Here are extracts from my interview with Bill Curtis a few years back ahead of the Fatback appearing at CampSoul in August
I’ve spoken to Robert Khallis Bell of Kool & The Gang, Larry Blackmon of Cameo and Randy Muller of Brass Construction who all confirm that there was a big street funk fraternity out of New York and the East coast.
That’s right and Fatback opened the doors for that so the record companies wanted their own versions of that. What happened at Perception was the label was going broke and our first two albums just about earned him his money he borrowed from family. He was going bankrupt and said it nothing personal but he left us stranded without a deal. Whilst shopping for a new deal and coming out of Polydor records my lawyer hooked us up with Spring Records after looking at the dubious contract that Mercury was offering.
I remember when I hooked up wit you at Southport 2005 you told me that your track “Dance Girl” was controversial with The Rimshots and you were going to sue them, why was that?
They stole it and took my tune and didn’t pay me royalties and thats another one that came out of “Going To See My Baby” you can tell. Remember what I told you earlier bout the formula? That’s what I used throughout my Fatback career.
But they did credit you on the track eventually
Yeah they did but I didn’t get no money. Not one penny but we worked out an agreement. Joe Robinson wasn’t the most up and up person in the world but he paid me back after I sent some people who represented me to talk to Joe and he ensured we performed with The Moments whenever they did a show.
After the 3rd and last Perception album you join Spring/ Polydor’s Event label. “Mr Bass Man” is a killer but “Keep On Stepping” (That was the big record on there and we’ll be doing that when we come over) and “Wicky Wacky” would become the club anthems. By this time the bass lines of Johnny Flipping would simulate one of a reggae ilk on both those tracks. How much did the Caribbean and reggae influence have on the band as much later this would be evident with Spanish Hustle and Night Fever?
Remember what I told you I got my beat from ?? It came from the reggae from the calypso but what I did was put a 2 and 4 back beat to it which the reggae didn’t have. So by us playing cabaret dances the people loved calypso music and with that New Orleans feel that influenced the Fatback Sound. Now if you listen to “Going To See My Baby”, four tunes came out of that like “Wicky Wacky” and “Bus Stop”. At night we’d play them tunes differently and never the same way twice. So when we went to the studio we’d written another tune on top of it and perform it unconsciously but we were not aware of that. When you have a band thats working every weekend they are writing tunes in between.
“Raising Hell” and “Yum Yum” albums with their sexy funk disco, jazz and Caribbean flavours remain two of my favourite albums that endured a degree of commercial success. “Raising Hells’s” “Bus Stop” created a dance craze to be capitalized 5 years later by another bullet on the future “14 Karat” album. How did you receive that adulation as this did catapult the group into the commercial arena more-so I guess in the UK than the USA?
I never knew until Gerry Thomas came to the UK with Jimmy Castor and said they playing the hell out of “Bus Stop”. When I first came to England I toured with a little van and did bars cabaret places and in the little country towns and built my own following before I did big concerts .
Just spreading the love with John Morales and Frank Ryle of Cool Million in the photo from my debut at Yogi Haughton & Caroline’s Scottish Soul Weekender. This was my second set on the Sunday of 50 Shades Of Play Minutes.. so click the link in “Prince Purple “and enjoy… Fitzroy
Ahead of his Fold Festival 24th June..here’s a snippet of my 2010 interview with Nile Rodgers.
Before Chic how you were involved in the Sesame Street Band and with Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson as part of New York City’s “I’m Doing Fine Now” backing band line up ?
