Funk collecting has reached new heights in the last couple of years-.-prices for funk records, that a few years ago were sitting in boxes gathering dust, are now at astronomical heights. This has led to exaggerated stories of rarity for certain items and prices on ‘e-bay’ that would normally get you a solid secondhand car. Like all music that emerged from club-based events, the focus on rare funk has brought the music to a wider audience. Five or six years ago, it was difficult to sell funk music compilations, now they sell to people who rarely, if ever, have been to a funk club. Artists who would perhaps never have had their records re-released, are being hunted down by independent labels such as Jazzman and Stones Throw and being given the dues that they so richly deserve.
For us at BGP, this leaves us with a unique opportunity, for our contacts are honed over four decades or more of dealing with American producers, labels and artists. If you need a funk record from Louisiana, John Broven will tell you which swamp to turn left at to find the label owner. If the label you are looking for put out a slice of soul – just the one – Ady Croasdell probably knows who owns it. And so on. Add to this our own catalogue of umpteen owned and distributed labels and I am basically being allowed to be a kid in a sweetshop. So, although Volume 3 is digging much deeper, it is still just scratching the surface.
Of course, some of the most fun is when you can actually talk to the artists about their records. For instance, funk popularisers the Fatback Band have many stories to tell-.-drummer Bill Curtis played all around New Jersey and New York in the 60s and knows many a story about all the characters. His partner in the band, Gerry Thomas, had a similarly interesting early career, having worked with Lloyd Price and Jimmy Castor – he was the arranger on ‘Troglodyte’ and ‘It’s Just Begun’. Gerry wasn’t actually in Fatback until they signed to Spring in 1975, but was involved in many of their recordings up to that point. On this excellent version of ‘Put It In’ – later recorded for Spring as ‘Put Your Love In My Tender Care’ – he was the arranger on its B-side, ‘Peace Love And Not War’. ‘Put It In’ was the second release on Bill Curtis’ own BC Project II label. The first and more common, ‘Keep On Brother Keep On’, also featured ‘Peace Love..’ as its B-side.
Last summer, when we were working on a whole bunch of material from Johnny Otis, we issued Preston Love’s late 60s album Omaha Bar-B-Q. A couple of months later we received a letter from Preston, thanking us for taking the time. Preston – 80 years old and still recording excellent blues albums – is a veteran of the big band scene and played in Basie’s big band. This is of special interest to funk collectors for his excellent 45 on Hudson in the late 60s. We asked Preston if he was the owner and when he said yes, we just knew we had to license it from him.
Preston Love once owned a record label with Otis Ren?© who, alongside his brother Leon, had owned the earliest black independent labels on America’s West Coast: Exclusive and Excelsior Records. They later formed Class Records, scoring rock’n’roll hits in the late 50s. Leon’s son Googie recorded for Class in the 60s, scoring with tracks like Chic A Boo and Smokey Joe’s La La. In the mid 60s they set up another label, Soul Bag, which saw the release of Count Yates and the Rhythm Crusader’s At The Soul In. Produced by Googie Ren?©, this is now an incredibly hard 45 to track down. We present for the first time the tune in its full-length glory.
At The Soul In is a proto-funk R&B instrumental, as is the TKOs Fat Man, a single on the Money Records subsidiary Ten Star from about 1967. It is a propulsive groove with piano which sounds very much as if it has come from the great Hank Jacobs.
Lowell Fulson’s excellent version of Funky Broadway is another example of older black artists dealing with the oncoming funk explosion. For many years, it was rumoured that the Showmen Inc were the originators of Funky Broadway – the Blazers without Dyke. This now seems unlikely – the tapes were recorded in LA but the band was based in Phoenix and were no longer working with him at the time of Dyke’s death. It may in fact be the session players who were backing Dyke on records at the end. The version we have here is from the session tapes and is a good bit longer than the 45, but no worse for that.
Returning to three of our favourite sources of funk for this album means that we visit the works of producer Dave Hamilton, Peter Wright’s Twinight label and Armen Boladian’s Westbound set-up. From Westbound we pick up one side of the Houston Outlaws’ only single for the label – although half a dozen sides remain unreleased. From Twinight we present Renaldo Domino’s only release Let Me Come Within, a typical but strangely exhilarating James Brown-style groove. Dave Hamilton’s archive gives up two slices of funk. The first, under his own name, is the previously unreleased Take Care Of Your Own Business-.-this is joined by Chico & Buddy with one side of their release on Jack Taylor’s (of Rojac fame) Tayster imprint.
One of the most well received tracks on Super Funk Volume 2 was Li’l Buck’s Monkey In A Sack from the La Louisianne label. Prompted by numerous requests – and due to the fact that a) the single is dead rare and b) the track is really good – we’ve put the other side, ‘Cat Scream’, on this volume. It seems that the New Orleans over spill was creating great funk all over Louisiana. Up at Modern Sound Studios in Crowley, Camille Bob – who had also recorded for La Louisianne – recorded the fantastic ‘Brother Brown’. Eddie Shuler’s Goldband label also ran a subsidiary called ANLA which specialised in R&B, came up with fine funk by the Soul Senders and Freddie Love amongst others.
So, finally, we come to a discovery we made in the final week of putting this compilation together. We were given a tape of the productions done by Mike Lenaburg in Phoenix for Floyd Ramsey. Some had seen release on Brent and Ramco, but most of the productions remained unreleased with Mike going on to release records on his own Darlene and Out Of Sight labels. We will be dealing with more of Mike’s productions at a later stage, but on this volume we have gone for the Soul Blenders unreleased funker Bending Soul, recorded in October 1968. The Soul Blenders were a local three piece made up of Junior Whitehead, Gary Whitehead and George Bowman.
By Dean Rudland