The Fabulous Mr. Wayne Cochran
Funky16Corners Radio v.34- Honky Style
Roy Head – Just a Little Bit (Scepter)
Steve Colt – Dynamite (Big Beat)
Billy Harner – Something You Got (66+6)
Nilsmen – Sand Step (RJR)
Apostles – Six Pack (Kapp)
Bob Seger & the Last Heard – Heavy Music Pt2 (Cameo/Parkway)
Hoctor – Cissy Strut (Hoctor)
Art Butler – Soul Brother (Epic)
Harry Deal & the Galaxies – Fonky Fonky (Eclipse)
Moe, Adrian & the Sculptors – Shotgun (Columbia)
Sensational Epics – It’s a Gass (Cameo)
Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds – Funk In Wagnalls (Dunhill)
Wayne Cochran – Chopper 70 (King)
Golden Toadstools – Silly Savage (Minaret)
Flaming Ember – Filet de Soul (Hot Wax)
Jimmy Caravan – UFO (Vault)
Shadows of Knight – Shake (Team)
NOTE: This is the funky part of the first joint podcast with my other blog Iron Leg. While the subject over here is white boy funk, there’s a mix up over at Iron Leg in which we get to check out garage and beat groups of the 60’s covering soul tunes. Since both of these mixes are kind of working the same thematic side of the street, I figured that it might be cool to get them posted simultaneously for a little bit of a compare and contrast exercise, not to mention a grip of excellent music.
I hope every one has had an excellent weekend.
I had the week off – at least from work – and I stayed at home taking care of my youngest son who’s suffering with that bane of babies far and wide, the dreaded ear infection. It doesn’t help that the kid hates – did I say HATES – taking medicine, and we’ve had to give him three separate medications every day. This of course results in a life or death struggle with an unusually strong 13 month old who doesn’t yet understand the value of a good antibiotic.
He’s miserable, nobody’s sleeping, blah blah blah, yadda yadda…if you’ve ever had babies you know the drill.
This too shall pass.
I did take advantage of the occasional bit of downtime to put a fine point on a little bit of a brainstorm that I’ve been brewing up for a while.
As a collector of soul and funk, two genres dominated to an extreme by black musicians, when I happen upon an exceptional funk or soul side by a non-black musician, it gets filed away, mainly because it usually carries with it an interesting story.
There are a couple of different categories for these kinds of records, and they’re all represented in the mix you’re downloading today.
While there are funky records created by artists who are merely making a stylistic detour of sorts – singers/bands that probably never made another funky record in their careers – there are also a bunch of white artists who had a deep and abiding love for soul music and were able to combine this with a real ability to create a groove.
Some of these performers made their living playing nothing but R&B, while others were working a fusion of styles, seasoning their soul with generous helpings of rock’n’roll, country and occasionally jazz. There are some – like Doug Sahm and Leon Russell – who worked a heavy dose of R&B into their sounds but never really worked in soul or funk idioms.
Others, some of whom are represented in this mix, worked primarily as “soul” performers, some so well that in an age where an artist’s image didn’t automatically precede their appearance on the charts, they were occasionally assumed not to be white at all.
The artist that opens this mix is rumored to have been the beneficiary of such a case of mistaken identity. Best known for his biggest hit ‘Treat Her Right’, Roy Head (and his band the Traits) managed to ride that tune to the #2 position on both the Pop and R&B charts in 1965. Head was a dynamic performer, who whipped up a serious head of soul steam while managing to mix in a taste of Texas country at the same time. He worked a James Brown-esque vibe in stage, complete with spins, drops and splits (there’s a video out there somewhere of a Shindig performance in which ass is most definitely kicked), and was a great singer. The tune we include in this mix is one of his lesser chart successes, a 1966 cover of Rosco Gordon’s ‘Just a Little Bit’. He takes Gordon’s piano shuffle and James Brown-i-fies it, taking the tune for a trip on the Night Train, dig?
Next up is an artist I know little about, other than that he started out in Boston, recorded a couple of 45s prized by Northern Soulies, and then headed south to Philadelphia where he proceeded to create one of the finest, heaviest, ass-whoopingest slices of funk, ever recorded anywhere, by anyone. Steve Colt (who’s picture actually appeared on the label of one of the versions of this 45), sounds like a man possessed on ‘Dynamite’, wailing his was around some very heavy drums – sounding as if they laid the song on top of a three minute drum break – and seriously funky guitar. This is one of those records that sounds like the singer burst into flames just as the song was fading out, never to be heard from again.
Staying in Philly for a moment, we visit with another fave of the UK soul crowd, Mr. Billy Harner. During the mid-60’s Harner recorded a bunch of excellent uptempo 45s for Open and Buddha, including ‘Sally Saying Something’, ‘Watch Your Step’ and ‘Homicide Dresser’, as well as a rare and excellent LP on Open. He was rumored to have been a great live performer. I happened upon his take on Chris Kenner’s ‘Something You Got’ a few years ago and grabbed it mainly because it was a Harner 45 I’d never seen, on a label that I hadn’t ever seen either (66+6). I wasn’t prepared for how funky it was, with a typically great vocal by Harner, and some heavy drums working in the background. The time is long past due for some reissue label to get together a comp of his best stuff so he can be introduced to a new generation of fans.
The Nilsmen are best known for ‘The Winston’, which appeared as the flipside of the number in today’s mix, ‘The Sand Step’. I don’t know much about the Nilsmen, other than that they hailed from somewhere in Scandinavia, and that their one and only 45 was a promotional item for the RJ Reynolds tobacco company (thus the RJR label, and, uh ‘The Winston’). There are a couple of different issues of this 45, with different picture sleeves. While ‘The Winston’ is a Hammond screamer, ‘Sand Step’ is more of a relaxed funky affair, with a nice groove to it.
Back in January of last year, when I blogged the Apostles ‘Six Pack’ I had no idea that two different members of the band would be contacting me in the following weeks. The Apostles, who formed in St. Louis , MO in the mid-60’s were one of those bands I mentioned earlier, that spent their time working primarily as an R&B/soul act. They worked the clubs of St. Louis – where they back artists like Gene Chandler, Tyrone Davis, Rufus Thomas, Eddie Floyd, Barbara Mason and The Delfonics – before being signed to a record deal and recording two 45s at Oliver Sain’s studio. The first, ‘Soulful’ is also excellent and extremely rare. The second ‘Six Pack’ is as potent a funk instrumental as you’re likely to come across.
Representing the category of artists that had a soul vibe, and the subcategory of you’re never going to believe who this is, is none other than Bob Seger. The early recordings of Seger and his band the Last Heard (and later the Bob Seger System) are one of the great hidden secrets of 1960’s rock. Creating powerful soul-influenced garage tunes like ‘East Side Story’ and ‘Rambling Gambling Man’, Seger (who even went on to cover Ike & Tina’s ‘Nutbush City Limits’) was a powerful singer, who of course went on to leave all traces of rock respectability behind so he could use his music to sell pickup trucks. Back in the day when he was still making heavy music, he was also making ‘Heavy Music’. Like his Michigan homeboys Mitch Ryder, the Rationals and the MC5, Seger had a soul singer inside screaming to get out, and this was never more obvious than on ‘Heavy Music Pts 1&2’. There are parts of ‘Heavy Music’ – particularly the repeated “DEEEEEPER!!!”s where Seger sounds like Wilson Pickett strapped into an electric chair. Checkout the throwaway namechecks of the SRC and Steve Winwood toward the end.
Any serious funk digger will likely have a Hoctor record or two in their collection, but I’m guessing that most of them are as clueless as to who’s playing on them as I am. What I do know, is that Hoctor is the family name of a group of respected dancers/ choreographers and dance teachers who have been creating instructional material for dancers for well over 40 years. A large part of their catalog was composed of music for dance schools, which oddly enough sometimes included re-recordings of some very funky tunes, like ‘Scorpio’ and the selection included in this mix, a cover of the Meters ‘Cissy Strut’. While this is CLEARLY not the Meters, the band works it out quite well with some crisp drumming and an organist who sounds a little bit further out than the rest of the group. This is only one of two tunes in this mix where I’m not 100% sure that the band is white, but my well-seasoned ears are telling me that this is a room full of Caucasians.
The other track that has an uncertain provenance is also one of my all-time fave Hammond 45s, ‘Soul Brother’ by Art Butler. I have long suspected that Art Butler is the same cat as “Artie” Butler who composed and performed soundtrack music during the 60’s (if this is not the case, or someone out there has some more info, please drop me a line). Either way, the drums here are really snappy, the guitar greasy and the organ, well the organ just wails.
