Hung Over

1965 was the year of "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" and the birth of funk as a genre. So it may be a stretch to call "Hung Over" funk, but it's definitely got the DNA in there...

"Hung Over" came out of Memphis in 1965 on BAR Records. The letters of 'BAR' stood for the names of the co-owners - future Stax partners Eddie Braddock, Estelle Axton and Ewell Rousell. The Martinis featured R&B artists Johnny Keyes and Packy Axton who'd played variously as The Packers and The Pac-Keys.

In his book "Soulsville, U.S.A.: the story of Stax Records" Rob Bowman recounts the story:

According to Johnny Keyes, "When Packy got enraged, in a fit he'd loose this yell - 'Arghhh!' - we did an instrumental and when it came to the break, he did the yell." Everyone, except Estelle, laughed about it afterward, saying it sounded like he was throwing up, hence the title "Hung Over". Estelle hated the yell, thinking it uncouth, and argued incessantly to leave it off the record. This was one battle she lost.

Artist: Martinis
A: Hung Over
B: Late Late Party
Label: BAR
Cat#: 101


The Maskman & The Agents
Stand Up

By the time the 60s came around, Maskman & The Agents had already been plugging away since the 1940s as the Cap-Tans with front man Harmon Bethea. The name change reflected Harmon's new gimmick of wearing a Lone Ranger style mask on stage in a desperate bid to get the attention that had long eluded the band. Released on the fairly high-profile De-Lite sub-label Vigor in 1970, this song is a call to black pride from a band more widely known for its humor (other songs included "One Eyed Dog In A Meat House" and "Tight Skirts And Crazy Sweaters").

Mask Man & The Agents eventually scored two national hits in the late 1960s, "One Eye Open" and "My Woman, My Dog and My Cat." Harmon died at age 86 in 2009 in Washington, DC. His obit is a testament to his determination never to give up:

"While holding down a day job as an Army Department mail clerk, Harmon Bethea struggled for decades to achieve a breakthrough singing group. He went at it so long, and through so many changes in pop vocal trends, that he tried to become famous in jive, doo-wop, rhythm-and-blues and Motown-tinged soul. At one time, he led a gospel group... "If patience is a virtue, Harmon Bethea would be a saint," music historian Jay Warner once wrote."

Artist: The Maskman & The Agents
A: Stand Up Pt. 1
B: Stand Up Pt. 2
Label: Vigor
Cat#: VI707


The Rising Sun
Funky Yolk

Born 1940, Arnold "Hoss" Albury played keyboards and was an organist for the world-famous 'Marching 100 Band' out of Miami. He was a big figure in Miami's funk scene and was a pioneer of the TK Records sound as exemplified by KC and The Sunshine band later in the 70s.

Arnold was a founding member of the group The Rising Sun along with Florida-based producer, songwriter and percussionist Willie Clarke. The two worked with most of the local talent around at the time including Betty Wright and Clarence Reid and put out several records of their own. Can't find info on this particular 45 but The Rising Sun released another 45 entitled 'Good Loving' on Kingston (K269) in 1973 so 'Funky Yolk' (K267) must have been released shortly before. A heart attack and stroke led to Arnold's untimely departure from the music business later that year.

Artist: The Rising Sun
A: Funky Yolk
B: It Don't Concern Us
Label: Kingston
Cat#: K267


John Phillips Soul
& Stone Marching Band
That Memphis Thing

Released out of Memphis on the local Pepper label in 1968 "That Memphis Thing" is a great late 60s, 'big band' instrumental.

Pepper's owner William Pepper was a big music industry figure in Memphis at the time and was widely respected for having helped bring in an all-Black broadcasting format to the legendary WDIA radio station. This song was one of many instrumentals produced by his staff arrangers Larry Muhoberac and Vinny Trouth. The label was later phased out and Pepper focused on producing advertising and radio jingles [More...].

Strictly speaking, the relatively sophisticated arrangement and instrumentation (is that a Moog in there?) shows its roots as a professional studio project and makes it not funk per se, but definitely funk-y. Plus, as far as breaks are concerned, the drum intro ain't half bad.

Artist: John Phillips Soul & Stone Marching Band
A: That Memphis Thing
B: The Soul Strut
Label: Pepper
Cat#: PPR 441


Henry Love & The No.1 Explosion

Out from the left field agin... a weird, almost dub instrumental version of a 'garage soul' song about the end of the world. A pretty neat example of the symbiotic relationship American funk music had with African music during the early to mid 1970s. This could almost be a Fela Kuti and Africa 70 track with it's hypnotic percussion, female back-up and jazz-influenced brass.

Henry "Love" Vaughn is still is an active R&B musician in Chicago. He began his career as a dancer and conga player for the Darlene Blackburn African-American Dance Troupe. He later became associated with Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions as a dancer-percussionist. He played with many well known artists such as the Impressions, Earth Wind, New Birth - right up to R Kelly (who he sued in 2006 over claims that Kelly beat him). Vaughn also has the distinction of having written a campaign song for Barack Obama when he was running for president.

But this 45 seems to have fallen very much below the radar. According to a solitary eBay listing I found "this is a very rare private press 45 released in the 70s ... very tough to find." That's pretty much all I know about this oddity. That and the "Buy It Now" price was a rather hefty $250.

