Gary: “Let’s go back to the Mid-Sixties and look at an R&B Soul Duo of James and his cousin Robert. Their first big hit is the one that most people identify with, but me, I just loved their 3rd Billboard entry. So let’s look at…
The vocal duo of James Lee Purify (born May 12, 1944, Pensacola, Florida) and his cousin Robert Lee Dickey (September 2, 1939, Tallahassee, Florida – December 29, 2011, Tallahassee) formed in 1965. Dickey had previously worked as a guitarist with the Dothan Sextet.
The duo were signed by Don Schroeder to Bell Records in 1966, with Dickey taking his cousin’s surname as a stage name. They had immediate success with “I’m Your Puppet“, written by Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn and produced by Penn at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The record, released in September 1966, spent 14 weeks in the U.S. chart and sold an estimated one million copies.
Although “I’m Your Puppet” was their biggest hit, they had several further successes on both the Hot 100 and R&B chart in the US in the late 1960s, including a revival of “Shake a Tail Feather“, originally by The Five Du-Tones, and “Let Love Come Between Us“.
The duo continued to record and tour together until 1971, when Dickey retired from the music business for health reasons and returned to Tallahassee, where he worked as a city maintenance supervisor as well as singing and playing guitar with his church and as a member of the Bethlehem Male Singers.
James Purify then worked as a solo singer until 1974, when Penn introduced him to Ben Moore (James B. Moore, born 1941, Atlanta, Georgia). Ben Moore had previously worked with Otis Redding, James Brown and as a member of Jimmy Tig and the Rounders, before forming half of the duo Ben and Spence, who recorded for Atlantic Records in the 1960s.
Ben Moore adopted the stage name “Bobby Purify”, and the duo toured together until the 1980s. They re-recorded “I’m Your Puppet“, which became a #12 hit in the UK in 1976, and an album, Purify Bros..
Moore began recording as a solo singer for Mercury Records in 1977, and (as “Bobby Purify”) released an album, Purified in 1979. He also continue to tour as half of the duo with James Purify.
Moore was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1983, in the category of Best Soul Gospel Performance – Traditional, for the song “He Believes In Me“.
In 1998, Moore went blind from severe glaucoma and completely dropped out of the music industry. With the encouragement of Ray Charles, however, he returned to performing and recording. Following a new Bobby Purify album, the Dan Penn-produced Better To Have It in 2005, he joined the gospel band Blind Boys of Alabama.