Clyde Stubblefield, Drummer With “Most Sampled Groove In The World”

Talking About “Cold Sweat” and “Funky Drummer” with Drummerworld–Watch on YouTube

Clyde Stubblefield was a hard-working, prolific drummer whose most famous work was done with James Brown. He and fellow drummer John “Jabo” Starks supplied the beats to most of Brown’s 1960s hits. The break he created for Brown’s “Funky Drummer” became the most-sampled drum beat of all time.

Stubblefield ( April 18, 1943-February 18, 2017) is listed as a “Top 500” drummer in Drummerworld. In addition to Brown, he performed with Otis Redding, John Scofield, Bootsy Collins, fellow-Madisonian Ben Sidran* and a host of others in the R&B and jazz worlds. If you’ve been a listener to the public radio show Whad ‘ Ya Know? you’ve heard Stubblefield with the house band.

Stubblefield’s drumsticks are in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and he was inducted into the WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) Hall of Fame in 2000.

*Stubblefield grew up in Tennessee, but lived for the latter part of his life in Madison, WI.

Junie Morrison, Funkadelic Hall Of Famer and Ohio Player

Suzie Supergroupie–Listen on YouTube

Walter “Junie” Morrison was one of those guys, like Prince, who could hear the music in his head and then pick up all the instruments, push all the buttons and turn all the knobs and come out with a one-man-band, fully-formed hit. He apprenticed with the Ohio Players, leading them to their first #1 R&B hit, “Funky Worm,” which he gets most of the credit for, as a writer, producer, arranger and keyboardist.

After a few years helping to send the Ohio Players on an upward trajectory, he moved to George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic. Clinton admired the young sideman, noting that Junie “could do it all, and if you weren’t careful, he would.” It was for his work with Parliament-Funkadelic that Junie earned his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame honor. Junie (1954-January 21, 2017) would move on to produce a number of solo albums.

“Funk is an excellent platform for moving or removing the ills that may be present in our lives.” –Junie Morrison

My last post was on David Axelrod, a producer/arranger whose heyday was in the 60s and 70s, and who would become a go-to source for hip-hop samples. So was Junie. Many artists dug into his catalog for sounds. “Funky Worm” alone was sampled by N.W.A., Ice Cube, Kris Kross, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince and De La Soul. Solange recorded a tribute to Junie on her Grammy Award-winning project A Seat At The Table.

I get much of my news on musicians from Google Alerts, The New York Times, Rolling Stone and other mainstream sources. But I do like to branch out for information from other sources. For Junie, I turned to Okayplayer, a site started by ?uestlove of The Roots in 1999. It bills itself as “the original progressive urban music site.”

“Funky Worm” on Spotify

“Junie,” a tribute to Morrison by Solange–on Spotify

Al Jarreau, Won Grammys In 3 Categories

“Spain” at Live Under the Sky, 1990–Watch on YouTube

Al Jarreau is the only vocalist to win a Grammy in the Jazz, R&B and Pop categories. He won Best Jazz Vocal Performance in 1977 and 1978; Best Pop and Jazz Vocal Performance, Male, in 1982; and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, in 1993; and Best Traditional Vocal R&B Vocal Performance in 2007. (Oh, and add a Best Recording for Children Grammy in 1981 for work he did with other artists on a Sesame Street album.)

My friend Mark, a saxophonist, credits Jarreau with teaching him the value of circular breathing, a technique used to produce a continuous tone without interruption. Mark’s memories of Jarreau include a concert at Minneapolis’s State Theater in which Jarreau picked out then-Minneapolitan Bobby McFerrin in the crowd. He invited McFerrin on stage and gave him a mic; the two then entered into a “battle of the scat.”

I was amused to learn that Jarreau was a graduate of Ripon College in small Ripon, WI, birthplace of the Republican Party. Seems like an unlikely place for a jazz and R&B artist. Apparently, Jarreau’s singing career really didn’t take off until he’d relocated to California.

