THE SATURDAY MORNING SONG CHRONICLES - PAGE 16

-- Paul B Allen III: August 24, 2019

THE FUNK BROTHERS – PART 2 

Baby-boomer. Gen-X. Millennial. Until my dying day, I will proclaim that I am a Motown Baby. I don’t think it’s an official classification, but it is exactly what I am. It describes me to a tee. 

And yet, there was other music that moved me too. 

When my immediate family (father, mother, sister, brothers), and I moved from Omaha, Nebraska to San Bernardino, California, our grandparents missed us as greatly as we missed them. 

They demonstrated that in many ways, but one way that was tangible was that from time to time we would receive a large box of the latest records from A&A Record Shop, which was owned by my grandparents, and which was located just across the street from the venerable Allen’s Showcase. 

And even though most of the records were not from Motown or Tamla (a division of Motown), wow, did I ever find some treasures in those little musical care packages from “Grandpa Pop and The Queen.”   

There was the fun and bravado of “Cool Jerk,” a song by the Capitols on Karen Records. “This cat they talkin’ about, I wonder who could it be? Cause I know I’m the heaviest cat, the heaviest cat you ever did see.” Yes, he was indeed, “the King of the Cool Jerk!” 

And then there was the classic song, “Rescue Me,” by Fontella Bass. This song was recorded on the Chess label. Man, I loved this song! “Rescue me. Take me in your arms. Rescue me. I want your tender charms. Cause I'm lonely, and I’m blue. I need you, and your love, too. C'mon and rescue me.” The song is listed as having an “aggressive rhythm section” and some notable backing musicians such as Maurice White (later the founder and leader of Earth, Wind, and Fire) on drums, and young Minnie Riperton among the background singers. 

And oh my gosh, when I heard Jackie Wilson singing “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher” I was over the moon. That song was recorded on the Brunswick label. His most famous stablemates on Brunswick were the fabulous Chi-Lites, led by The Godfather of Vocal Groups, Marshall Thompson. 

I remember running around the house singing. “I’m Agent Double-O-Soul, Baby. I’m Agent Double-O-Soul!” But as a youngster I had never heard of Edwin Starr, who would later join Motown and do songs like “25 Miles From Home,” and “War (What Is It Good For?)” It turns out that Edwin was a great songwriter too. Wikipedia says that "He wrote the song, 'Oh, How Happy,' a #12 Billboard Hot 100 hit in 1966 for The Shades of Blue." This was another of my favorite songs as a kid. 

Everybody has heard of the Godfather of Funk, George Clinton and his Parliament/ Funkedelic groups (two different bands with the same members.) Of them, Wikipedia says: “Parliament was originally the Parliaments, a doo-wop vocal group based at a Plainfield, New Jersey barbershop.  Clinton was the group leader and manager. The group scored a hit single in 1967 with '(I Wanna) Testify' (co-written by Clinton) on Revilot Records.”

How about that? I was listening to a pre-funk George Clinton on our family Hi-Fi. 

Freda Payne? I was completely in love with one of the prettiest vocalists to grace the music scene, and she had a great song called “Band of Gold.” Freda was the older sister of Scherrie Payne who at one point was a member of the Supremes.  Freda married Gregory Abbot, the singer whose song “Shake You Down,” was a smash hit much later. 

Few people know that “Band of Gold” was written by Edythe Wayne and Ron Dunbar. Fewer still know that Edythe Wayne and Ron Dunbar were actually Holland, Dozier, and Holland, writers and producers at Motown who were responsible for many of the hits of the Supremes.  “Band of Gold” was a major hit on the  Invictus label. (This is the label started by Holland, Dozier, and Holland after they left Motown.) 

And who doesn’t remember the group called Chairmen of the Board and their hit song, “Give Me Just A Little More Time?” I’m sure my mom and dad got sick and tired of hearing me TRYING to make my voice crack in that strange, appealing almost yodeling way of the lead singer, General Johnson, as he performed this song. This group was also on the Invictus label. Need I say more? 

Oh my gosh! I just remembered. This article is supposed to be about the Funk Brothers! Had you forgotten too? I’m so sorry! 

Well, despite what you may be thinking, I haven’t lost it completely. At least not yet. This Saturday Morning Song Chronicles is about The Funk Brothers, as they were the musicians who played on each of these hit songs and many, many more for which they never took credit.

I never knew that The Funk Brothers had played on all of these non-Motown songs that I loved, and when I found out, I had to share it with you. 

The Funk Brothers also did some solo projects calling themselves Earl Van Dyke and the Soul Brothers, and some of their recordings like “Soul Stomp," and "Six by Six" became favorites among Northern Soul fans (super fans of American soul music who live in Northern UK and Scotland). 

No doubt, the Funk Brothers were the greatest hit-making unit in the history of music. 

And, it turns out that I have always been an even bigger Motown Baby than I had believed myself to be.

There are nine historic videos curated for your enjoyment below. I hope they bring back some great memories for you, just as they have for me.