The Sesame Street Band was my first real professional paid tax information job. It was a long running job with one of my longest friends Fonzi Thornton and Luther Vandross. Fonzi replaced Luther and Carlos Amar as they both did the Young American thing with David Bowie. The start of the Big Apple Band happened when Bernard got the job as music director for the New York City group and we’d become friends from doing pick up gigs at the weekends. When they auditioned guitar players Bernard got that job for me. We didn’t even know Tony Thompson then as we stayed with New York City for around 2 years. In 1973 when the Jackson 5 were doing a world tour as their management had ideas of them being bigger than the Beatles, so he wanted them to have more hits before they hit the UK. We were the opening act of the J5 American tour and still without Tony. We did our last show in London and staying in Bayswater and my hotel room was broken into and my passport stolen. It was New York City’s last tour and really they were a one hit wonder that toured for nearly 2 years on the strength of “I’m Doing Fine Now” around 1972/73 as the 2nd album did nothing. They returned to the US that weekend and broke up after. I got left in London to go to the US Embassy to get a new passport, my girlfriend at the time worked as a hostess at a club called Churchill’s an knew everyone on the cool club circuit in London like Gullivers. She took me to see and her favourite band a new group called Roxy Music who were playing at the Roxy which I thought was really cool. The crowd was beautiful hip well to do and cool. I thought this would be cool to do this in black music so when I got back I spoke with Bernard and we auditioned for our band The Big Apple Band. Tony Thompson auditioned and I knew him as an exceptional jazz drummer from perviously working with him in Persian/Middle Eastern pick up bands like Jamshid Al Murad and Grugosh. We were in that circle and he was versatile and exceptional as that music is complicated to play. He had just left Labelle auditioned blew me away but Bernard didn’t like him as he overplayed.
I already know the story but whats the story of Grace Jones Studio 54 and “Le Freak” ?
“Everybody Dance” was popular as an underground anthem in New York clubs like Studio 54 for 2 years and Grace Jones and everyone knew it well and the song’s impact after a year and a half. “Dance Dance Dance” was getting pop radio airplay also and “Everybody Dance” our 2nd formal single, but 1st brought back to life, had her invite us New Years Eve 1977 into 1978 gig at Studio 54, with us as her new record composers. Assuming Grace added us we went to stage door and the guy told us to ‘Fuck Off’. We were pissed off and exhausted and went to the liquor store and bought some rock n roll mouth wash Don Peringnon and went to my near by apartment and stared jamming. So we started playing this groove and singing “ahhh fuck off”…..fuck studio 54 which eventually became “Freak Off” and made it “Le Freak” to make it our own.
With “Rappers Delight” did Sylvia Robinson and Sugar Hill approach you before or after using “Good Times”?
Well (Nile laughs)I first heard “Rappers Delight” in a nightclub called Leviticus which was predominantly a black club that played a lot of the mainstream and underground tracks before they came out. Before we became known as Chic we were a cover band and copied records that sounded exactly like the original artist. We used to copy the tracks and write breakdowns of very famous records that didn’t have breakdowns, so dj’s could play them. We had a recording studio we did a famous breakdown of “Love Is The Message” by MFSB with along tape loop ..we did that and I get excited when I hear it. So when I first heard “Rappers Delight” I thought they had done what we had done and that it was an instrumental for a rapper to rap over. That was very common then in the USA and even in the UK the Jamaican guys used to talk over the tunes. So I knew it wasn’t us playing but I heard they took our strings run on a two track and made it sound very ambient. I thought ok they put more work into their production than we did, then I looked in the dj booth and there was no rapper. The dj was drinking champagne with some girl and the tune was going on for 10 minutes and I thought what the fuck is this? I asked the dj where he got it he said down town from a record store and he showed me the label, and my name wasn’t on it. I went “Woah”!!.. Now when we did that they were white labels and only sold to dj’s we never tried to make commercial profit from someone else work. If it was underground we had no problem with it but it had taken us years to work on a song where Bernard did a walking bass line to a groove. We tried it in 76 with an Ashford and Simpson track and it didn’t work and now someone comes along and basically steals it without credit or royalties ..No that can’t happen!! So we issued a lawsuit and settled out of court and if you see copies of “Rapper’s Delight” now.. we got our names on it.
Greetings on this Trrriiiifffiiiik Tuesday the last day in the month of my enjoyable Overlord X 14 Days In May soul holiday’s experience. I got back Sunday around 6.30 am from anutha dose of “Beefa Feva” episode number 4 with the original Bob Master’s At Work’s Ibiza Soul in Punti Aribi. Apologies for the late post but I had a gig in Essex Sunday night and didn’t get back till 3am and was happily reacquainted with my bed for most of yesterday.
