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Interview

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Masters of Funk Tour 2011 Rolls on

Pictured, The Bar-Kays.  The Masters of Funk 2011 World Tour rolls on.  Here’s the transcript of my interview with James JJ Underwood of JEA Right Now Records talking about the tour.

You can also listen to my Masters of Funk Tour 2011 interview that features the Bar-Kays latest release “Return of the Mack."

King: This is King from powerhouseradio.com and I am on the line with James JJ Underwood and JJ is the Office Manager for JEA Right Now Records. How you doing JJ?

James JJ Underwood:  I am doing fine, how about you there?

King: I am hangin’, I am hangin’ in, feeling pretty good today.  We want to talk to you a little bit about the Masters of Funk World Tour, which is featuring some of the great classic soul bands like the Bar-Kays, Con Funk Shun, Sugarfoot’s, Ohio Players.  I see you have a lot of different groups that are actually part of this tour but my understanding is not every group appears at every show. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

James JJ Underwood: Yes, we mix it up a little for every different venue that we go to.  The tours’ actually been going on for two to three years now. but we mix it up and give each city a little different taste of each group; because there are like 20 Bands involved in the tour, out of those 20 Bands like 4, or 5 bands perform at each venue. So we kind of spice it up a little and give the people a little bit of everything as far as the funk and the soul goes.

King: Now I see you guys are going to be in Detroit on April 2nd, 2011, so are you in the middle of the tour for the season. How many more dates do you have coming up in 2011?

James JJ Underwood:  We go to Detroit April 2nd, Chicago April 23rd, we do Memphis in May then we go to St. Louis in June. There is pretty much two dates a month, until the year is out for the Masters of Funk.  People really want to see this, they missed all the soul and funk groups. then, the live music people, are still really interested in the live music so the tour is going really well.

King: Is there any particular group among those that we have mentioned the Bar-Kays, Dazz Band, Sugarfoot’s, Ohio Players, Brick, Klymaxx, Mary Jane Girls, any one of these group at every show, do you have like a foundation group, or is it subject to change every show?

James JJ Underwood: It is subject to change every show it is usually, what the fans usually request.  For Phoenix we had Cherelle, the Dazz Band, Con Funk Shun and it was sell out and that’s what people wanted to see in Phoenix.

King: Where could people go to get the complete schedule of the Masters of Funk Tour?

James JJ Underwood: You can go to www.bar-kays.net.  There is a complete list of all the tour dates.  www.bar-kays.net, a complete list of everything.

King: I am King from powerhouseradio.com, we’re talking with JJ Underwood, he’s with JEA Right Now Records.  JJ you have mentioned that the tour is going through the end of the year, is that right into November and December?

James JJ Underwood:  Yeah, right until November and December.

King: So tell me about this new Bar-Kays song, Return of the Mack, I was just listening to it its pretty good. How did they get involved in putting this one out there?

James JJ Underwood: Mr. Larry Dodson, he likes to stay current with his music, and he is always coming up with something and he came up with this. I think it’s really a hit, it’s real current it still has the funk to it and it really displays the creativeness the Bar-Kays, still have.

King: And tell everybody who Larry Dodson is?

James JJ Underwood: Larry Dodson is the lead singer of the Bar-Kays.

King:  Alright, say JJ I want to thank you very much for talking to us about the Masters of Funk Tour 2011, and you said the tour has been going for a couple of years.  I hope in 2012 that you’re back at it one more time.

James JJ Underwood: Thanks for having me I appreciate it.

The Masters of Funk World Tour - 2011

  • Saturday, April 2, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan featuring: The Dazz Band, The Bar-Kays, Zapp, Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players
  • Saturday, May 7 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin featuring: The Bar-Kays, Con Funk Shun, Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players, Zapp, The Dazz Band
  • Friday, June 3 in St. Louis, Missouri featuring: The Bar-Kays, Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players, The Dazz Band
  • Saturday, June 11 in Louisville, Kentucky, featuring: The Bar-Kays, Slave, The Dazz Band
  • Saturday, July 16 in Nashville, Tennessee featuring:  Slave, The Bar-Kays, The Dazz Band
  • Saturday, August 20 in Kansas City, Missouri Featuring: The Bar-Kays, Slave, The Dazz Band



Posted by King on 03/29 at 08:00 AM
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jimmy Castor Bunch Funk Jammin

From underground cool to comedic novelty, Jimmy Castor covers all the bases displaying musical versatility as his calling card.

