Ingredients for a recipe of hard hitting street-soul requires one’s
taste from the innovations of Chef James Brown. A pound of accented
snare drums, a pinch of organ, a mixture of chopped horns blended
with diced guitars and a tablespoon full of bass. This particular
R&B group decided to try his funky delicacies by combining their own
elements into a musical mulligan stew that fulfilled many soulful
taste buds leaving an unforgettable trailmark in the tongue of funk.
Uhh…..get back! Here’s comes Dyke & The Blazers!
Born Arlester Christian in 1943, in Buffalo, NY, was given the
nickname ‘dyke’ as a toddler when a relative bought him a pair of
dice. He became fascinated with them and each time they were thrown
he would scream out ‘dyke!’
In 1965, Dyke sang and played bass with the O’Jays road band, the
Blazers. The group was left stranded in Phoenix, Arizona as the
O’Jays couldn't afford to bring them back to Buffalo. In order to
get home, the Blazers decided to raise money by working in various
clubs in the city. Dyke became lead singer therefore changing the
roster to Dyke & The Blazers.
The Blazers consisted of Otis Tolliver on bass, Maurice Little Mo’
Jones on trumpet, Bernard Williams on sax, Alveseter ‘Pig’ Jacobs on
guitar, Ray Byrd on keyboards, Willie Earl and the late Wardell
‘Baby Wayne’ Peterson on drums.
The Blazers were discovered by producers Art Barrettand Austin
Coleman who owned Artco Records. They signed the group and recorded
a tune that Dyke had composed to a dance he created entitled, ‘Funky
Broadway’. The song was released in late 1966. Running in studio
time on a cheap budget, the song was recorded in one take, costing a
minimum of $45.00.
Phoenix disc jockey, Tony Evans began exposing the record on his
show which gained rapid on other radio stations throughout the mid
west of Arizona. In Dec 1966, Art Laboe a popular disc jockey in Los
Angeles, licensed the song on his Original Sound label, for national
distribution. ' Funky Broadway Pt's 1&2' hit No 17 on the R&B
singles charts the week ending Saturday, June 10 1967 on the R&B
singles charts and No 64 Pop.
Jet Magazine created a new playlist featured in the portion of the
magazine entitled 'Soul Brothers Top 20'. on Thursday April 6, 1967.
The editors surveyed 25 major cities where people gathered socially
in record hops, night clubs, house parties, school recreation
lounges, to listens to the most played songs on jukeboxes and
phonographs. This concept became very popular among the readers
where letters poured from all over the country, voting for their
favorite artists and songs. ‘Funky Broadway Pt 1'
charted No. 3 on the list and remained in the Soul Bros Top 20 for
approximately 19 weeks. Dyke’s recording sold a half million copies.
Wilson Pickett released a million selling cover version of ‘Funky
Broadway’ b/w ‘I’m Sorry About That’ (written by Bobby Womack)
during the late summer of 1967 where it reached No 1 R&B and No 8
Pop (Sat, Sept 30, 1967).
Dyke & The Blazers went on tour to promote the song including his
first appearance at the world famous Apollo Theater on Friday,
October 13, 1967. The week long engagement included a roster of soul
greats such asThe Parliaments, Freddie Scott, Five Stairsteps, Ruby
Andrews, Helena Ferguson and Mickey Murray. The show was produced by
Herman Amis. Dyke and the group returned to Audio Recorders Studios
in Phoenix in between tours to record three classics, 'So Sharp’ b/w
'Don't Bug Me' (No 41 R&B) and 'The Wrong House'.
A self-titled LP ‘Funky Broadway was issued in 1968, featuring his
third release, 'Funky Walk Pt 1 (East)' b/w 'Funky Walk Pt 2 (West)'
(No 22 the week ending Sat, May 25, 1968). My favorite lyric in the
song is where he mentions 125th St, my home street in Harlem, NY.
In 1969, Dyke went to the studios in Hollywood, California to
recruit professional musicians to add more sophisticated funk in his
music. The Watts 103 rd Street Band were summoned to play on
the sessions. James Gadson on drums, Al McKay on guitar (who later
went on to play with the legendary group Earth Wind & Fire) and
Melvin Dunlap on bass. Keyboardist, Ray Jackson was on hand to
handle the studio arrangements and professional horns players were
Dyke’s fourth hit ‘We Got More Soul’ (my personal favorite) b/w
'Shotgun Slim' (No 7 R&B June 14, 1969) is lyrical dance masterpiece
describing the talents and wonderful characteristics of black people
as well as paying tribute to the great R&B singers of our time – Ray
Charles, James Brown, Johnnie Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson
and Pearl Bailey. ‘Let A Woman Be A Woman – Let A Man Be A Man’ (No
4 R&B Nov 1, 1969) b/w 'Uhh' (No 20 R&B May 9, 1970) was Dyke's last
attempt to hit the R&B top ten.
Dyke & The Blazers released 2 other top 30 R&B singles including
‘You Are My Sunshine (No 30 R&B Feb 14, 1970) and Runaway People (No
32 R&B Aug 29, 1970).
The Blazers broke up in late 1969 because of stolen equipment in
various clubs during their tours and was tired of the constant
travel with low pay. Tragically, Dyke returned home in Arizona and
was shot dead 4 times with a 22 caliber pistol after a confrontation
with a disturbed man in a bar. The gates of soul heaven opened to
Dyke on Tuesday March 30, 1971. The man who shot Dyke was
cleared of all charges because of evidence of self defense. Dyke
left behind 3 daughters. An LP 'Dyke & The Blazers Greatest Hits was
released after his death.
The syncopated rhythms of Dyke & The Blazers will forever be linked
in the hearts of millions of hardcore soul fans around the world.
Their contribution to R&B will always be a major importance to an
integral part of the heritage of 20th century street-soul and funk.
Note: This page is a tribute to James Brown who was the creator and
innovator of 20th century street-soul and funk. Peaceful Journey,
(Chancellor of Soul)