Marva Whitney – What Do I Have To Do To Prove My Love To You?

marva whitney

2012 has been a terrible year for the soul & funk world with the passing of so many greats. Unfortunately the last week has been no different with the news of the loss of not one but two legendary singers.

First it was Marva Whitney – a.k.a Soul Sister #1. Like many of soul music’s legendary divas, Whitney’s career started way back at the age of three (in 1947) when she was part of her family’s touring gospel group, The Manning Gospel Singers (Manning was Marva’s birth name) After working with other r&b groups through the 60s, she finally pitched up with James Brown as one of his featured vocalists alongside Lyn Collins & Vicki Anderson. She recorded a number of tracks but it wasn’t until It’s My Thing – a response to The Isley Brother’s “It’s Your Thing” that she gained commercial success. She was to record further singles under James Brown’s guidance before eventually leaving Brown’s Revue and signing (ironically enough) to The Isley Brothers T-Neck Label.

Whitney was to retire from the music business before returning in the 80s to join forces with many of her colleagues from The James Brown Revue to tour as part of the JB Allstars. In December 2009 she collapsed whilst performing on stage in Australia which doctors later treated as a stroke. Sadly Marva was to catch pneumonia and this was to lead to her untimely death at the age of 68.

Fontella Bass

Fontella Bass’ story is strikingly similar to that of Marva Whitney. She was the daughter of a gospel singer (Martha Bass) and by the age of 9 was accompanying her mother throughout tours of the South West. Her big break came when she was discovered by legendary Chess artist Little Milton and it was Milton’s bandleader, Oliver Sain who recruited her to back Milton on piano for live shows & recordings.

Whilst Bass was only there to play piano, one night Milton didn’t show up for a gig and was drafted in as a replacement singer where she impressed so much that she was given a permanent slot as a vocalist within the newly formed “Oliver Sain Soul Revue” A few years later she quit the band and relocated to Chicago upon where she found herself auditioning for Chess Records. Chess like her so much that they immediately signed her up as a recording artist.

The first recordings for Chess records were released in 1965 and found reasonable success in the r&b charts, however it was to be an original composition that gave Bass commercial success. Rescue Me featured two artists that were to become huge in the funk & soul world – Maurice White on drums (who later became the leader of Earth, Wind & Fire) and a very young Minnie Ripperton on backing vocals. The song was a huge success and was to become a million seller (the first for Chess since Chuck Berry a decade or so before). Whilst a number of other singles followed, none was to have the success of Rescue Me and after a long period of legal wrangling, Bass was to finally be awarded her share of royalties & songwriting credits.

In 2005, Bass’ health started fading after a number of strokes and on 26th December 2012 it was announced that she had died as a result of complications from a heart attack. She was 72. We here at Gazfunk would like to pass on our condolences to the family & friends of  two very special singers. May they both rest in peace.

Spencer Mac – Ka Ka Kabya Mow-Mow

Si Cheeba

This week’s track is brought to you by our next very special guest contributor – SI CHEEBA

Following a misspent teenage youth of 6 years of travelling round the country non-stop to attend club sessions, all-niters, weekenders and live performances, the Cheeba-Cheeba night was established in Manchester in 1991 with a mainly funk45 & jazz-groove playlist – also touching on funky reggae, latin-boogaloo and a dash of contemporary hip-hop.

This proved the springboard for the newly christened “Si Cheeba” to be asked to guest DJ at other spots around the North of England – such as the DIG! family nights in Leeds, Manchester clubs such as Feva and Hoochie Coochie and the emergent DJ bars such as Dry Bar, Atlas Bar, Day & Night – as well as a residency at Jazz FM’s Liverpool dockside CafeJazzBar.

The rest of the 90s continued guest spots further afield with residency and promotion of several nights –

“codename:FIREFLY” was one playing a mixture of funk, reggae, soundtracks, hip-hop, jazz beats – mixing 60s and 70s original vinyl with the latest 12″ releases from around the globe – for dancers and beat diggers alike.
“Bar-a-cu-da” – was more on the latin – bossa- jazz – boogaloo- brazilian tip. Again playing a mixture of rare-old meets brand-new vinyl.

After relocation to the South East in 2000 the DJ spots have extended to be Essex and London based – with bouts of travelling to Europe and the US. DJ-ing at nights alongside Norman Jay / Ashley Beedle / Ian Wright / Eddie Pillar / Andy Smith / Andy Votel – and guesting at clubs from Berlin to Edinburgh.

