one Christmas to see his family. And on his way back to Florida he stopped through Forrest City to say hello to me. And I was laying there. My mom had just slaughtered a hog that we had fed all the summer, fattened up real good. She bought a freezer. It was full of pork chop, bacon. I’m laying there getting fat. Not working. [Wilbert] said if you was in Miami, Florida you’d get a job just like that [finger snap]. That’s where all the big bands come through. He just went on and on. . . I just got in the car with Wilbert and we hit the road coming back to Florida. I might’ve had two pennies in my pocket. Maybe. But I knew if he ate, I would eat. If he slept, I would sleep. That’s how much trust and confidence I had. People was honest back then. A friend was a real friend. Friend enough to let you sleep in his car."

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