(Below) The Tempests, the band from whence sprung the Backyard Heavies
“Listen – Backyard Heavies – Expo 83- MP3″
I hope all is well on your end and that you’ve been digging the Nina Simone track from Monday.
The track I bring you today will be the last until Monday. Friday is of course a holiday and as a result my work schedule is going to be quite hectic. That said I have a cool new edition of Funky16Corners Radio in the hopper (which will drop on Monday).
The track I speak of is one I heard for the first time many years ago*. Unfortunately it eluded me for a long time, being prohibitively high-priced the few times I ever encountered a copy in the field.
Until a few months ago, that is…
While browsing through the sale boxes of a favorite dealer at a recent record show I pulled out a copy of ‘Expo 83’ by the Backyard Heavies, noted the nice price scrawled on the sleeve and put it into my keeper pile forthwith.
Good thing too, because it is – of course – a cooker with the funky sounds, the hard drums and what not.
However, this was for me (and for a lot of other folks) something of a mystery record. Long associated with New Orleans (due to the Sansu credit on the label) and the fact that Roger Branch, who produced the single was for many years a producer and engineer at Sea-Saint studios in that city.
However, as is often the case, the truth (or the seeds thereof) is often but a Google search (or nine, or twenty) away. The other prominent credit on the label indicates that it was recorded at Reflection Sound in Charlotte, North Carolina, so I started looking around and discovered that the Backyard Heavies were definitely a North Carolina band (thanks to Jason Perlmutter’s ‘Carolina Soul’ site).
I started to dig a little deeper and soon discovered that the composer of the tune ‘M. Branch’ was in fact Mike Branch, brother of Roger. Both brothers, Mike on keyboards and Roger on guitar had been members of a band called the Tempests.
The Tempests were an all-white (aside from their singer Hazel Martin who was black) North Carolina soul revue band that recorded a number of 45s and an LP for the Smash label (having had a minor hit with the song ‘Would You Believe’ in 1967). They were well regarded as part of the ‘Beach Music’ scene and a few of their 45s (‘Someday’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Lose Her’) went on to be Northern Soul favorites.
The Tempests were together in one form or another from 1963 to the mid-70’s, so it looks like the Backyard Heavies 45s, which were released in 1971 and 1972 were a much funkier side project.
The Backyard Heavies had two 45s on Scepter and one on the New Orleans-based Hot Line imprint (thus another NOLA connection).
‘Expo 83’ is a rolling bit of piano funk with some hard drums running underneath. The flipside ‘Soul Junction’ is an equally good organ feature. Though I’ve heard other funky 45s by Beach Music-associated acts like Harry Deal and the Galaxies and the Sensational Epics, the Backyard Heavies are the only one of the lot that didn’t immediately set off my “white guys playing funk” alarm.
Mike Branch, who has apparently passed away went on to become a talent agent in North Carolina who went on to form Surfside Records (with General Johnson of the Chairmen of the Board, hugely popular on the Beach Music scene).
I hope you dig the track, and that you get out for some fireworks this weekend.
*Expo 83 was sampled by Pete Rock for ‘The Basement Intro’ and appeared on the ‘Petes Treats’ comp