Saturday, October 04, 2008

Family Underground Once In A Lifetime Hollygrove CD

Family Underground Once In A Lifetime Snippets
A new release from Hollygrove Records who brought have previously brought us two 45s from Sammy Campbell featured on IDR last year.
Here is the Hollygrove bio on the band:

The Family Underground was one of New Orleans most prominent soul and funk bands of the seventies. Lead producers Roland Treaudo and Manuel Herrera Jr grew up on opposite sides of Hollygrove but with segregation policy they attended the same grade school where they first met. Born 1952, Roland was brought up in Stone Weasel Baptist Church with seven siblings and extended family members who made up half the small congregation. In strict sanctified tradition there were never any instruments save a minimally used organ. His uncle Clarence Treaudo led the way through vocal stylings marked by growls, grunts, harmonies, and pared emotions in religious worship. Born 1950 oldest of four siblings, for ten years Manuel went to St Lukes Episcopal Church a completely Hispanic congregation of mostly native Central Americans. The Spanish spoken was so steeped in indigenous tongue, much unintelligible for Manuel an altar boy. A pipe organ accompanied the church choir, the music conservatively stiff and white in character. Although having little honest expression in church, Manuel learned a sense of classical and harmonic tones that invariably led to perfecting his soulful yet reserved background singing.

They took music instruction in middle school and in 1965 had their first short-lived band the Delltones led by Thaddeus Griffin. During high school their band consisting of Hollygrove friends and classmates became known as the Fabulous Fantoms. Being underage Manuel’s father Herrera Sr chaperoned them to local venues, in 1968 they were already opening for many concerts in the Greater New Orleans area including acts by Lou Rawls, The Commodores, Dorothy Moore, Etta James, Bobby Womack, and Jackie Wilson. The Fabulous Fantoms were a local hit, the leader William Norflin signed a contract with Big Deal Records for one single "Mau Mau” bw “Get a Little Bit” their first release. In 2001 Tuff City label poorly compiled on CD many of their recording sessions done by New Orleans top engineer Cosmo Matassa in the early seventies. Mismanagement and failed negotiations caused the Fabulous Fantoms members to disband during a musical hiatus lasting several years.

1974 Roland and Manny now of legal age wasted no time rebounding bringing all but two original Fabulous Fantoms musicians back to create the Family Underground: drummer Winston Shy, his brother Parker Shy on bass, Milton Lewis on saxophone, guitarist Arthur V Bell, and Thomas Mitchell on trumpet. They quickly gained a Sunday residency at the all black nightclub Whitey’s Devil’s Den on Banks and Galvez Street in the heart of New Orleans business district. The party warmed up at midnight, Manuel rocking the grand piano, Roland and Parker going lead on mic, the heat drenched dancefloor exceeding capacity of 400 clubbers strong well into 4am Monday morning. For over 250 straight weeks Family Underground were so popular no promotion nor flyers were ever needed.

With their residency and frequent tours to Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida while balancing life back in Hollygrove they had little time to record. In 1975 back in “Cos” Matassa’s Warehouse Studio they cut one single “Everybody Knows” bw “Let Me Feel Your Love” written by Tony Owens and produced by “Senator” Jones on Power Funksion Records. The following year they turned Isley Brothers’ “For The Love Of You” into a stripped down classic far superior to the original. Family Underground separated following the end of their five year Whitey’s Devil’s Den weekly. But Roland and Manuel immediately went to Ultrasonic Studio hiring musicians Nick Daniels on bass, Roy Joseph on guitar, Earl Smith Jr for background vocals, and drummer Willie Green. They cut the first five songs of “Once In A Lifetime” and included “All We Have Is A Song” and “Nowhere To Run” produced a year earlier by Willie Turbinton with the original band into a seven song demo looking to contract with a major label. Motown and Capitol turned them down, “too Earth Wind & Fire” was the response they got. Manuel and Roland gave the demo to local entrepreneur Eddie Stewart with an indie hip hop label who did nothing with it.

In the late eighties after many years had passed Eddie told Roland he burned the tapes. Another 15 years later never fully buying the story, Roland contacted Eddie’s widow early August 2005. Couple weeks of reconciling work schedules Roland made it to her house, the multi-tracks were gone but among a stack of discarded tapes Roland finds the production master and gives it to Manuel couple days before hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans. While everything in his house and Hollygrove were destroyed, Manuel, essential personnel at Touro Infirmary hospital, remained safe with his wife Ruth and family. The one belonging Manuel brought was the master, not only saving Family Underground history but becoming the sole inspiration for Hollygrove Records.

You can pick up copies direct from Hollygrove Records or as a download via Wax Poetics.

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