Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Ebony Rhythm Funk Campaign
I was trawling through MySpace and was pleased to discover that one of my favourite bands Ebony Rhythm Funk Campaign had reformed. The cureent line-up consists of John R (Ricky) Jackson Keyboards; Matthew (Phatback) Watson Drums; Lester (Lammy) Johnson Bass; Ron Hedrick Trumpet/Fluglehorn; Henry Leon Miles Saxaphones; Pamela Tanner-Davis Vocals; Michael John Woods Trombone/Keyboard; Tony Cheeseborough Guitar/Vocals; Bruce Valance Guitar.
The New Ebony Rhythm Funk Campaign is a renewal of the efforts of the original Funk Campaign. With their early origins at Lamp Records in Indianapolis as the Ebony Rhythm Band, this group of storied musicians has been at the forefront of Rhythm and Blues music since 1969.
When they traveled to Los Angeles, California, in 1971, the Ebony Rhythm Band found themselves living on popcorn and hope, with a healthy dose of hustle thrown in for survival. In those days, Rufus used to live just behind the house that ERFC lived in. More than once, Ebony, who used to practice in the kitchen of that house, were visited by L.A.’s finest and told to “turn down the music” when it was Rufus on the other side of the fence who was causing the commotion. Passing acquaintances included The Commodores and Earth Wind and Fire who were also doing the “starving in LA” scene at the same time ERFC was wood shedding in the kitchen. When Matt Watson ran into Phillip Upchurch at an impromptu LA party, the chance meeting between old Indianapolis school mates led to a meeting with Wayne Henderson of Jazz Crusaders fame. Henderson heard ERFC and decided to produce the group's first album. “Reach For It” was released in 1973 with Henderson playing trombone in the ERFC horn section. The LA scene found ERFC warming-up Curtis Mayfield, New Birth, The Grass Roots, Doby Gray, The Whispers, The Commodores and Three Dog Night.
After many months of survival in the streets of L.A., the group headed for home. In 1973, ERFC made their way back to Indianapolis. The next few years were very busy ones, doing concerts with the likes of Al Green, Donny Hathaway, Jackie Wilson, The Stylistics, Patty Labelle, The Ohio Players, The Guess Who, The Mystics, and Sha Na Na. These events which surrounded the release of Reach For It might be considered the “first era” of ERFC.
The “second era” of ERFC began with the recording and release of “How’s Your Wife and My Child” with the B side “Oh Baby.” How’s Your Wife made it to 69 on the Billboard Hot Soul 100. Oh Baby pulled air play on the east coast but never made the charts. In this era ERFC played concerts with Earth Wind and Fire, The Chilites, B.B. King, and The Spinners and club dates with Donny Hathaway and Bobbie Blue Bland. But lack of promotion from the Innovation II label left the band in disarray and saw the original keyboardist, drummer and guitar player all leave the band.
The “third era” of ERFC was in 1975 through 1978. This era featured new personnel and a new album “Watchin You Watchin Me” on the ChiSound label. The album was a technical triumph but once again suffered from lack of effective promotion from ChiSound. The last years of the 70’s saw ERFC in decline, playing their last gig in 1980 with almost completely new players.
Today we see the rebirth of ERFC and the beginning of the “Fourth Era.” Almost all the current members were original members from the 70’s, and they have come back together like a long lost family finally coming home. Now, in the 2000’s, ERFC rises again!!
Stay Tuned Ebony fans!
You can get the early Lamp Recordings on CD:
Heavy funk from the Indy scene of the late 60s -- the lost album by one of the funkiest combos in the Midwest! Ebony Rhythm Band have an incredible sound that seems to take the heavy bottom of New Orleans Funk and merge it with the trippier elements of Detroit psychedelic soul -- no surprise, considering they hailed from Indianapolis, a point about halfway between the two cities! The tracks on the set have a really great tripped-out groove -- using lots of guitar and organ over heavy rhythms, in a style that's a bit like the Meters at times -- but a lot freer flowing. The album features 2 tracks that formed the basis of one of the group's singles -- plus a lot more that were never issued at the time, including a few by other incarnations of the combo! Titles include "Soul Heart Transplant", "Ode To Billie Joe", "Light My Fire", "Vanilla Fudge", "Get Yourself Together", "Drugs Ain't Cool", "Fool Am I", and "It's Too Late For Love". CD contains the bonus alternate version of "Light My Fire". Dusty Groove