Virginia Folklife Program

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Charlie McClendon


Field recordings, studio recordings and interviews from Charlie McClendon’s personal archive and interviews conducted by Jon Lohman and Pat Jarrett.       Charlie McClendon and the Magnificents recorded live at “Pinky Beach” in the mid-1960s.  This was one of countless recordings that Charlie made from a portable tape recorder from his keyboards during a live performance.  It features the Magnificents in top form, blazing through prominent rhythm and blues standards to a clearly spirited audience.  To this date, we have not verified the location or name of “Pinky Beach.”  Some have suggested that there was an outdoor performance venue known to some others as “Pinkney Beach,” near Virginia Beach.  The original tape was also not dated, but Charlie remembers it being sometime in the mid-1960s, which is supported by the chosen set list.

Charlie McClendon and the Magnificents’:  “We’re Going to Hate Ourselves in the Morning.”  Charlie and the Magnificents recorded this Arthur Alexander-penned single in 1969 for L-Rev, and it was soon picked up by Jerry Ross’s Colossus label.  As Richard Levin recalls in our short documentary, this Colossus side showed much promise out of the gate, but was pulled by Ross after Charlie, suffering from a ruptured appendix, had to back out of an engagement that Ross arranged for him at the Apollo.  Unbeknownst to Richard or Charlie, Ross released this and other of Charlie’s cuts on Polydor in Germany later that year.

Charlie McClendon and the Magnificents’:  “Put Me Down Easy.” This Sam Cooke-penned tune written for his brother LC Cooke was McClendon’s first L-REV recording. It made the top-five on the leading pop station (WGH) and R&B station (WRAP) in the Hampton Roads area. McClendon’s rendition a favorite at Virginia/North Carolina fraternity parties.The founders of L-REV were Tom Herman and Richard Levin with oversight by Tom’s older brother Steve. At the time a law student at the University of Virginia, Steve had experience during his 1950’s high school days recording the Golden Crest R&B artist Cartrell Dixon.  Steve used the academic footnote abbreviation for law review journals, L.REV.” to come up with name “L-REV”.  The recording was done in the famed Virtue Recording Studio in Philadelphia, which was the producer of many a hit, including early ones by the incomparable Philly producing duo Gamble and Huff.

“Rainy Night in Georgia” Charlie’s recording of the Brook Brenton classic, that would be the last R&B song he would ever record.  One evening after a performance, Charlie invited Gene Williams, a member of the Platters, back to his home studio to listen to the recording, when lightening struck the house, throwing both Charlie and Gene across the room, and inexplicably setting Charlie’s suit, which he had draped over a chair in his bedroom, on fire.  Charlie saw this as a message from the Lord that he should abandon rock and roll for gospel music.

Charlie McClendon and the Magnificents backing Solomon Burke at the Fort Monroe NCO club in Hampton, Virginia in the 1960s. Another homemade recording by McClenon, this time backing the legendary soul crooner, “King” Solomon Burke.  As Don Harrison discusses in his interview (available below), it was often the case in R and B music that national touring acts, such as Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Solomon Burke and others would travel alone, without a band.  It was the responsibility of the show’s promoter to provide a band, and Charlie became one of the main go-to organ players in the region.

Don Harrison is a journalist based in Richmond, Virginia who writes extensively about the Norfolk Sound and the music of that time. Below are sections of an interview with Harrison.



Charlie McClendon talks about his early life, his career backing up major-label pop stars and why he’s given it up to join the church in these interviews conducted on February 26, 2013 at his Hampton, Virginia home.

Charlie McClendon and his band backed up major-label artists like Solomon Burke and James Brown when they played Virginia venues.

Charlie McClendon and his former booking agent Richard Levin talk about the heyday of playing live shows in Virginia’s tidewater region and beyond on February 26, 2013 at McClendon’s Hampton, Virginia home.