“[Round, Round, Round] Blue Rondo a la Turk–on Spotify

Joe Ligon, Gospel Frontman for The Mighty Clouds of Joy

Thehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpMOIiqzbCU

“I’ve Been In The Storm Too Long” (2 Versions)–Watch on YouTube

Joe Ligon was an Alabama-born gospel singer who moved to LA and started the legendary gospel group, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, in the 1950s. The group won three Grammys in the 1970s and were the first gospel group to appear on Soul Train.

Their contemporary approach to gospel helped them cross over to the R&B charts and earned them a spot as opening acts for Paul SImon, the Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin.

Their first recording, “Steal Away To Jesus” was for the Peacock label in 1960. Village Voice critic Robert Christgau, while liking some of their later work, still held this early work in high regard: “Is it the formal purity of the Peacock stuff, leaving the excitement to Joe Ligon’s falsetto-piercing shouts, that makes their sermonizing so unpresumptuous?”

“Mighty High”-Live-On Spotify

Rod Temperton, Keyboardist for Heatwave, “Thriller” Songwriter

“Always and Forever”–Watch on YouTube

Who’d of thunk that a lad from Lincolnshire would grow up to be a disco/funk/soul/R&B hitmaker, catch the attention of Quincy Jones and end up writing the title track for the best-selling album of all time?

But that was Rod Temperton (October 9, 1949-September/October 2016). A keyboardist for the disco and funk band Heatwave, Temperton was tapped by Quincy Jones to contribute song ideas for Michael Jackson’s debut solo LP for Epic. The resulting “Rock With You” hit No. 1, and Jones called on Temperton for Jackson’s next album, Thriller. Temperton not only wrote the title song, but he also thought up the Vincent Price narration.

In addition to Jackson, Temperton penned songs for George Benson, Donna Summer, The Brothers Johnson and Manhattan Transfer. He received an Oscar nomination for his contributions to the soundtrack of The Color Purple. 

“Boogie Nights” on Spotify

Kashif, R&B Artist and Producer for Arista

“Love Changes” with Meli’sa Morgan on Soul Train (1987)

Kashif Saleem, born Michael Jones (December 26, 1956-September 25, 2016), started his professional career as a 15-year-old keyboardist with B.T. Express. After spending four years with the group, he left to join Stephanie Mills.

In 1983 he went solo for the Arista label and produced a string of hits, including four  Grammy nominations. Considered by some to be Arista’s answer to Prince and Warner Bros., Kashif was an early pioneer of the use of synthesizers in R&B.

He recorded with Kenny G, George Benson, Melba Moore, Dionne Warwick, Al Jarreau and others. Perhaps is most-famous collaboration was with the young Whitney Houston for whom he produced the hit “You Give Good Love.” He also produced and sang “Thinking About You” with Houston on her debut Whitney, which has sold 25 million copies.

“Help Yourself to My Love” on Spotify

 

 

 

Prince, Creative Genius Behind the “Minneapolis Sound”

Prince at Super Bowl XLI

Forget six degrees of separation. If you’ve lived in Minneapolis since the late 1970s, you’re likely connected to Prince by two, maybe three degrees. It seems everybody knows–or knows someone who knows- a photographer, musician,  club owner, music writer, costume designer, or ad agency exec who had a direct connection to Prince.

I arrived in Minneapolis in 1977, and it was around the time when you’d see articles in the local entertainment weekly, The Reader, about Prince Rogers Nelson, a local teenage prodigy, who had a mind-blowing talent to cross genres and play guitar with a skill compared to Hendrix. I’m not sure I saw it coming, but others (at least in retrospect) say they predicted his rise to the highest strata of artists–right up there with Elvis, Dylan and the Beatles. I knew his passing was a big deal, but I was not quite prepared for the non-stop coverage it has received in the past days–not just from the local media, but internationally. Typical Minnesota humility, I suppose, but even Super Bowl performances, Oscar wins and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame status couldn’t quite convince us that a global superstar was among us.

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction

And he was. It’s now common knowledge that he frequented the Electric Fetus record store and the Dakota jazz club. Local acts still can find their way onto the stage at First Avenue, made famous for its role in “Purple Rain.” I used to drive by Paisley Park in the innocuous white-bread suburb of Chanhassen on my way to my son’s baseball games. The building was white, but otherwise not noteworthy–hardly the architectural counterpart to Prince’s camera-magnet wardrobe.

