Chancellor of Soul's Chronicles-Journals Dedicated To The
Historical Preservation Of R&B, Pop and It's Artists and Music


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Dyke and the Blazers

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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 hired.

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, Godfather.




                                                             Soulfully Yours,

                                                                Mike Boone

                                                          (Chancellor of Soul)



                                                                 (Jan 2007)
  

 

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