Will he sing, swing with saxophone, or stomp all night long in the funk?

The New York City native has the expressive multicultural Big Apple as his foundation.

Latin-soul, Afro-Cuban, pop, R&B, funk.  It’s all in The Jimmy Castor Bunch, his showcase group.

This picture is from the cover of his ‘best of’ 2002 CD, The Jimmy Castor Bunch 16 Slabs of Funk.

Released on the BMG label, I wouldn’t say that this is the definitive greatest hits collection, as some good stuff from Castor’s Atlantic Records days are missing.

Track one is an edited version of the funk classic “It’s Just Begun,” a song sampled by numerous hip hop heavies.  The famous 10 second sax solo that opens the song has be cut out.

Novelty tunes “Say Leroy” and “Troglodyte (Cave Man)” are here.

His instrumental saxophone virtuosity shines on Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face."

"Tribute to Jimi: Purple Haze/Foxey Lady” introduces Hendrix’s music to Castor’s fan base, but this medley doesn’t soar like the original tracks.

“Bad," an unappreciated short 2-minute message song, has the hook, rhythm, and lyric to make it all work.  Listen to 40 seconds of “Bad” below.

Of the 16 songs on this album, the ones I have mentioned present the essence of Jimmy Castor.

His Atlantic album catalogue has been reissued.  Perhaps there is a definite best of Jimmy Castor in the future.

I would include the excellent full version of “Potential,” and “Soul Travelin’,” a song The Jimmy Castor Bunch recorded with New York City deejay Gary Byrd.

Read his official biography and listen to my 10 minute conversation with Jimmy Castor and Gerry Thomas (from a longer interview I did back in the day).

But first, listen to The Jimmy Castor Bunch get funky with “Bad."

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Posted by King on 05/25 at 09:00 PM
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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Charles Wright takes "Express Yourself" to Line Dancing

Charles Wright, producer, singer and founder of the classic soul Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band is upbeat about his new album, Finally Got It Wright.

He sticks to the tradition of his early hits “Do Your Thing” and “Express Yourself,” released in 1968 and 1970.

The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm band exemplifies Los Angeles funk just like Chuck Brown personifies Washington, DC’s go-go music.

There’s a free mp3 download of “Line Dance Song” from Charles Wright’s new album available directly from his line dance web site.

Charles says: “I’m not Columbia, RCA or Capital, so I do not intend to pretend that I can compete on their level."

"I am a small company and will act accordingly. Therefore, if it takes me three, four or even five years to complete the job or more, I intend to concentrate on Finally Got It Wright because I honestly and truly believe in it."

Charles Wright was born near Clarksdale, Mississippi.

The family moved to Los Angeles when he was 12. He started on piano and later graduated to vocals, guitar, bass and drums.

As a teenager, Wright led and composed for several doo-wop groups, including the Twilighters, The Shields, and the Galahads.

Charles became one of Hollywood’s most sought after studio musicians while simultaneously becoming a nightclub sensation with his band Charles Wright and He Wright-Sounds.

After recording renowned Los Angeles Dee Jay Magnificent Montague’s theme song, “Spreading Honey,” Charles founded the history-making Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band - the first successful rhythm & blues act for Warner Brothers.

The “Watts” band backed Bill Cosby on his first two musical albums, Silver Throat and The Salvation Army Band: Bill Cosby Sings.

Listen to 30 seconds of “Express Yourself."

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Posted by King on 01/10 at 01:02 AM
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Jerry Butler and Brenda Lee Eager's December Song

"Ain’t Understanding Mellow,” Jerry Butler and Brenda Lee Eager’s dazzling duet hit the charts on December 11, 1971, eventually becoming a #3 R&B hit.

One of those rare quiet storm songs that builds slowly to a sensational climax, “Ain’t Understanding Mellow” was Eager’s biggest hit, and her first.

Discovered in the Windy City of Chicago, Brenda Lee went on to record several other songs with Jerry Butler.

Flashback 25 years to my special conversation with the Ice Man Jerry Butler from the PowerhouseRadio.com archive.

