Tommy Tate, born in Homestead, Florida on 29 September 1944 but raised in Mississippi, and who began his career singing and playing drums at clubs in and around Jackson, has been alternately described as "the greatest singer you've never heard" and "America's best kept secret." A major reason was ultimately putting his fate long-term in the hands of one Johnny Baylor at KoKo Records in the early 1970s.
Before then he had joined Tim Whitsett & The Imperial Show Band, an all-white orchestra extremely popular at southeastern colleges and universities in Mississippi and can be heard on two of their most popular records, The Whole World Is The Same on Musicor 1340, and Stand By Me on Big Ten 1003. When the band dissolved sometime in 1970 Tate was signed as a songwriter at Stax Records, and while there was recommended to the remaining members of The Nightingales by Mack Rice as a suitable replacement for lead Ollie Hoskins, who had left the group. Two singles emerged with Tommy as the lead: You're Movin' Much Too Fast b/w Don't Let A Good Thing Go on Stax 0076 in- 1970, and Just A Little Overcome b/w I Don't Want To Be Like My Daddy on Stax 0091 in 1971. Neither charted.
Not long after he was signed to that KoKo Records contract (a label distributed by Stax) and in 1971 released I Remember b/w Help Me Love on KoKo 2109 (both here). It failed to chart, but in 1972 he had his first singles success when School Of Life (track 1) made it to # 22 on the R&B charts b/w a re-issue of I Remember. Unfortunately, the follow-up I Ain't Gonna Worry b/w More Power To You (tracks 11 and 12) on KoKo 2114 again failed to dent the charts, likely because Baylor was putting most, if not all, of his promotional efforts towards Luther Ingram, the only other vocalist whose records were handled by KoKo.
Indeed, it wouldn't be until 1976 that he would get his second charter when, in July, Hardtimes S.O.S. registered in the lower regions of the R&B charts at # 62 b/w Always (tracks 15 and 16) on KoKo 722. That same year he had his third and final hit with If You Ain't Man Enough, which just made the R&B Top 100 at # 93 in November b/w Revelations (tracks 13 and 10) on KoKo 723.
A 1977 release on KoKo 726, If You Got To Love Somebody (Why Not Take A Chance On Me?) - track 5 - b/w Do You Think There's A Chance? (not here) went out as a promo only, and the official KoKo 726 release was a Luther Ingram record. But KoKo 729 was a Tate single, I'm So Satisfied (track 6) b/w a re-issue of If You Ain't Man Enough. It did not chart. He also had singles released by Verve under the name Tommy Yates and by Atco as Andy Chapman without success. In 1980, however, he began a lucrative career as a songwriter for Malaco Records in Jackson, home at one time or another of such as Johnnie Taylor, Dorothy Moore, Eddie Floyd, The Fiestas, King Floyd, Jean Knight, Frederick Knight, Denise Lasalle and Little Milton, many of whom recorded Tate compositions.
A very nice release by Kent Records of the U.K., with quality sound and informative liner notes, covering just some of the work by a man unfortunately largely forgotten as a performer through no fault of his own.