Harry Deal and the Galaxies – like the Sensational Epics who pop up a few tunes down the line – were a part of the Beach Music scene in the Carolinas. ‘Fonky Fonky’ – as far as I can tell having road tested a couple of their other 45s at record shows – is a fairly uncharacteristic vibe for Harry & the band. That said it’s a very funky record, with some great rhythmic turnarounds and some nice wah-wah guitar.
I’m not certain of the chronology here, but I believe that Adrian, Moe and the Sculptors was in fact an early version of Jeremy & the Satyrs, Jeremy being none other than Jeremy Steig. Adrian was guitarist, singer and harmonica player Adrian Guillery who was in the Satyrs with Steig, who is of course the flute you hear in this cover of ‘Shotgun’. While the whole affair is quite shambolic in a kind of “we’re pretty sure we can take the whole Vanilla Fudge thang and take it to the next level’, there is an underlying funky vibe here.
As I said a few grafs ago, the Sensational Epics were another showband from the Beach Music scene. ‘It’s a Gass’ is a pretty standard R&B horn band exercise until about halfway through the record when things stop short and they decide that it’s time for a flute solo (and it’s a good one too!).
If you’ve ever been anywhere near an AM radio, or spent any time listening to an oldies station, you’ve certainly heard the names Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds. Their ‘Don’t Pull Your Love’ was a huge hit in 1970, and I’m sure having heard that tune hundreds of time prevented many a digger from grabbing a ten-cent copy of the 45 and flipping it over. I only mention this because in violation of all the laws of nature and the universe, the b-side of ‘Don’t Pull Your Love’ is a funk instrumental entitled ‘Funk In Wagnalls’ which in further violation of said laws opens with a rather nice drum break. Definitely one for the “go figure” files. Now get out there and grab yourself a copy before they’re all gone.
Now, when it comes to white dudes laying into black music with a vengeance, as well as a whole lot of style, no one, NOBODY, NO HOW gets within a mile of the huge, cotton candy pompadour of the mightiest whitey of them all, Brother Wayne Cochran. Cochran was a wild, wild cat, and managed to do more with an insane haircut and a pair of tight pants than anyone before or since. ‘Chopper 70’ was the flipside of his also quite tasty version of ‘Harlem Shuffle’, and is evidence that Cochran’s band the CC Riders were almost as tight as his sharkskin trousers.
Another diggers favorite is the borderline-insane ‘Silly Savage’ by the Golden Toadstools. I suspect that the “minds” behind this record were a drunken bunch of rednecks with a funky streak, and anyone who takes the time to rhyme ‘Chuck Berry’ and ‘dingleberry’ is OK in my book. The record itself is a heavy slice of organ driven funk with enough grease for any dance floor, and if you can get into the crazy vocals (which I can) the whole bag gets taken to another level.
Flaming Ember had a very solid soulful pedigree, having worked the Detroit soul scene and recording first for Ric-Tic, and then Hot Wax. Though I’m not a big fan of their vocal numbers, ‘Filet de Soul’ has a very Meters-ish vibe to it, and for all you junior diggers out there is a pretty easy (cheap) score.
If his album covers are any indication, Jimmy Caravan was an unlikely funkmeister, looking like Elton John without his toupee. He recorded a couple of cool Hammond LPs for Vault and Tower in the late 60’s, and even went on to do session work for none other than Captain Beefheart. ‘UFO’ is a cut from his ‘Hey Jude’ album, and is funky bit of organ groove in a kind of Wynder K Frog–lite style.
The record that closes out this mix is a longtime favorite of mine, and I still remember my shock the first time I heard it. ‘Shake’ (not the Sam Cooke tune) by the Shadows of Knight (yup, the ‘G-L-O-R-I-A’ cats) is a stone soul killer. This is the version of the band after they left Dunwich and joined the Kasenetz-Katz bubblegum factory, but don’t let that steer you wrong because ‘Shake’ is a BRILLIANT record, powerful enough to get any party started, dumb in the “good” way, and those percussion/handclap breakdowns in the middle are brutal.
So, that’s where it’s at.
I hope you dig it, and remember to head over to Iron Leg to check out the garage side of things.