I gotta say from meeting Suzanna Judge, Nikki Baker and the rest of my Charlies Angels crew at Gatwick on the way out to touching down with them on the return flight, it was obvious we were gonna have some fun in the sun. Having done all 4, this one was special with so many highlights to be documented in the August and September issue of The Soul Survivors Magazine. We had the best weather, some of the most eclectic and diverse music I’ve heard from a multitude of experimental dj’s. “The Ibiza Famille” all 800 certain partied like it was Prince’s “1999” and for a mature bunch, we’d put an 18-30’s to shame “Dancing and Prancing” like Candido till 4am.
I saw so many Incognito “Smilin Faces” and people laugh like they had been watching Norman Wisdom, Carry On films and Fawtly Towers, and many doing the soul can can around the pool area, accompanied by the legendary Disco Duck who brought some his not so ugly ducklings for company. A knighthood for Sir Bob Master is on the cards for delivering a relaxed package holiday for both the customers as well as the DJ’s. Thanks for all the kind words re my sets..my aftershave lol..and my “quirky fashion attire”..made me smile like a Cheshire. I throughly enjoyed my daily dwellings with Angie Ledgister, Michael Ledgister, Kev Mathews O’Rourke and Lisa Silvester earthday crew, chill axing on the sun beds and plastic deck chairs poolside. Thanks for looking after me!!
Brief synopsis of a few highlights firstly to Jo Wallace and Ashley Beedle. I was in the room vibe room when it was empty at the start of your initial debut History Of Black Music set and saw that room pack itself put to the max within that educational hour. It was truly brilliant and reminds me of what the Soul Survivor Magazine has been trying to do for the last 10 years.
Loved the pool sets by David Lyn..I got edjumacated musically sir and we shared some great moments with your one liner..”if you like my set I’m David Lyn Lyn..if you don’t my name is Fitzroy”. Marie Garaccio the Disco Queen had me dancing like I was in my prime dancing days 30 years back with her mixture of “Boogie Oogie Oogie”. Dave from 6 Million Steps..I salute you sir. Fiona Hayne”s Gringo in his natty attire always smiling is a reoccurring memory, and for me, the best dancer for a big guy with some sweet footwork that was smooth like MJ’s Moonwalk, was Fred from Essex with his fisherman trousers and old school plastic sandals. Cafe Del Mar although I couldn’t see everyone as we are boxed in was a tick box and I hope you’ll enjoyed my 50 minutes of not so slim shady grey of colourful like my attire music. Can’t mention everyone but like Brucie it was ‘Good to See You To See You ..Nice’ and I look forward to doing the ‘Saturday Night Beefa Fever’ gig next year..
“Saturday Night Beefa Fever”..look Eddie Pilla’s getting his groove on!!
Unlucky for some but 13 represents the amount of years that the “High Priestess Of Soul” Nina Simone left this plane to travel beyond “The House Of The Rising Sun” aged 70. Nina had an intellect that was often frowned upon as though she should be mentally sectioned and often spiritually would quote through her music and her activism “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”. I loved her defiance against the establishment who sought to silence her because she believed “Everything Must Change” and you could “Go To Hell” if you thought otherwise. With her “Love Me Or Leave Me” attitude, Nina a true Nubian African American “ Little Girl Blue” from a young age, nurtured her gift on cross pollinating classical, jazz, blues, gospel R&B and pop. Don’t get it twisted Nina could be “Funkier Than A Mosquito’s Tweeter” in a unique way, somewhat like a “Mood Indigo” parody. Her griot tales were mesmerising to her indigenous culture, those often considered to be “Strange Fruit”, in how proud they could be “To Be Young Gifted & Black” whether she spoke out about “Mississippi Goddam”, the excellence of “Mr Bojangles” or sharing her tales to the “African Mailman”, “The Pusher”, the “See-Line Woman” or the “Blues For Mama”. Like putting my finger in a socket I felt that quiver shiver in her voice when she’s sing with so much impassion. With those twinkling trickles of her piano playing prowess, I became enchanted as though she was truly saying to me ”I Put A Spell On You” cause you’re mine and you will forever be a fan of my music. Well Nina ‘Ain’t No Use” me arguing there as Nina was a true Civil Rights campaigner, who risked and sacrificed her career for those who felt ”I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”. “Why?” because Nina’s ethos was “You’ll Never Walk Alone” “In the Morning” or “In The Dark”. Thank you Nina Simone for leaving me and those who love the essence of your beautiful music “Feeling Good”.
We all know your a proud Wolverhampton lass representing the Midlands with Pentecostal and deep West Indian roots.What amalgamation of music was played in your house and was it as diverse as mine and many others with the inclusion of Jim Reeves and other Country and Western influences?
Oh my god Fitz you went there I love that. Definitely growing up it was gospel music mostly and we were’t allowed to listen to much else so what we got was through the radio. But what is it with West Indians country music and Jim Reeves… “I hear the sound of distant drums”?
Tell me about it.
When me and my siblings used to hear it we thought it was just too dry but you couldn’t turn it off as my dad would kill me. I can appreciate people like Johnny Cash now but as a kid I was like nah!!
What singers did you aspire to be like male and female?
In my formative years my first recorded voice I recall hearing was Sam Cooke as my mother had this album “The Two Sides Of Sam Cooke”. One was the pop side and the other was gospel. The latter was what we heard with songs like things like “Jesus Gave Me Water” and “Touch The Hem Of His Garment” which he did with The Soul Stirrers. So I grew up hearing full on gospel with all the harmonies.The other album was Aretha Franklin’s “Amazing Grace” recorded in her dads church. So Sam & Aretha I’m pleased to say were my first vocal teachers.
How did you manage to strike a deal with Peter Robinson at Dome?
It was sheer luck and I’m eternally grateful to Peter and Mark Shear at Dome Records at the time. I was just singing in a club in Wolverhampton and Mark Shear who was A&R at Dome happen to be in the club with Sinclair who had the hit “Ain’t No Casanova” which was blowing up at the time. I was the local girl on the bill and Mark showed an interest in signing me. Now I was going to do my degree and asked them if they would wait till it was done and they agreed. So I came down to London once I finished and met Peter who heard and loved what I did and signed me up
I distinctively remember the impact of playing and hearing “Flavour Of The Old School”. Coming out of the UK it was equal to what was coming out of the USA like TLC’s, SWV “Anything””, I’m So Into You”,Aaliyah “Back & Forth” and Raj- Nee-“Turn It Up”. It’s kinda ironic that that particular single almost 20 years later has come full circle as influence to your “Soul UK” CD.What was it about the old school flavour that resinated so strong to influence that mid 90’s underground anthem?
With Flavour at the time not much was coming out of the UK and in the States a lot of the R&B lyrics were and the melodies were not so great as they should be and everything was a formular without integrity. So I decided to write about the old school way of how I heard music hence “Flavour Of The Old School”. In todays climate I just felt having looked around at the music scene now, that there are a lot of kids doing well but they don’t I think realise how deep the roots go in Britain, in regards to the people who paved the way for them whom had a struggle. The light doesn’t get shone on these acts and when things were happening like when “Flavour” blew up and before that Soul To Soul and Loose Ends and Imagination, it was a little closed community who saw a little bit of sun then it would disappear again. It just felt that the time was right to show there’s a lot of British success right now but theses are the forefathers that made it happen for me and for them.
I loved “Moving On Up On The Right Side” an amazing improvisation using Curtis Mayfield’s “You’re so Good To Me” used for the anthem “Happy” by Mary J Blige. I loved Mary’s track but your vocals were typical of what we can do UK style when we are influenced by the USA. I think it’s one of your best vocal performances coz it rocks like MJ!
Yeah it has that kind of early MJ swagger about it. I recorded that song with The Ethnic Boys bad boys wicked guys. I’d done that way before I heard the Mary track and remember to this day being at the student union bar at university in Cheltenham writing the album and hearing the Mary track thinking it was me, but listening intently I realised it wasn’t. It was one of those sychronicity moments. Both Mary and I used the same sample and neither were otherwise aware (don’t think Mary’s heard mine) and I loved “Happy” and knew it was going to be a huge hit.
When did you record “Moving On Up” as “Happy” was 1995?
In 1994 whilst I was still at Uni and I recorded “Flavour Of The Old School” which blew up before its release and had to follow it up with something hence “Moving On Up” and I was still doing my distillation in my last year at Uni, but Dome needed an album. I was furiously writing songs but that track was given to me by songwriter Wesley Jones and we recorded it before the Mary’s came out…. It was crazy.
I remember meeting you at Twice As Nice at the Coliseum in Vauxhall where you did a live PA of “Made It Back” and you smash da place .It was a big tune in our playlist and remixed by Dodge what did you think initially when you heard Chic’s “So Fine” break under his funky drum looped production and how did ya pull Redman on the track?
Dodge played the loop to me and I recognized it as Chic but the way he banded up the drums that dropped in the track …it sounded to so fierce. So I thought I had to get this track right and it sounded so defiant so it need that kind of an attitude to it. In my attempt to move from Dome to Parlaphone I was frustrated as it was a push and pull deal with the lawyers. So once that was dealt with I wanted my first record to reflect that I had made it back from the wilderness and so that’s what I wrote on top of Dodge’s groove. And it was Dodges idea to get Redman which I didn’t think it was going to happen but hats off to Parlaphone they managed to get him.
Again the old school flavour runs rife with “Greatest Day Of My Life” using Fat Larry’s “Act Like You Know or Whatnuts “Help Is On The Way”. There is clearly a personal message behind the lyrics do you care to expand?
The funny thing with that song was I was with the 2B3 production crew at a studio in Brixton and it was raining hard. My head was empty and was thinking what am I gonna be inspired to write about. I looked out of the window and create a scenario of a perfect day with the sun as I couldn’t leave the studio with nothing as time is money. So for once I didn’t start with the chorus and started from the top “Its a good thing the air feels good today and it’s better that god doesn’t decide to send the rain.” Then eventually I started to get a vibe for it and had a nice verse and got to the chorus thinking “it’s a great day” eventually becoming “The Greatest Day Of My Life”…and it was a rainy day in Brixton LOL
On the flip side I loved “Weekend Thing” again working with Maestro Dodge he cleverly used one of my fave Billy Paul cuts “It’s Critical” as a sample. How did you find working with the South London Artful Dodger whose DJ,Hip Hop artist and production history is rich in talent?
Ahh bless you Dodge is very chilled and I remember going to his house over Croydon way to work with him and looking through his great vinyl collection in his attic. I’ll be writing away and he’d be doing his thing and if he’d hear something he’d go “Yeah Bev that’s happening” and his eyes would sparkle and we’d roll with the idea. Whilst he wasn’t a writer of melodies or lyrics he was great at doing was editing. He’d hear something and say thats right or not right and if he doesn’t end up running a label one day I’d be very surprised as he’s got that fantastic ear.
You definitely crossed over and captured the attention of the more commercial world appearing on BBC1‘s music show “Just The Two Of Us” touring with Take That and winning celebrity Mastermind in 2010. You Have an MBE won 3 MOBO’s 2 BMA(Black Music Awards)and are dedicated to working for charity. Did you imagine this could happen back in 1994?
Not a sausage..I knew I’d be making music in some way shape or form.But If you told me I’d be picking up a medal for what ya doing from the Queen at Buckingham Palace meeting Mandela,singing with Prince and touring with Take That…I’d have been like “Eh didn’t they split up?” To say I’ve done all this in my career a is shock and a joy and a privilege is an understatement. The harder times have taught me valuable lesson and the great times have encouraged and inspired me and I look back and think …”yeah that was me” .
I have to be honest in how I saw your career escalated in the commercial arena and was pleased that you “made it back” to a larger platform from where you started. I was unable to embrace the rockier pop dance music you were making as it didn’t fit with what and where I played. I got your “Soul Survivor” CD and was excited because it the same title as our magazine but unfortunately if wasn’t as I imagined it.When you were younger did you want to be a soul singer or just a singer as when most black acts these days gain commercial success , they seem to lose their identity as soul singers because the industry tends to water down the earthier music of black origin and make it more expendable to anyone from Cheryl Cole to Jedward?
Funny thing was that I felt comfortable pulling in my other influences and with people who usually talk to me in interviews from the soul & R&B world, I don’t really talk a bout loving David Bowie, Hendrix and Funkadelic’s crazier “Maggot Brain” rockier era and me being a huge Prince fan. In my head I’m emulating what they were doing but to people who don’t know that side of me it confused them. I see it as a soul hybrid and don’t see myself as a purist anything to say that my voice is anything but soul as it’s where I clearly come from and it’s my base. But I don’t think its pure but mixed with other bits and the minute you step outside whats perceived as the comfort zone or a category, people start predicting “oh here we go here we go!!” . I can appreciate that some people didn’t want to go on that journey with me but others totally did. Whats always interesting about people who’ve’ had accusations of selling out which is a horrible phrase like Diana Ross, Prince and James Brown, is people realise looking at the wider picture that its part of their progress and journey as an artist. Having said that it was difficult when I left the label, the discussions and some of the battles I had in song choices and production direction at EMI were like “if you don’t do x and we can’t do y Beverley”, and for me the situation became unattainable. 360 deals were coming in, the record company was losing money hand over fist trying to get more money out of the artists like they weren’t getting enough already and I thought the writing was on the wall and just bided my time got out and became a free agent. But if people look at the whole book and not just the chapter they’ll get the whole story.
Your new album “Soul UK” I’ve heard a few of the songs and reviewed in our June July issue of Soul Survivors.I like the take on Junior’s “Mama Used To Say”,Jameroqaui’s “When You Gonna Learn?” and Soul To Soul’s “Fairplay”. The fact that its all organically UK will be interesting to see how the Americans receive this. In your own words how important was it to document this musically?
Its so important to appreciate those who laid the path before us. It wasn’t an easy road that I had but these that came before their path was ten times worse than mine ever was. I still have a degree of spot light on me but for these guys it came and dimmed but I hope the light shines again. This is not a definitive collection of British soul as I could fit in Imagination, Linx Mica or Light Of The World. Its me telling my own story through other British acts to arrive at my point and its a way of saying thank you for the sacrifices to enable me and I’m really pleased with the project.
We just had 30 years of celebrating British jazz funk with Central Line Imagination, Beggar & Co, Junior and Incognito. And like you said earlier this generation of teenagers and youngsters have no concept of the sacrifices made so they can have artists like Chipmonk and Tinchty Snider. Chipmonk is intelligent and like you completed his university studies but a lot of the other artists who live that rock n soul lifestyle bringing certain attention to themselves in the press, they seem to have no respect for the previous history struggle including the racism whatsoever.
Absolutely this generation wasn’t born when some of this was going down and as a kid I remember coming down to the Brixton Frontline visiting my cousin Don E and my aunties and remember the whole Atlantic Avenue scenario and the racial divide in Brixton 30 years back. Junior and Central Line were making music then and struggled and broke through. Today relatively speaking it is so much easier than what those had to go through 30 years back
Thanks Beverley I think I timed that right thank you Bev
That was great Fitz serious good to see ya again
Luther Ronzoni Vandross was born a Tauren on 20th April 1951 in New York and grew up in a lower Manhattan housing project till his father passed when he was 8 years old before moving to the Bronx. Influenced by his parents and older sister singing, whilst at William Howard Taft high school he formed a vocal group Shades Of Jade with friends Carlos Alomar Diane Sumler and Fonzi Thornton whom he would work with in future times. As part of a musical theatre workshop, they recorded “Listen My Brother” which Luther and his group sang on the children’s Sesame Street in 1969.
By 1973 he written 2 songs recorded by Delores Hall and a year later school friend Carlos Alomar became David Bowie’s guitarist and invited Luther to a recording session at the famous Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia. Bowie upon hearing his velvet tones recruited Luther who co wrote “Fascination” and did BV’s on the “Young American” album. Also rumoured is that Luther sang BV’s on “Golden Years” a track he would sing with another outfit Mascara a few years later.
His composition “Brand New Day” was featured in both the film and Broadway musical of “The Wiz”. By now he was working with Bette Midler, Judy Collins, Gary Glitter and the Brecker Brothers. Whilst working with Bette Midler he met Arif Mardin of Atlantic who worked with the Average White Band Aretha and Chaka Khan and reacquainted his Shades of Jade outfit with the addition of Christine Wiltshire who went on to work with Jocelyn Brown and Leroy Burgess and record two albums under the guise of Luther.
Providential not co incidental Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were part of Luther’s Band reigniting their collaborations from the Sesame Street band. Cotillion dropped the group and Luther ended up retaining the rights to the album so they were out of print why I don’t know as they were nice albums. He became an in demand session singer working with Chic headlining the BV’s of the their “C’est Chic” debut album and the original instrumental version of “Everybody Dance”, Sister Sledge, Quincy Jones, Roberta Flack, Odyssey, Peter Jacques Band, New York City Band, BB&Q Band, Kleeer to Cat Stevens, Ringo Starr & Carole Bayer Sager.
