Tagged: funk

Galactic Mission: Complete

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Sometimes the evening clouds part and the constellations appear. The Little Dipper bends toward the heavens, the Big Dipper makes eyes with the North Star, and the Seven Sisters gather and form a Kumbaya circle. It is at this time in your otherwise ordinary life on Earth that cosmic forces align and draw you in. So preach people who study astrology. And for one moment last month, I was a believer.

Check that; I was an astronaut.

A few days before, I took a break from work and checked my Facebook page. There, among the barrage of status updates, selfies, and sponsored ads, I came across this concert promotion posted by The Rhythm Foundation, a local organization that’s been hosting lively music performances in South Florida for over two decades.

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Let me talk about a particular funk band — Galactic.

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Since the late 1990s, this New Orleans quintet has displayed a flawless, other-worldly funk that never goes sour. Their sound is a gumbo that mixes a saucy southern soulful rhythm guitar, finger-lickin heavy Bayou bass lines, and skippety be-bopping percussive beats with a sprinkle of cowbell and a double dash of high-hats. And that’s just the instrumental jams. When they invite rappers to lend vocals, add one part old-school-hip-hop to that gumbo, dropping verses on the hard street life of the Big Easy.

This is head-bobbing music, back and forth, back and forth. If Rush concerts are ground zero for air drummers, then a Galactic concert is ground zero for head bobbers.[1]

On two occasions I had a chance to watch Galactic perform. The first time was at New Orleans’ Voodoo Music Festival in 2010 and the second time was at last year’s Sunshine Music & Blues Festival at Mizner Park in Boca Raton, and both times I was regretfully too inebriated so I missed my chance to acquire a proper appreciation for their live gigs.

So when my Facebook page brought me this news of a free Galactic concert on a Friday night, I stared at that astronaut on my computer screen for while. But then it hit me, that sonic boom of resistance and left-brain logic speaking to me from a voice closer to home listing all of the why-nots:

  1. Friday night.
  2. Rush hour.
  3. Distance.
  4. Kids.
  5. Saturday soccer matches.
  6. Saturday chores.
  7. Etcetera.

So I shrugged, passed the cursor over the thumbs-up symbol, and settled for adding my “like” to the photo.[2]

Reason prevailed and I forgot about the whole thing. I went back to work.

On Friday morning, on my way to the office, my wife calls me. Bad news, she says. The check-engine light is on in my car.

I immediately called our go-to mechanic shop and informed them. They said I could bring the car Friday night and drop the keys off through one of the bay door slips.

That evening after our kids’ soccer practice, we piled into both of our cars. I had one of my kids with me, while my wife tailed behind with our other son.  We made plans by cellphone to have dinner near the mechanic’s shop. We knew of a few family friendly restaurants in that area. As we drove towards the traffic heading north on Interstate-95, it hit me, this idea, like a comet crashing into the frontal lobe of my brain:

Honey, the mechanic is around the corner from Hollywood ArtsPark.
What?
Let’s go see Galactic.
But…

This time the wave of resistance was no match for the cosmic forces. We had no choice but to acquiesce to the forces and the planets and the moon.

Thirty five minutes later, we were at Fillmore Street and 24th Avenue, in Hollywood, Florida, dropping off the VW keys with the last mechanic there.

Then we directed my car towards ArtsPark to search for a parking space amid the crowded street corners and distant music 2015-01-30 20.53.28from the opening band (Monophonics). We found a spot on a side road, crossed a few streets, and entered a Friday night of neon and tie dye and bearded men in flannel shirts while the first band wrapped up their set.

We snacked on hot dogs and chips.

We killed time. We waited.

Suddenly, the bright lights dimmed to space-age blues and pink. Galactic arrived and got rolling. We side-stepped the crowd and found an ideal spot near the corner of the stage. I took turns putting my kids on my shoulders where they could see the band up close through the clouds of smoke and clusters of neon, along with other miniature people secured to the shoulders of their own dads.

When trombone player Corey Henry grabbed the mike and rapped to the crowd, hands went up and waved back and forth with the beat. When the band introduced vocalist Erica Falls, we were transported light years away.