Meanwhile the record collecting carried on unabated and took in Funky-Rock and Psyche-Fuzz-Beats to play at Vinyl Vulture events and clubs like Southend’s Blue Meanie – to 60s Latin-Soul and RnB being played at Shake at the Boogaloo – and plenty of Funk 45s and Jazz Breaks to drop at clubs like “Sister Funk” and “Keep The Faith”

Also the last few years have seen his exclusive 45 re-edits being carved to dubplate to be played out to great dancefloor reaction at a number of venues.

In 2010 the Black Cat club was started up with Si Cheeba as resident DJ / organiser alongside world famous music photographer and vinyl fan – Dean Chalkley. This continues into 2013 as a bi-monthly night and has seen them DJ alongside specially invited guests such as ( Jazzman) Gerald Short, Liam (Jukebox Jam) Large, DJ Lubi, Eddie Piller, Freestyle Record’s Greg Boroman, DJ Format, Dean Rudland – amongst many others.

As well as spots at festivals such as WOMAD and Kendal Calling, Si Cheeba has become a regular guest at Snowboy’s GOOD FOOT night at Madame JoJo’s as well as recent guest DJ spots from Paris to Brooklyn and at legendary London venues such as Royal Albert Hall and the 100 Club.

2013 is looking to see further events and nights staged – highlighting various musical genres and also plans for recording sessions for both live musician and sample based productions with a view for vinyl releases. Over to you Si…

“What sort of music do you play?” – it’s a question often asked when people I meet find out that I spend much of my weekends playing tunes to folks in clubs and bars.

Sounds like a simple enough question, but it’s actually hard to explain to “the layman” in a bitesize answer. Usually a vague “old sort of funky stuff” will be enough…rather than rattle off a list of all the genres I will cover such as “funk 45s” / “rare groove” / “golden age hip hop” / “psyche rock” / “jazz beats” / “hammond breaks” / etc, etc

Which is where my choice of record comes in. It is ALL the above genres in under 3 minutes of British eccentricity made in the year of my birth.

Spencer Mac - Ka Ka Kabya Mow Mow

> SPENCER MAC – KA KA KABYA MOW-MOW (sing a little love song) – Penny Farthing Records

Kicking off with a war-cry yelp – straight into a head nodding bass and drum loop that wouldn’t sound out of place if the likes of Rakim or Lord Finesse started to the flow with some raps over the top.

Then the “out there” deep backing vocals chant the title before a heart wrenching blue eyed soul vocal expresses his love to show how much he cares. The background vocals eerily repeat the sung lines in a ghostly voodoo chant – under the influences of the bayou funk of Dr John and the darkside of New Orleans.

After a couple of verses the hammond takes the spotlight for the crescendo and it appears Brian Auger has just walked into the studio…then, before you realise what’s just hit you, it’s over and you are left scratching your head to take in all that just happened.

Spencer Mac was the name of the band (not the singer as often thought). They only released two 45, both on Penny Farthing label. The second of which was a great version of Spooky Tooth’s “Better By You (Better Than Me). My copy came into my hands from the legend that is Chris “the Judge” Arthur in the early noughties. It’s one of them records that I’ve played in a variety of clubs – yet the constant reaction is always the same. There will always be someone that comes up to ask “What the f*** was that?” – to me that’s the ultimate seal of approval. 

Gi Gi – Daddy Love

This week’s update is brought to you from a bus somewhere between Atlantic City & Philadelphia – the wonders of modern technology eh?

First up – this is another one of those tracks I don’t have too much info about (this is becoming something of a recurring theme!!) Suffice to say it was a (no) hit wonder out of New York in (I would imagine) sometime around 72-74.

The track itself starts off at breakneck speed. Though it’s undoubtedly sister funk, there are elements of psych in there as well. There’s been a few releases of this – this one, and one on the Pama label, though the version I have is a lovely European only picture sleeve (why is it European releases put so much more effort into their product??)

Btw, if any of you are about the Philly area tonight, call to Sassafras Bar on 2nd St as I’ll be hosting the Dennis Coffey aftershow, throwing down stuff like this and lots of other dirty funk!

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – What Have You Done For Me Lately?

As I’m due to travel to New York in a few weeks time and will be spinning a few platters with the legend that is Mr Fine Wine, I thought it appropriate that I should bring you something this week from the Queen of New York Soul – Miss Sharon Jones.

There are very few soul artists performing today who can match Sharon Jones when it comes to keeping the true sound of original funk and soul alive. To attain this authentic sound The Daptones ignored modern recording techniques, instead preferring to use traditional analogue recording equipment.

Today’s selection comes from their first album released in 2002 – “Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings” and is a cover version of Janet Jackson’s 80’s smash of the same name. The song gets a total reworking and is almost unrecognisable from the original though, complete with wah-wah guitar, funky horn section and swirling organ.

Never before has Janet Jackson sounded sooo damn funky!