Artist: Henry Love & The No.1 Explosion
A: Fire (Vocals)
B: Fire (instrumental)
Label: Sussan
Cat#: 1001


Bobby Williams
Funky Super Fly

In a time long before tribute bands were common, the late, great Bobby Williams was something odd. Hailing from Orlando, Florida, he was not so much a James Brown copyist but a guy who really seemed to think he was James Brown.

"Funky Super Fly" was released out of Chicago in 1974 and was featured on Williams' same-titled album of that year. Plagiaristic as heck, but "Funky Super Fly" showcases Williams and his back-up band "The Mar-Kings" at their best and is a darn fine tune. Maybe for rare funk appreciaters, '74 might be uncomfortably close to the over-polished disco era. But Williams clearly still held true to the 1960s R&B production values that make this track sound much rawer and funkier than you'd expect for its time. Says Jazzman:

"Thousands of bands recorded funk music bearing more than a resemblance to not only his music, but his vocal style too, though none came so close as being a James Brown clone as did Bobby Williams. That’s not to say Bobby Williams spent his time perfecting cover versions of ‘Cold Sweat’ and ‘Sex Machine’. What Bobby did was pay homage to the Godfather by creating ‘Funky Superfly’ and ‘Soul Brother Party’. It wasn’t exactly a ‘Brand New Bag’, but it was certainly ‘A Bag of his Own’ – and he did it so well even James Brown himself gave his respect."

I much prefer Funky Super Fly Pt. 2 as the band seems to get more into its stride in the second half and I like the way that the call-and-response backing vocals come in to give the groove an added dimension.

Artist: Bobby Williams
A: Funky Super Fly Pt. 1
B: Funky Super Fly Pt. 2
Label: MTVH
Cat#: 3737


Frankie Coe & The Mighty Soul Messengers
Get It Jerk

No-one has much to say about this early-era R&B funker apart from what it says on the label. So... read the label - it's all the info I know.

Artist: Frankie Coe & The Mighty Soul Messengers
A: Get It Jerk
B: Got To See My Baby
Label: Big City Records
Cat#: BC-100


Magic Sam
I'll Pay You Back

Samuel "Magic Sam" Gene Maghett (born February 14, 1937, Grenada, Mississippi) was a well-respected blues guitarist who toured extensively and released several acclaimed albums during the 50s and 60s.

A lot of blues artists around during the funk years dabbled with the genre hoping to get a money-making hit in the charts or maybe just for sh*ts and giggles.

Sam's humorously mean-spirited reworking of the Isley's "It's Your Thing" is full of lines like "If you kick my dog, I'll beat your cat" (?) and represents a foray into funk for him and fellow blues and R&B musician Bobby Rush who wrote and produced the single. The b-side, titled 'Sam's Funk', is an instrumental version.

Though undated, it's safe to assume this recording dates from mid 1969 as the Isley's hit was only released in January of 1969 and Magic Sam died later that year of a heart attack at the age of only 32.

Artist: Magic Sam
A: I'll Pay You Back
B: Sam's Funk
Label: Bright Star
Cat#: 11-1037


Lee Moses
Time And Place

Recorded January 1970 and released out of Memphis, this song is so damn great it's almost a spiritual experience. Huge, huge shame though that the recording is full of pops and clicks - even though the vinyl looks brand new and is entirely scratch free. Suspect messed up master, accidental emptying of vacuum cleaner bag on pressing stamper? Who knows.

Lee Moses and his epic voice are best known for the 1971 album "Time & Place" (available as hen's-teeth rare original vinyl or brand new, re-mastered CD). But as In Dangerous Rhythm says:

"Lee Moses is one of the mystery men of soul music who would appear to have disappeared or passed away because he has not been heard of for years."

But that's not strictly true. There's a bio for Lee Moses here detailing his career from hometown Atlanta thru the New York R&B scene of the 60s and 70s, to his return to GA where he sadly died in 1997.

Funk don't get much more soulful. Not even the out-of-key brass and the 'burning log fire' crackling in the background can spoil this one...

Artist: Lee Moses
A: Time And Place
B: I Can't take No Chances
Label: Front Page
Cat#: RAA-2301


Ernie & The Top Notes, Inc.
Dap Walk

Recorded early 1972, New Orleans, 'Dap Walk' is one of the greatest, most sought after funk 45s of the 'never quite made it' category. Says Funky 16 Corners:

"If there were ever a feel-good funk song, it’s “Dap Walk” by New Orleans stalwarts Ernie and The Top Notes. A happily rumbling bass line, cyclic, syncopated drumming and the catchiest melody this side of “Tighten Up” have made this song legendary in deep funk circles."

'Dap Walk' was recorded live according to band leader Ernie Williams and perfectly exemplifies the up-beat, post-big-band jazz sound of classic New Orleans funk... even though, in an interview at Funky 16 Corners, Williams claims "We didn’t sound like New Orleans. I prided myself in sounding more commercial."

Ernie & The Top Notes, Inc. photo via Funky 16 Corners

Artist: Ernie & The Top Notes, Inc.
A: Dap Walk
B: Things Are Better
Label: Fordom
Cat#: FR 105