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Posted by King on 12/11 at 01:02 AM
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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Baltimore Flamingo Terry Johnson Soars to the Sky

In 2005, Terry Johnson, formerly of the Flamingos, released, “Let’s Be Lovers,” a song that introduced Jeff Calloway and Tee.

From The Whispers (not the Solar Records group), to The Flamingos, to The Starglows, to Motown Records, Terry has had great success.

"I Only Have Eyes for You” is his best known Flamingos classic.

You may have seen Terry on the PBS television specials “Rock and Roll at 50” and “Doo-Wop Lost and Found."

1950’s “bird” groups, (R&B vocal groups named after birds), were really before my time, so I wanted to discover more about the groups, and about Terry Johnson.

The following excerpt originally appeared in the September 2005 Powerhouse Radio Newsletter:

King - “Terry, you started in the music business at 16, so you beat me by one year, as I started as a college radio announcer at 17.  What was it like to record at 16?"

Terry - “Yes, I was pretty blessed at the age of 16. I had a group I put together, we were called The Whispers. They were from Baltimore, Maryland. We went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Gotham Records to record four songs."

"Two songs I wrote myself and sang lead on. The first one is “Full Heart.” I sang that in my first tenor voice, the high voice. The second song was, “Are You Sorry,” a beautiful love song, I sang that in my natural voice, my baritone voice that I’m talking in right now."

"I switched between first tenor and baritone, a matter of fact that’s how the confusion started with The Flamingos, because I was singing all of the duets with Paul Wilson, I was singing the low part, the baritone, and then I would go into first tenor to do the repeats...(Terry sings to demonstrate).

See what I mean...(switching between the two parts).

King - “You’re from Baltimore. A lot of groups have come out of Baltimore. The Orioles, and some newer groups like Pockets. Who inspired you to get into music?"

Terry - “Yes Baltimore, Maryland had many great superstars, I mean the groups were very plentiful. I can remember the Cardinals, I can remember Johnny Mason, and the Clovers."

"Also, down the street from me...I was blessed, I mean, I had Earl Hurley of The Swallows, I had Sonny Til of The Orioles."

"I was very inspired by Sonny Til. He was the main one. And up the street was Junior Bailey of The Cadillacs. I mean man, there were so many great superstars from Baltimore, but especially on my street, 1300 block of whatcoat Street."

King - “You played guitar on all your records and on all The Flamingos albums. Who inspired you to play guitar?"

Terry - “I was inspired for guitar when I first heard Les Paul, and Mary Ford. Little did I realize that he was using about three or four different tracks that he was playing his solos on."

"I said it’s impossible for someone to be playing that fast. Once I got the shape, then I turned to some of my other mentors."

"Music that I love was Kenny Burrell, jazz, Johnny Smith, the way he played the melody and chord formation."

"I turned to Manny Johnson. Manny Johnson was the guitarist with The Swallows, Earl Hurley also. I turned to Bunty Rogers, he was an excellent teacher. He showed me a lot of the Johnny Smith stuff. And ah, that’s how I really got my soul.”

"Guitar is my soul. Guitar speaks what I feel inside. So when you hear me strumming those six strings man, you’re touching my very soul. You’re hearing it.”

King - “You’ve had your own group of Flamingos since 1961, and you were involved with Motown."

Terry - “From 1964 - 1974, I was at Motown Records as an artist, writer, arranger, and producer. I produced a lot of songs with my dear friend, who brought me to Motown, Smokey Robinson. We had a great team."

"We recorded on The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Temptations, The Miracles, Jimmy Ruffin, David Ruffin, Martha and The Vandellas, Edwin Starr...I can’t even name all of them, I mean because there was such a vast amount of artists at Motown, I really enjoyed what I did there."

King - “How does it feel to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?"

Terry - “It’s the pinnacle of what we entertainers strive for, and it’s a great honor."

King - “Thanks very much for your time Terry. Any closing thoughts for your fans?"

Terry - “Thanks for the ride, and thanks for your support. I love you, and I hope you love my new music. Thank you."

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Now that you know more about the “bird” groups, crack the R&B bird group code in this colorful picture puzzle.

For even more, check out Terry’s Johnson’s biography at terryjohnsonsflamingos.com.

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Posted by King on 11/01 at 01:02 AM
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