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That night we bobbed our heads.

That night we were astronauts.

And when the night ended and our mission was complete, we returned home safely.


Here’s a track from Galactic’s 2007 From the Corner to the Block:


Footnotes:

[1] Speaking of head-bobbing: Toy bobble heads are reported to date back to around the 1840s and are based on a character from a Russian-penned short story that was described to have a neck that resembled “the neck of plaster cats which wag their heads”?

[2] Why does Facebook only permit a thumbs-up option to express your feelings about a post? What about the fist-pump or the high-five? I believe those have earned a spot on our menu of digital expressions, Facebook. And while you’re at it, so have the thumbs-down, the middle finger, and the double middle finger.

Copyright © 2015 Long Play Miami

Woe Ain’t Me – Reflections of a Florida Blues Man

2013-03-15 21.32.27Joey Gilmore is a blues man, but not the kind that brings you down.

Whether as a response to discrimination, poverty, injustice, or simply a lost love, traditional blues music has forever been synonymous with melancholy and human misery. You’d think that blues singers were the same; always feeling, well…, blue. If so, then Joey Gilmore is the light that cracks through that stereotype.

See the thing about blues, well, you know that’s what R&B means, rhythm and blues. It’s blues with rhythm to where you can dance.

There was such a stigma about the blues [back in the day]. Blues was mostly considered music for poor people; poor, black and ignorant…

The sad part is that people miss out on so much about the blues because there’s such a terrible misconception about it.

Blues is great music, man.

Gilmore, 68, plays blues with an upbeat. He uses guitar progressions and rhythms that make you feel good, even if [he] used to wake up every morning, to get to work by nine, but then [he] lost his job and now [he] can’t even borrow a dime.

Gilmore was born in Ocala, Florida. By the time he was 5 years old, he was an orphan.  His mother passed away and his father ran off, leaving him and 7 brothers and sisters behind. The children moved in with whoever would take them. Aunts, uncles, cousins. Young Joey found solace in music.

I started banging around on tin cans, buckets and barrels and stuff. Whatever I could find a beat on.

He taught himself well enough that he was invited to join the high school band at Lincoln Park High as a drum major. Gilmore also taught himself guitar and started his own band at 14. One afternoon, the band was invited to play a gig at the opening of a gas station in Mascotte, FL.  The year was 1959, and small Florida towns like Mascotte were deep into segregation, much like the rest of the south. Gilmore’s band proved to be quite popular at the event. People were dancing, mingling, integrating. And then, from a distance, Gilmore saw a truck. As it approached, he could make out the passenger. It was Fred Thomas, then Mascotte’s mayor and chief of police.

He came stormin’ in… while the party is going on. Rolled in with his foot dragging out the door. The car didn’t hardly stop long enough.  In those days they had one of those big long whip antennas and the dirt road wasn’t paved like they are now and he come in with a cloud of dust behind ‘em and the whip antennae just going back and forth…He jumped out the car and came over and said, I ain’t gonna have it, I ain’t gonna have it, I ain’t gonna have these nee-gees and white folk mixing in my town.

He broke the party up and everybody had to go home.

It was funny. 

To others, the memory might have had a lasting emotional effect. But to Gilmore, it plays like a comedy. He goes on to say it was no big deal, we got through it. ‘It’ being the ‘it’ that segregated people by the complexion of their skin, the period when whites and blacks stood at diametrically opposite ends of the social ladder. And Gilmore’s reaction, some 50 years later? It was no big deal.

For the most part…, blacks and whites got along better [back then] than they do today.

That’s how Joey Gilmore carries himself.  He doesn’t let things make him blue.

And in return, the universe seems to bestow goodness onto him.

In 1962, after graduating from Lincoln Park High, Gilmore was looking for a proper reason to leave his hometown of Groveland (FL).  One day, Gilmore received a phone call that would change the course of his life. It came from his brother-in-law who lived in Miami. The call went something like this: Hey Joey, Frank William’s band is looking for a guitarist. Do you want to come down here?

