James and Bobby Purify were Southern soul singers who had a few hits in the mid-60's then spent time touring. They reached the top ten once.
James Purify -- his real name -- was born in 1944 in Pensacola, Flrorida, and his cousin Robert Lee Dickey was born in Tallahassee, Florida in 1939. Dickey joined the Dothan Sextet as a guitar player in 1963 and a short time later, after the group moved to Pensacola, James Purify joined the group as a singer. In 1965 the two began singing together. For a time the Dothan Sextet toured the southeastern United States as a backup band for singer Otis Redding. In late summer of 1966 Purify and Dickey came to the attention of disc jockey/music promoter "Papa Don" Schroeder, who signed them to a contract with Bell Records (a label that would produce all their hits). Schroeder took them to Rick Hall's Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals to do some recording.
They recorded a composition written by Lindon Oldham and Dan Pennington (a.k.a Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn) there a short time later called I'm Your Puppet. Recording under the name James & Bobby Purify, they endured a 23-hour session that Dickey would recall some years later as grueling and monotonous. The final take was used and became a million-seller that fall, as well as the group's signature song. But Dickey, due to the marathon recording session in Muscle Shoals, said later that he never really cared for the song. It rose to the number six position.
James & Bobby Purify were hot, and continued recording. They re-recorded a song previously done by the Five Du-Tones called Shake A Tail Feather and it caught on. 1967 was big year for James & Bobby Purify. They toured extensively, including a stint as the headline act at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. The money was coming in, much more so from touring and very little from record sales, and the two were wearing fancy suits and living the good life for a time. As fast the money came in, it would go right back out. Other top forty records that year for the duo were Wish You Didn't Have To Go and Let Love Come Between Us. After the year ended they would have no more top forty entries, but they continued touring and drawing crowds for several more years.
Eventually Dickey tired of not receiving much in royalties despite having released a million-selling single, and in 1972 he returned to Tallahassee, where he later found work as the supervisor of a custodial crew with the Tallahassee Police Department. James Purify continued on as a solo act in the early 70's.
In 1974 Dan Penn, who had co-written and produced I'm Your Puppet, introduced James to singer Ben Moore (James B. Moore, born in Atlanta in 1941). Moore became the second "Bobby Purify," and the two performed together for many years, touring together into the 80's. The tours were quite successful, but they had no hit records to speak of, with one exception. In 1976 a re-recording of I'm Your Puppet by James & Bobby Purify (this time recorded by Purify and Moore) went to #12 in England. When James faced some legal problems unrelated to his career, Moore went out on his own, occasionally appearing as Bobby Purify, and occasionally performing with James Purify; Moore was nominated for a Grammy for a gospel recording in 1983. He suffered form a severe case of glaucoma and lost his sight in 1998. Robert Dickey died in Tallahassee in 2011, at age 72.
James & Bobby Purify were popular singers in the mid-60's and certainly had their time in the spotlight. They are remembered very well for their hits Shake A Tail Feather and of course for the duo's biggest hit, from 1966, I'm Your Puppet.
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