Dyke & the Blazers, Charles Wright &
Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band




Dyke & the Blazers leader Arlester Christian was felled by a blaze of gunfire just as his mercurial career was poised to take off. There were only two LPs and the usual auxiliary 45s, but what a legacy it was! "Funky Broadway" was the hit single (more so for others who covered it, but his was the best), and everything Christian and the band did was great. Even his interpretations, from "It's Your Thing" to an awesomely funkified "You Are My Sunshine," instruct just how to do it.

After Christian was shot to death in Phoenix, Arizona, another great soul-funk act arose like a phoenix. Christian's final sides were recorded with the guitar-bass-drums nucleus of the nascent Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band. Led by Fred Smith, Watts began as the Soul Runners, a hip group similar to Booker T. & the MGs, with singles on a soul-food theme. The classic version of "Spreadin' Honey," for instance, appeared on both sides of the name transition and was remade by Watts on their first, underrated LP of cheery, adventurous, mod soul. But, not quite making it as either funk or soul jazz, the band sorely needed a charismatic vocalist to front the band, another Arlester Christian.

Charles Wright, born 1940 in Clarksdale, Mississippi, brought to the band one of those unforgettable, hoarse, "dirty" voices, like that of Christian, Wilson Pickett, or Jackie Soul. Blessed with the intensity of fellow Californian Sly Stone, the ballad-crooning sweetness of a Marvin Gaye or Al Green, and the seemingly limitless range of a James Brown, Wright made records that stand the test of time. Although he has been called the founder and leader of the Watts group, it was more of a fortuitous merger.

The disjointed debut album of Wright and the Watts band seems more like a collection of singles (part of it is live). Significantly, one instrumental could have been released as a Dyke & the Blazers single and no one would have known the difference. But other tracks, with Wright singing and otherwise carrying on, reveal the Dyke and the Blazers' legacy. Wright-Watts was to be the next, great, California soul-funk band.

After five years, Wright left to make solo albums. (Watts, along with Bobby Womack, merged with the Packers and the Romeos to become War.) With the pressure off, Wright was free both to experiment, occasionally drifting into dubious areas of creativity, and to fall back on rehashing earlier Watts riffs. But a few moments, particularly his simple, personal homage to "Soul Train," count among the best things he ever did. The Wright Stuff!

Buying: Get all you can; both Dyke & Watts originals (LP and 45) are plentiful; most should never become too difficult to obtain. The "Wine" single is not to be missed.



Dyke & the Blazers LPs

Rating
Carl LaRue & his Crew: Swinging in Canada; KKC; 1963
8Dyke & the Blazers: Funky Broadway; Original Sound OSR-LPS-8876/OSR-LPM-5016; 1967
9Dyke & the Blazers: Greatest Hits; Original Sound OSR-8877; 1971
9Dyke & the Blazers: So Sharp!; Ace/Kent KEND-004; 1983 (compilation; more tracks on 1991 CD version)


Dyke & the Blazers 45s

Rating
Carl LaRue & his Crew: Please Don't Drive Me Away/Monkey Hips & Oyster Stew; KKC 310-311; 1963
8Funky Broadway Parts 1 & 2; Artco 101; 1966 (Original Sound OS-64; 1967)
9Don't Bug Me/So Sharp; Original Sound OS-69; 1967
8Funky Walk Parts 1 & 2; Original Sound OS-79; 1968
8Funky Bull Parts 1 & 2; Original Sound OS-83; 1968 (live, not on LP)
8We Got More Soul/Shotgun Slim; Original Sound OS-86; 1969
8Let a Woman Be a Woman-Let a Man Be a Man/Uhh; Original Sound OS-89; 1969
9You Are My Sunshine/City Dump; Original Sound OS-90; 1970
8Uhh/My Sisters & My Brothers; Original Sound OS-91; 1970
8Runaway People/I'm So All Alone; Original Sound OS-96; 1970 (B-side not on LP)
9The Wobble/Stuff; Original Sound OS-102; 1971 (B-side not on LP)


Charles Wright &/or Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band LPs

Rating
6Bill Cosby Sings Hooray for the Salvation Army Band! [& Other Grooves]; Warner Bros. WS-1728 (prod./arr. Fred Smith w/Watts backing)
5The Packers: Hole in the Wall; Pure Soul 1001
6The Packers: Soul Time Parts 1 & 2; Tangerine TRC-982
8The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band; Warner Brothers WS-1741
7The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band: Together; Warner Brothers WS-1761 (w/Charles Wright; also issued w/alternate jacket); 1968
8The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band: In the Jungle, Babe; Warner Brothers WS-1801; 1969 (w/Charles Wright)
8Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band: Express Yourself; Warner Brothers WS-1864; 1970
7Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band: You're So Beautiful; Warner Brothers WS-1904; 1971
8Charles Wright: Rhythm & Poetry; Warner Brothers BS-2620; 1972
7Charles Wright: Doing What Comes Naturally; ABC/Dunhill DSD-50162; 1973 (2-LP)
8Charles Wright: Ninety Day Cycle People; ABC/Dunhill DSD-50187; 1974
7War/Bobby Womack: The Other Side of War Warms Your Heart; Souffle SO-2017 (2-LP)


Packers/Romeos/Soul Runners/Watts/Wright 45s

Rating
6The Packers: Pink Chiffon/Boondocks; Hanna-Barbera HBR-478
8The Packers: Hole in the Wall/Go 'Head On; Pure Soul Music 1107 (B-side stamper indicates original title "Make it Baby")
5The Romeos: Precious Memories/Juicy Lucy; Mark II M-101; 1967 (w/Gamble & Huff; may not be the same group)
6The Romeos: Are You Ready for That/Mucho Soul; Loma 2028; 1966
The Romeos: Calypso Chili/Mon Petite Chow; Loma 2041; 1966
7Society's Bag: Let it Crawl/mono; Warner Bros. WB-7622; 1972 (Fred Smith)
8Soul Runners: Grits 'n Corn Bread/Spreadin' Honey; MoSoul MS-101; 1967 (1/2 of Watts: Spreadin' Honey/Charley; Keymen K-108)
8Soul Runners: Charley/Last Date; MoSoul MS-5103 (1/2 of Watts: Spreadin' Honey/Charley; Keymen K-108)
8Soul Runners: Chittlin' Salad Parts 1 & 2; MoSoul MS-5104
7Soul Runners: Green Thumb/What Can I Say; Patches P-101
7Wright/Watts: Sorry Charlie/Love Land; Warner Bros. 7365
9Wright/Watts: Express Yourself/Livin' On Borrowed Time; Warner Bros. 7417; 1970
8Wright/Watts: Solution for Pollution/High as Apple Pie; Warner Bros. 7451; 1971 (A-side non-LP; B-side excerpted)
8Wright/Watts: What Can You Bring Me/Your Love (Means Everything to Me); Warner Bros. 7475; 1971
9Wright/Watts: Wine/Nobody (Tellin' Me 'Bout My Baby); Warner Bros. 7504; 1972 (non-LP cuts)
8Wright/Watts: I've Got Love/Let's Make Love, Not War; Warner Bros. 7577; 1972 (A-side non-LP--uptempo version of "I Got Love," a.k.a. "I Got Your Love")
9Wright only: Soul Train/Run Jody Run; Warner Bros. 7600; 1972 (abridged versions)
7Wright only: (Well I'm) Doing What Comes Naturally Parts 1 & 2; ABC/Dunhill DSD-50162; 1973 (2 minutes longer than the LP version)


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