Funky16Corners Radio v.71 – Getting the Corners
The Highlighters Band of Indianapolis, Indiana!
Richard Marks – Funky Four Corners (Roulette)
Tommy Wills – (Funky) 4 Corners (Airtown)
Lee Dorsey – Four Corners Pt1 (Amy)
Willie & the Mighty Magnificents – Funky (8) Corners Pt1 (All Platinum)
Jerry-O – Funky Four Corners (White Whale)
Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs – The Four Corners (Veep)
TSU Toronadoes – Getting the Corners (Atlantic)
Willie & the Mighty Magnificents – Funky (8) Corners Pt2 (All Platinum)
Lee Dorsey – Four Corners Pt2 (Amy)
Highlighters Band – The Funky 16 Corners Pt2 (Jazzman)
Here’s hoping that everyone is finally enjoying their summer.
It’s been a busy week hereabouts, less to with the blog than the real world moves. Nothing serious, just stuff.
That said, by the end of the week things – blogside – got quite busy as I foolishly sat down and decided to put together (and write up) two podcasts, one for Funky16Corners and one for Iron Leg (If you dig fuzzed out 60s pop, make sure you check it out). As a result I find myself here (on Saturday) marching through a marathon writing session, all the while digi-ma-tizing new vinyl arrivals and keeping an ear peeled for the napping three year old in the other room.
The new edition of the Funky16Corners Radio Podcast that I bring you today – the seventy first – started to come together a month or so ago when my man Tony C hepped me to the quality of a record that I had heard of, but never actually heard, that being ‘The Four Corners’ by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. Now, as is evidenced by the title of this very blog, I have an interest in the “corners” sub-genre of funky 45s, so much so that I’ve endeavored to pick them up wherever I find them.
Oddly enough, of all the funk/soul dances namechecked in the records of the day, the execution of ‘The Four Corners’ (and all exponential variations herein) wasn’t all that mysterious, being a fairly simple hip-thrust to the points of the compass, multiplied when deemed necessary by the man on the record. In addition to the records included in this mix (and some I’m sure I have yet to hear) that use a ‘corners’ dance in the title, there are scores of others that drop the name of (usually) ‘The Four Corners’ in the standard listing of the popular dances of the day, a list that almost always included the Boogaloo, Philly Dog, Camel Walk, Boston (or other regional) Monkey on and on ad infinitum.
Having christened this blog after one of the truly great funk 45s, ‘The Funky 16 Corners’ by the Highlighters Band, in which the original dance is squared (though not a square dance), I bring you today a collection of variations on the theme (as the longhairs once said), every last one a seriously funky record.
Things get started (of course) with the Highlighters Band and the original (though not an original 45…I wish*) and ‘The Funky 16 Corners’. This is nothing if not a virtuoso performance by the band, led by vocalist James Bell, who having decided to double down (and then again) on the corners, absolutely tear up the joint. One can only imagine the looks on the dancers in the room when they went into that sixteen hit breakdown near the end of part one, many of them sprawled on the floor with lower back injuries. The mix is set up so that with all the two part records (there are three of them), you get the first part, and then the second part drops at the other end of the mix in descending (ascending??) order (i.e., the Highlighters Band Pt1 is first, and Pt2 is last), so stay tuned for the rest of the record.
Next up is Atlanta area funkster Richard Marks with the ‘Funky Four Corners’ on Roulette (originally on the ATL label Tuska). ‘Funky Four Corners’ was the second of his four 45s for Tuska (and as far as I can tell the only one to be picked up nationally) , and while I haven’t heard the other three, I can’t imagine they all kick ass as soundly as this one.
I have a couple of 45s by Ohio saxophonist Tommy Wills in the crates, but his ‘(Funky) 4 Corners’ is a recent discovery. According to the Buckeye Beat web site, Dayton (and later Richmond, IN) based Airtown was Wills label. He recorded four 45s for the label, releasing ‘(Funky) 4 Corners’ in March of 1968. While the fidelity may not be high (is there such a thing as “half-a-mono”?) energy and funk are in high gear. The flip side of this one is a nice version of Aretha’s ‘(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone’.
The next record has appeared in this space before, but honestly, could I do a mix like this and leave out Lee Dorsey’s unfuckwithable ‘Four Corners’? Written and produced by Allen Toussaint, and rumored to feature none other than James Black on the drums (how about those breaks?) ‘Four Corners’ is one of the great New Orleans funk 45s. I mean, in addition to all those drums, you get to hear Lee testify with the “SHAKE-A MAKE-A BREAK-A HULA” and the “FOUR CORNERS BABY!”. It bears mentioning that ‘Four Corners’ is one of a couple of 45s in this mix that owe a serious debt to Archie Bell and the Drells’ ‘Tighten Up’. Whether this has to do with that particular record being especially suited to doing the “four corners”, I cannot say for sure.
Next up is New Jersey’s own Willie and the Mighty Magnificents, taking things to the next level with the ‘Funky (8) Corners’. Led by Willie Feaster, the Mighty Magnificents laid down some very tasty 45s (and a couple of LPs) for All Platinum between 1968 and 1972. ‘The Funky (8) Corners’ opens up (and continues) with some heavy drums, sampling once again from the ‘Tighten Up’ template, with a very tasty horn chart and all manner of dance floor/craze jive from Feaster and company.
If you fall by here on the reg you already know that I ride for the work of Mr. Jerry Murray (known to his friends as Jerry-O) in a big way. His entire career was built almost entirely on dance craze records, and ‘Funky Four Corners’ is the funkiest and most storming of them all. His White Whale era (most of which were originally issued on Murray’s Boo-Ga-Loo imprint) is by far his heaviest stuff (including a funk version of Paul Williams old school R&B chestnut ‘The Hucklebuck’) and should be grabbed whenever located in the field.
Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs made their first, biggest (and almost only) assault on the charts in 1960 with ‘Stay’. Of course if you’re only going to hit once, it helps if you do it with a certifiable rock’n’roll classic. They kept recording through the 60s for a variety of labels (including the New Orleans imprints Deesu and Sea-Horn), recording ‘Four Corners’ for Veep in 1969. The funk of ‘Four Corners’ is light years beyond ‘Stay’, with a whole lot of grit and the complete absence of falsetto vocals.
The ‘Tighten Up’ connection gets a whole lot closer, with a number by the band that provided the (uncredited) backing on the original Archie Bell hit, the TSU Toronadoes. ‘Getting the Corners’ is a not so distant cousin of the original “source document” with a somewhat funkier beat. They namecheck the ‘four corners’ throughout with some nice drum breakdowns and a horn line that borrows from ‘The Horse’
The final three tracks in the mix are the second parts of the Willie and the Mighty Magnificents, Lee Dorsey and Highlighters Band 45s, all significantly lighter on the vocals than their respective a-sides, all worth grooving to.
I hope you dig this edition of Funky16Corners Radio, and I’ll be back on Friday with something to close out the week.
*Though my Jazzman reissue is autographed by two members of the band, so that’s cool too…