Soon after, he was on a Greyhound bus, one-way ticket stub in hand. Gilmore arrived in Miami on a Sunday. By the following Wednesday, he was performing at Cafe Society in Overtown with Frank Williams & the Rocketeers, one of Miami’s most popular R&B bands of the 1960s. But the progression from Groveland to the Cafe Society stage wasn’t so linear.

After meeting Frank Williams that Sunday, Gilmore learned that the band was actually looking for a bass guitarist, not a lead guitarist. They told him he had three days to learn how to play it.  Gilmore got to work.

They had a dressing room upstairs over the stage. That’s where I would go, every day, day and night, and practice on bass.

It turned out Gilmore was no stranger to the bass guitar.

When I was at home, I used to get on my back porch, turn my record player on, get me a stack of records and I would take my amplifier and I’d turn all the treble off the amplifier, nothing but bass. Just turn the bass wide open and turn the volume up high so I can get that punchy sound. And I’d take my guitar and tune the strings down…and I would sit down with the record player and play the bass line on every song.

The Wednesday night performance at the nightclub went smoothly and launched Gilmore’s professional career, one that would figure prominently in Miami’s surging inner city nightclub scene of the 60s and 70s.

Frank Williams & the Rocketeers. Gilmore is second from left.

Frank Williams & the Rocketeers. Gilmore is second from left.

Gilmore played bass guitar with the Rocketeers for two consecutive years until 1964 when he joined the Army. When he returned after a two-year stint, Frank Williams had found a replacement, bringing in Arkansas-native guitar virtuoso, Willie (Little Beaver) Hale. No worries. Frank Williams formed a new band for Gilmore and named them The Rocketeers No. 2.  And this would be Gilmore’s band. He would play lead guitar and often handle lead vocals.  The Rocketeers No. 2 performed at popular nightclubs in Overtown and Liberty City, among them, Double Decker Lounge, Mister James Club, and the Continental Club. This went on for a few years.

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Then in January 1971, The Big Break: R-1550594-1227729210

Gilmore cut his first ever record as lead. The song was written by Little Beaver and titled, Somebody Done Took My Baby And Gone. It was issued on Frank William’s independent label, SAADIA RECORDS, which was named after one of his twin daughters.

The record was then reissued two months later by the Philadelphia soul label, PHIL-LA-OF SOUL, one of the major soul labels of that time.

It was a national hit record. It was in the top 10 on every soul radio station in the country.[1]

I ask him to tell me about that experience.

Sad to say it but I was green as grass. I didn’t know anything about the business end of it so consequently I never got a dime from none of it.

But I had popularity as far as going to different towns and playing. I had radio play all over the place. I would go to places and it was like wow, this is superstar. But I didn’t know it. I thought I was a band player.

When he says he was green as grass, he means it. Joey Gilmore got ripped off by concert promoters over and over again. He didn’t have a manager to help him with those things. He says all he knew how to do was put a band together and play music.

But Gilmore doesn’t dwell on it, and we move on.  gilmore45

In 1976, Gilmore signed with the Henry Stone label, BLUE CANDLE, a division of TK Records. He released a few singles and a self-titled (Joey Gilmore) funk album.

He rode that wave for a few years.

Musicians thrive on the whims of the public but that can be risky because things might be roaring today and tomorrow it’s different. That’s the way the music world is, constantly up and down.

Gilmore then turned to blues music.  In 1989, he released So Good To Be Bad, a blues album in the style of his hero, B.B. King. The record landed him gigs overseas, including a 12-week tour in Switzerland.

Since then, Gilmore has recorded four additional blues album, the last two titled The Ghosts of Mississippi Meet the Gods of albumsAfrica (2006) and Bluesman (2008), both to critical acclaim. A few years ago, he won the prestigious International Blues Challenge awarded by The Blues Foundation of Memphis, TN. These days, he’s still going strong. This summer he’s booked to play blues festivals in Austria, Italy, and Germany. You may occasionally get a glimpse of the man performing at the Sunday Jazz Brunch in Fort Lauderdale. And when you listen to Joey Gilmore play the blues, don’t expect melancholy.  Not from him.

