The African Beavers
“Listen – You Got Something – MP3″
Today’s short but ever so sweet lesson at the University of Funky16Corners includes contributions from both the physics and psychology departments.
We gather here in our little corner of the interwebs to discuss the incontrovertible attraction that a single 45 can hold for a collector type (like myself of course), as well as the inherent weirdness in the record business of olde.
As in countless freshman creative writing assignments, the discourse herein will consist of a somewhat inflated exoskeleton constructed upon a minimal amount of factual material. Unlike most freshman assignments, the paucity of hard facts has nothing to do with a lack of initiative on my part.
Some time ago, my man DJ Prestige and I were scouring a table full of 45s at a nearby record show, an experience in which the excitement of scoring new records is (just) barely greater than the discomfort caused by the weirdos trying to elbow their way in front of you.*
I had already put aside of a number of intriguing sides when what should find its way into my hands but a 45 by a group calling themselves the African Beavers.
“Well”, I thought to myself (the internal dialogue being an important part of keeping one’s figurative cards close to one’s vest), “this looks interesting.”
I dropped it onto the ‘to be road tested’ stack and kept digging. The ‘testing’ was of course wholly unnecessary, because honestly, how – I ask you – could I NOT buy a record by a group called the African Beavers??
When I finally moved to the side and fired up the GP3 (a few weeks before I dropped it and sent it to portable record player heaven) I was both shocked and stunned to discover that what I had in my hands was not some heavy, gutbucket funk monstrosity, but a rough slice of R&B-cum-soul, clearly of an earlier vintage than I had suspected. I put it on the keeper pile and vowed that as soon as I got a chance to hit the interwebs that I would investigate.
So that’s what I did.
Know what I found?
Or almost nothing. There was a post from last year over at the most excellent In Dangerous Rhythm blog in which there was a picture of the band (more on that in a second) and speculation (and nothing more) that one of the members of the group was a singer named Larry Hale (by whom I have a 45 called ‘Shout and Do the Duck’). It was there that the trail went cold. Other than the fact that the African Beavers had two 45s on RCA released in 1965-66, that was it.
But then, that picture….
Colin (Dilnot, of In Dangerous Rhythm) had found an old trade magazine ad touting the other African Beavers 45 (which I subsequently found my own copy of, also via Ebay) and the picture of the group was both bizarre and thought provoking. There, mugging for the camera were five black men, four in matching tennis sweaters, one in a turban and one in what appears to be a Beatle wig, and another with a bizarre conk that looks like Mickey Mouse ears. Here, frozen in time in what may be the only picture of the group was the African Beavers.
My inclination – strictly conjecture here – is that some genius at RCA was attempting (during the height of Beatlemania) to market a hard edged R&B/soul group as a rock band. Wild stuff.
Wilder still is whoever came up with the name ‘African Beavers’. I mean, what the fuck? I understand that the mid-60’s was – how do you say – a somewhat less enlightened time, and with a name like that I ought to be happy they weren’t posing with huge novelty teeth and rubber tails, but the whole project amounts to the kind of anomaly that might have (in another environment) inspired a cargo cult.
As it is I’m going to have to keep my eyes peeled for their other 45, and hope that if any of you can add anything to the story, you’ll drop me a line.
*Yes, I know…maybe I’m the weirdo…
PS Don’t forget that the special mix I put together for Tony C’s show on Jazz Syndicate Radio starts today, on the interwebs.
It will be broadcast as follows (UK time followed by EST):
Tues 8pm GMT / 3PM EST TUES) .
It is repeated 12-2am Weds GMT (7PM EST TUES) and 12-2pm Thurs GMT (7AM THURS EST) and 4-6pm Friday GMT(11AM FRI EST) .
Sometime following these broadcasts I will post the mix here in the Funky16Corners Podcast Archive. The mix includes a couple of very interesting recent excavations, so I think it’d be worth your time to check out.