Maybe I’m a homer, but there’s something about this state that seems to breed creative originals. In addition to Prince, there’s Dylan, of course, but also the Coen Brothers and Garrison Keillor, to name a few. These are people who rewrite the rules of their art, who originate whole genres, who refuse to fall into predictable paths. A Swedish creative director I know, who worked for a time in Minneapolis, speculated that people from Nordic climates have more time to ruminate, imagine, experiment, perfect. A long, dark winter is a  better environment for creative introspection than a sunny surf beach.

“Cream” on MTV Unplugged

I imagine Prince Rogers Nelson, who went to high school 20 blocks north of me, spent his time this way, listening intently to music and tinkering with the pianos and guitars that came his way. Breakthrough artists often come from unlikely places–Liverpool, Tupelo, Lubbock, Hibbing. Prince was one of the true originals. In the past few days, I’ve heard him called our generation’s Mozart, the one artist who will still be talked about 50, 100 years from now. For once, it doesn’t sound like hyperbole.

Natalie Cole, Grammy Award-Winning Vocalist

“Unforgettable”

I’m struggling to think of successful music artists who have followed in the paths of their music legend parents. Roseanne Cash comes to mind, albeit on her own, independent terms. Hank Williams, Jr. is a stretch, but, OK, he did score the Monday Night Football theme if that counts.

“Miss You Like Crazy”

But Natalie Cole was a true force, selling over 30 million records worldwide in the 1970s and during her resurgence in the 1990s. Her album Unforgettable…With Lovea re-recording of her father’s standards sold seven million records on its own and earned her numerous Grammy Awards.

A Natalie Cole Medley

Cole (February 6, 1950-December 31, 2015) started her career as an R&B singer and over the years moved toward pop and jazz. Her parents were both singers–Nat King Cole and Maria Hawkins, who performed with both the Ellington and Basie bands.

William Guest, Backup Singer for Gladys Knight and the Pips

“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” on Soul Train

From the 1950s-1970s there were no small number of singing groups with a trio of backup singers, but Gladys Knight and the Pips were perhaps unique in having three male singers behind a female lead.

“Midnight Train to Georgia” and “Neither One of Us” on The Midnight Special

As a longtime member of the Pips, William Guest (July 2, 1941-December 24, 2015), Knight’s cousin, helped provide the smooth, low-volume vocal punctuation to her melodic leads. He and his fellow Pips added visual contrast, too, through their stage clothing and coordinated choreography.

“I Don’t Want To Do Wrong”

The group was active between 1953 and 1989 and during that time recorded many hits for the Motown and Buddah labels,  earning multiple Grammy and American Music Awards in the process. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001.  The group was formed when Guest was only 12 and Knight was 9; Guest’s sister and Knight, her brother and sister were the original members. The Pips got their name from another cousin, James “Pip” Woods.

Allen Toussaint, New Orleans Songwriter and Piano Man

At the 2007 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

Being a child of the 60s and 70s, I’ve seen “Toussaint” on more than a few record covers. And without even knowing it, I’ve heard many songs and recordings that were made possible through his talent. Let’s see: “Working in a Coal Mine,” “Fortune Teller,” “Southern Nights,” Dr. John’s break-through album are just a few.

“Southern Nights”

Allen Toussaint’s prodigious musical output has been covered innumerable times by a wide range of artists–The Rolling Stones, The Who, Glen Campbell, Devo, The Doors. He hones his craft through decades of live performances, session work, songwriting and producing.

“Yes We Can Can” at KUT Austin

Toussaint (January 14, 1938-November 10, 2015) was a devotee of Professor Longhair’s style of piano playing, but he evolved it into his own elegant style. Despite the New Orleans’ “Big Easy” reputation of loose, rollicking music, Toussaint was known for his exacting approach, as related by a fellow musician in a BBC interview.

Toussaint was awarded with the National Medal of Arts by President Obama in 2013.