Everybody has stories and you want to spend time whining about yours? [No way.] I could be down in the dumps and I turn on the TV or go out and talk to people and man, if you listen for awhile, you say, I ain’t got no problems. Homeless people… and people who don’t have jobs.

Every day I wake up on the green side of the earth is a blessing to me.

I don’t let anything get me down.

… even if somebody done took his baby and gone.  Here is Gilmore’s 1971 hit song:

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Footnote:

[1] I checked the Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B Hits, an anthology that covers the period 1942-2004. While Gilmore’s song Somebody Done Took My Baby and Gone does not appear to have cracked the Hot R&B chart in 1971, a reflection more of the times, in the 1940s, there were 2 similarly titled songs that did garner a mention: Somebody Done Changed The Lock On My Door (Louis Jordan, 1945) and Somebody Done Stole My Cherry Red (Eddie Vinson, 1949).

Copyright © 2013 Long Play Miami

Miami Sound Reissued

Before a young and visionary Emilio Estefan usurped “Miami Sound” for his Latin crossover band of the late 1970s, the term had existed for about a decade as a nationally recognized musical style and genre.

In the mid 1960s, while the country spiraled towards a long and painful war in Vietnam, a group of local talented musicians, writers, producers and arrangers came together under the genius of TK Records and its founder, Henry Stone, an independent record distributor who had settled in Miami after making records for years in California.  Stone set up shop in a warehouse in Hialeah just a few blocks east of LeJuene Road.  He recruited local producers Willie Clarke and Clarence Reid (“BlowFly”) who ran their own small record label – Deep City Records – and had laid solid groundwork for what was to come.

Clarke, a former member of the Florida A&M (“FAMU”) 100 Band, recalled during a recent panel discussion one of the key and fundamental elements of this unique sound:

Every time we came home [from college] for spring break or Christmas holidays, we’d get together and walk the streets of Overtown from club to club and the horn players would go and sit in with groups like Dizzy Jones and Frank Williams & the Rocketeers… We developed a style of playing that was almost equal to: you gotta march when you hear the song. We developed this big brass sound with horns… which was traditional in the FAMU sound.

The TK Group combined the songwriting talents of Clarke and Reid, and Stone’s connections to national record labels and distribution skills, and under TK, they recorded funk and R&B influenced by Miami’s cultural dynamic at the time.  According to Clarke:

We had hillbillies, Gospel singers, Bahamian guitar players,… The Miami Sound came from a real integration of different styles of music and we blended it together.

Big horns, deep bass grooves, tight guitar riffs, sometimes a piano, sometimes an organ, always soul.

Early contributors to the Miami Sound included James Knight and the Butlers, the aforementioned Frank Williams, Willie “Little Beaver” Hale, Joey Gilmore, and Timmy Thomas.  And the women – strong, no-nonsense, in-your-face. There was Helene Smith, considered Miami’s first lady of soul, Betty Wright, Gwen McCrae.  Smith and Wright were holdovers from the Deep City days. McCrae would become a star in her own right with the top ten hit Rockin’ Chair in 1974.

For a while Miami Sound was comparable with some of the biggest R&B music labels of that time: Motown (Detroit), Stax Records (Memphis), “Sweet” Philly (Philadelphia).

So what happened?

Well, TK’s music would evolve and cross over into dance and specifically disco in the mid 1970s. Harry Casey (aka KC) and Richard Finch were two aspiring musicians who started working at the TK studio packing records. Soon they were writing music for Gwen’s husband, George McCrae (Rock Your Baby, a #1 hit in 1974) and others before they formed their own group and exploded onto the disco scene as KC & The Sunshine Band scoring TK Records a string of #1 hits that became iconic with the era. A great run indeed but disco quickly floundered in the early 1980s, and TK, facing financial difficulties from a severe drop in record sales, filed for bankruptcy.

Soul Jazz Records, a reissue label in London, has reprinted copies of a compilation record,  Miami Sound: Rare Funk & Soul from 1967-1974 [http://www.souljazzrecords.co.uk/index.php] featuring a wonderful sampling of the early pre-disco funk, soul and R&B that made music history in Miami.

Here’s a taste: