Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band

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Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band
Charleswright1.jpg
Charles Wright performing at memorial tribute for the late founder of the Watts Summer Festival Tommy Jacquette on Saturday, 28 Nov 2009.
Background information
Also known as The Soul Runners, Charles Wright & the Wright Sounds, The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Charles Wright
Origin Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres Soul, funk, R&B
Years active 1962 -
Labels MoSoul
Keymen
Warner Bros.
Website www.expressyourself.net
Members Charles Wright
Past members Al McKay, Benorce Blackmon, Gabe Flemings, Melvin Dunlap, James Gadson, Big John Rayford, Bill Cannon, Ray Jackson

Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band is a pioneering American soul and funk band. Formed in the early 1960s, they had the most visibility from 1967 to 1973 when the band had 9 singles reach Billboard's pop and/or rhythm and blues Hot 100 lists, such as "Do Your Thing" (#11 Pop, #12 R&B), "Till You Get Enough" (#12 R&B, #67 Pop), and "Love Land" (R&B #23, Pop #16). They are best known for their biggest hit on Warner Bros. Records, 1970's "Express Yourself" (#3 R&B, #12 Pop), a song that has been sampled by rap group N.W.A. and others.

History[edit]

Charles Wright and the Wright Sounds[edit]

Charles Wright was born on April 6, 1940 in Clarksdale, Mississippi.[1] He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s, playing guitar and singing in several doo-wop groups including the Turks, the Twilighters, the Shields and the Gallahads. He also briefly worked as an A&R for Del-Fi Records and was responsible for the "Hit" record "Those Oldies But Goodies" (Remind me of you) by Little Caesar and the Romans in 1961. In 1962, he formed his own band Charles Wright & the Wright Sounds which included future Watts Band member, John Raynford, along with Daryl Dragon, aka "Captain" of Captain & Tennille. Over the course of the next six years, Wright would add more players to his group and these were the players who would eventually become known as the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, at least by 1968. Several of those members, namely drummer James Gadson, bassist Melvin Dunlap, trombonist/arranger Ray Jackson, and both guitarists Al McKay and Benorce Blackmon, would play on several Dyke & the Blazers charting singles, including "We Got More Soul" (1969) and "Let a Woman Be a Woman, Let a Man Be a Man" (1969).

The Wright Sounds played in several venues across Los Angeles but their best known stint was three years (ending in 1968) at Hollywood's Haunted House nightclub. Originally located at Hollywood and Vine, the Haunted House was a popular club in the 1960s and appears in several popular culture artifacts, most notably the 1969 go-go dancing B-movie, Girl in Gold Boots.

Wright's nephew was the rapper Eazy-E, a successful solo artist and member of infamous hip-hop group N.W.A.. Eazy-E, whose real name was Eric Lynn Wright, died of AIDS on March 26, 1995 at the age of 31.

First Watts 103rd Band[edit]

The name, Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band was originally coined by Los Angeles producer and Keymen Records owner Fred Smith in 1967. However, between 1967 and 1968, the Watts 103rd name applied to three, arguably four different personnel configurations before settling into the final band who played on every Watts 103rd album from 1968 forward.[2]

Smith produced a theme song for KGFJ radio personality, DJ Magnificent Montague. The song became so popular that Smith released it as a single in 1967 and created the name, Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band for the studio group who had recorded it. Purportedly, the players on the single included Wright, James Carmichael, Leon Haywood, and Bobby Womack.[3]

There is some confusion because, after "Spreadin' Honey" became a success, Montague re-released the single on the MoSoul label (a Keyman subsidiary) and credited to a different group altogether, the Soul Runners. It has been long assumed that the Soul Runners were simply an earlier line-up of the Watts Band however, according to Wright, the two groups had nothing to do with one another whatsoever.[4]

Second Watts 103rd Band[edit]

In 1966, Carmichael and Wright were both working as session players for the Nashville West recording studio. Their group of studio players was discovered by Fred Smith and comedian Bill Cosby who needed a backing band for his upcoming album, Silver Throat. Smith hired the Nashville West players and gave them the Watts 103rd name. This group included (but was not necessarily limited to): Arthur Wright (bass), Pete Fox (guitar), Streamline Ewing (trombone), Herman Riley (tenor sax), Jackie Kelso (tenor sax), Melvin Jernigan (tenor sax), Mel Brown (guitar), Abraham Mills (drums).[2]

Due to their association with Cosby, the new Watts 103rd band landed a deal with Warner Bros. Records, becoming the first R&B band to sign with them. They released a debut album in 1967. Technically self-titled, the album has also come to be called Hot Heat & Sweet Groove after a sub-title found on the back cover. "Spreadin' Honey" was included on this album, per Warner Bros. insistence, even though none of the players on the album, save for Wright, had actually played on the "Spreadin' Honey" single.[2]

Wright generally disavows this album as a true Watts 103rd project, preferring to describe the second album, Together as the "first" Watts 103rd LP.

Third Watts 103rd Band[edit]

When Cosby went on tour, Wright was put in charge with creating a Watts 103rd touring band which included both the musicians he had just recorded Hot Heat with but also added in the Wright Sounds as well. The Haunted House also began to bill Wright and the Wright Sounds as the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band.

Final Watts 103rd Band[edit]

Creative disagreements led to Smith selling his interest in the group to Wright. Newly freed, Wright reformed the Watts 103rd exclusively out of his Wright Sounds players and broke ties with the musicians he had recorded Hot Heat with.

A May 18, 1968 recording of a live session at the Haunted House became the partial basis for the second Warner Bros. album, Together.[2] That album yielded the group's first major national hit, the slow grooving "Do Your Thing."

Their next album, In the Jungle Babe, is best known for both "Love Land," an uptempo, doo-wop-influenced soul ballad, as well as "Comment," where Wright discusses the state of racial affairs in America. Though the album was credited to the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band, the singles from this album and the group's next two albums, would be listed under "Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band".

In the band's early years, they were mostly known for playing covers of popular R&B hits but by the late 1960s, the group began to create original songs, resulting in a sound that was, as Charles Wright put it, "the middle ground between Otis Redding and James Brown",[5] reflecting the group's musical blend of different regional R&B and funk styles. Their experiments in long, loosely structured grooves, best heard on the Express Yourself and You're So Beautiful albums, could be heard as both influences on and influenced by contemporaries such as Sly and the Family Stone, the Isley Brothers and Parliament-Funkadelic.

Dissolution[edit]

As early as 1969, the Watts Band began to lose members. Al McKay left the Watts Band in 1969 and soon joined Earth, Wind & Fire. He was replaced by Benorce Blackmon. After recording the 1971, You're So Beautiful album, Gadson, Dunlap, Jackson, and Blackmon left the Watts Band to work with Bill Withers, playing on the albums Still Bill (1972) and Live at Carnegie Hall (1973).

Charles Wright went on to record four solo records after the departure of the Watts Band's core rhythm section, Rhythm and Poetry (1972), Doin' What Comes Naturally (1973), Ninety Day Cycle People (1974), and Lil' Encouragement (1975). In 2007, he released a new album, Finally Got It Wright, which includes an updated version of "Express Yourself."

"Express Yourself" was remixed by L.A. rap group N.W.A. in 1988 and has been used for many soundtracks of movies, including Remember The Titans, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, and Mr & Mrs Smith, plus numerous television commercials. "Do Your Thing" was featured on the soundtrack to Boogie Nights. "65 Bars and a Taste of Soul" serves as the theme music for the Chuck character Roan Montgomery.

Band members[edit]

Discography[edit]

Singles[edit]

(As The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band)[edit]

  • “Spreadin’ Honey” (1967) US #73, R&B #44
  • “Brown Sugar” (1968)
  • “Bottomless” (1968)
  • “Do Your Thing” (1969) US #11, R&B #12
  • “Must Be Your Thing” (1969) R&B #35
  • “Till You Get Enough” (1969) US #67, #12

(As Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band)[edit]

  • “Comment” (1969)
  • Love Land” (1970) US #16, R&B #23
  • Express Yourself” (1971) US #12, R&B #3
  • “Solution For Pollution” (1971) US #96
  • “Your Love (Means Everything To Me)” (1971) US #73, R&B #9
  • “Nobody (Tellin’ Me ‘Bout My Baby)” (1972)
  • “I Got Love” (1972)

Albums[edit]

(As The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band)[edit]

  • Hot Heat & Sweet Groove (1967)
  • Together (1968) US #140, R&B #40
  • In The Jungle, Babe (1969) US #145, R&B #42

(As Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band)[edit]

  • Express Yourself (1970) US #182, R&B #27
  • You’re So Beautiful (1971) US #147, R&B #39

(As Charles Wright)[edit]

  • Rhythm & Poetry (1972)
  • Doin' What Comes Naturally (1973) R&B #45
  • Ninety Day Cycle People (1974)
  • Lil' Encouragement (1975)
  • Finally Got It Wright (2007)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Charles Wright (6th April Birthday), CharlieGillett.com. Retrieved 27 September 2014
  2. ^ a b c d Wang, Oliver (2008). Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band: Live at the Haunted House - May 18, 1968 [CD liner notes]. Rhino Handmade.
  3. ^ Hill, Edward (2006). "The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band." [CD liner notes]. Water Records.
  4. ^ Thompson, Dave (2001). "Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band." Funk. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. pp. 203-206.
  5. ^ [1][dead link]

Notes[edit]

  • Hill, Edward (2006). "The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band." [CD liner notes]. Water Records.
  • Hill, Edward and Richard Edson (2005). "Charles Wright." Wax Poetics Issue 11. pp. 72
  • Morthland, John (1993). Express Yourself: The Best Of Charles Wright And The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band [CD liner notes]. Warner Bros. Records.
  • Thompson, Dave (2001). "Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band." Funk. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. pp. 203–206.
  • Wang, Oliver (2008). "Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band: Live at the Haunted House - May 18, 1968" [CD liner notes]. Rhino Handmade.

External links[edit]