As disco became prevalent Luther fronted bands Lemon, Gregg Diamond, Charme, Mascara and Change…the rest is history. Now 1981 his voice was unmistakable and he touted a successful record deal with Epic a subsidiary of Sony. Again releasing album after album he alongside his partner in rhyme the Marvellous Marcus Miller he co wrote and produced his own albums as well as a few for Cheryl Lynn, Aretha Franklin. Covering many a classic by artists Brenda Russell, Stevie Wonder and Burt Bacharach & Hal David, and Heatwave, Luther had a unique style of replicating a composition as though he’d sung it first.
Luther has sung with many female vocalists including Cheryl Lynn, Gwen Guthrie, Patti Austin, Dionne Warwick, Janet Jackson & Patti Labelle. Travelling around the world doing live concerts, I was lucky enough to see him in the mid 80’s at Wembley, Luther was undoubtedly instantly recognisable on a track even if he was doing BV’s.
His film credit includes “The Meteor Man” a Robert Townsend film where he played a villain within a gang. As wells singing for the 70’s gang epic “The Warriors” and writing a song sung by Roberta Flack for the film starring Cicely Tyson and Richard Prior “Bustin’ Loose”.
Lending his voice to many musical styles mostly gospel & soul based but versatile in other genres, he truly was one in a million as sung by Dee Dee Bridgewater. Even now I discover tracks he featured on and when you listen carefully you wonder how you never recognised him as on it. The reason being that he blends in with background as much as he shines in the fore front. Two years back Melba Moore told me to listen to her album “Closer” and when you hear Luther on “Something On Your Mind” I you’ll understand why. Vocalist songwriter producer and an all around African American Artist of huge proportions…I miss you Luther “Velvet Voice” Vandross.
This was written in July 2010 to celebrate at the time 5 years of losing Luther. I also did a show links included below around the same time so enjoy..Fitzroy
Greetings on this Froback Friday. Roughly almost to the day this 3 minute movie short footage was taken when I was invited to spend a day in the studio with Shalamar rehearsing for a date at the Purfleet Tavern in Essex back in April 2010. I had already met and interviewed Jeffrey Daniel a few year before but hadn’t yet met Howard and Carolyn. It’s where I met like the Fatback Band classic song their “Mr Bass Man” Otto and musical director on guitar in this footage Stelios. We have needless to say been “Friends” ever since. I’ve had this footage for 6 years and it gets it’s ‘Homevidwood’ film premier today because A..it’s Froback Friday and B.. I’ll be delivering some Ingram “Dj’s Delight” duties to the 02 Forum in Kentish Town from 7pm till Shalamar come on stage at 9pm for the London leg of their extensive tour. Here they are singing one of my ultimate Shalamar tunes “I Owe You One” and it just reminds me of the first time I heard that tune how those melodies and Howard’s lead captivated me back in that vintage wine year of 1979. I now they will do this tonight with some “Full Of Fire” enthusiasm. So if you’re thinking of going with your “Friends” or your “Girl”..”Make That Move” and join Jeffrey, Carolyn & Howard for the “Shalamar Disco Gardens” which for one night is the 02 Forum..Doors open a Gwen Guthrie “7th Heaven” pm if you wanna take that experience to the memory bank!!
Here is a TBT moment from last year “Night To Remember” as will tomorrow night be of me and Carolyn Griffey of Shalamar backstage after a performance. We jump back and “Do It Again” like Steely Dan and give it to you “Right In The Socket” at Forum 02 Kentish Town. Doors open 7pm, I’ll be spinning till 9pm when Shalamar featuring Jeffery, Carolyn & Howard “Make That Move”, “Go For It” and give you that Full Of Fire Shalamar catalogue “Live On Stage” like Roxanne Shante!!
Half way through their extensive UK tour Shalamar featuring Jeffrey Daniel , Carolyn Griffey and Howard Hewitt hit London this Friday with yours truly on the wheels of steel. Check out this mix “Over & Over” ahead of a promised “Night To Remember” and believe me you can “Take That To The Bank” memory for life..-3 days and counting