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The Bar-Kays
OriginMemphis, Tennessee, United States
Years active1964–1989, 1991–present
LabelsStax, Mercury, Rhino, Island Records
MembersJames Alexander
Chris J
Carlos Sargent
Ez Roc
Bo Dae
Angelo Earl
Darryl Sanford
Devin Crutcher
Katrina Anderson
Past membersLarry Dodson
Ben Cauley
Ronnie Caldwell
Carl Cunningham
Phalon Jones
Jimmy King
Marcus Price
Vernon Burch
Ronnie Gorden
Michael Toles
Winston Stewart
Charles "Scoops" Allen
Alvin Hunter
Barry Wilkins
Lloyd Smith
Dywane Thomas
Mike Beard
Frank Thompson
Sherman Guy
Larry "LJ" Johnson
Harvey Henderson
Tony Gentry
Archie Love
Bryan Smith
Carl Sims
Daroll Hagen
Mark Bynum

The Bar-Kays are an American funk band[4] formed in 1964. The band had dozens of charting singles from the 1960s to the 1980s, including "Soul Finger" (US Billboard Hot 100 number 17, R&B number 3) in 1967, "Son of Shaft" (R&B number 10) in 1972, and "Boogie Body Land" (R&B number 7) in 1980.[5]


Black rock years[edit]

The Bar-Kays began in Memphis, Tennessee, as a studio session group, backing major artists at Stax Records.[6] In 1967, they were chosen by Otis Redding to play as his backing band, and were tutored for that role by Al Jackson, Jr., Booker T. Jones, and the other members of Booker T. & the M.G.'s.[7] Their first single, "Soul Finger", was issued on April 14, 1967,[6] reaching number 3 on the US Billboard R&B Singles chart and number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100.[5]

On December 10, 1967, Redding and four members of the band—Jimmie King (born June 8, 1949; guitar), Ronnie Caldwell (born December 27, 1948; electric organ), Phalon Jones (born 1948; saxophone), and Carl Cunningham (born 1948; drums)—and their partner, Matthew Kelly, died when their airplane crashed into Lake Monona, near Madison, Wisconsin,[8] while attempting to land at Truax Field. Redding and the band were scheduled to play their next concerts in Madison. Trumpeter Ben Cauley was the only survivor of the crash.[1][6] Bassist James Alexander was on another plane, as the plane carrying Redding held only seven passengers. Cauley and Alexander rebuilt the group.[6]

The re-formed band consisted of Cauley; Alexander; Harvey Henderson, saxophone; Michael Toles, guitar; Ronnie Gorden, organ; Willie Hall, drums; and later Larry Dodson (formerly of fellow Stax act the Temprees), lead vocals. The group backed dozens of major Stax artists on recordings, including Isaac Hayes on his album Hot Buttered Soul.[6]

Cauley left the group in 1971, leaving Alexander, Dodson (vocals, vibes), Barry Wilkins (guitar), Winston Stewart (keyboards), Henderson (tenor sax, flute), Charles "Scoops" Allen (trumpet), and Alvin Hunter (drums) to create the album Black Rock.[9] Lloyd Smith joined in 1973, and the band changed musical direction during the 1970s, forging a successful career in funk music.[6] With the Stax/Volt label folding in 1975, the group signed with Mercury Records.[10]

Funk years[edit]

In 1976, Dodson (vocals), Alexander (bass), Lloyd Smith (guitar), Allen (trumpet), Henderson (saxophone), Frank Thompson (trombone), Stewart (keyboards), and Mike Beard (drums) brought their "Shake Your Rump to the Funk" track into the R&B Top Five.[10] In autumn 1977, the group came out with Flying High on Your Love, an album that featured "Shut the Funk Up", a "near-perfect disco song punctuated by the funky horn triumvirate of Charles 'Scoop' Allen, Harvey 'Joe' Henderson, and Frank 'Captain Disaster' Thompson and dominated by vocalist Larry 'D' Dodson's call to 'get on up or just shut the funk up'".[11] The group peaked as a funk band from the late 1970s to the late 1980s. They released singles such as "Move Your Boogie Body" (1979), "Hit and Run" (1981), "Freak Show on the Dance Floor" (1984), "Certified True" (1987), "Struck by You" (1989).[6]

In 1983, Sherman Guy left the group, and Larry 'LJ' Johnson took his place on vocals and percussion. Charles Allen left the group just before it took a more commercial direction.[12] The Bar-Kays continued to have hits on R&B charts well into the 1980s.[5]

Later years[edit]

Guitarist Marcus Price, a member of the band, was murdered in 1984.[13] The crime has never been solved by the Memphis police.[14]

The band took an extended break in the late 1980s but regrouped in 1991, with Alexander once again being the only original member. Since 1991, Larry Dodson, Archie Love, Bryan Smith, and Tony Gentry have been added to the group.

Alexander's son is the award-winning rapper and record producer Phalon "Jazze Pha" Alexander, named after Phalon Jones, who died in the 1967 plane crash. In 2013, the group was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.[15] On June 6, 2015, the Bar-Kays were inducted into the Official Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Trumpeter Ben Cauley died in Memphis on September 21, 2015, at the age of 67.[16]

In popular culture[edit]

The Bar-Kays appeared in the 1973 film documentary, Wattstax.[17]

"Freakshow on the Dance Floor" was featured in the first breakdance scene in the 1984 movie, Breakin'.[18]

In the 1985 movie, Spies Like Us, starring Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase, The Bar-Kays' hit "Soul Finger" was being played by the crew of a Soviet mobile ICBM platform on patrol in the Tajik S.S.R. Their songs "Too Hot To Stop" and "Soul Finger" are featured in the 2007 comedy film, Superbad. "Soul Finger" is also featured in the 2012 remake of Sparkle.

The Sugar Hill Gang's 1979 single "Rapper's Delight" contains multiple references to the Bar-Kays.



Year Title Peak chart positions Certifications Record label
US Pop
1967 Soul Finger Volt
1969 Gotta Groove 40
1971 Black Rock 90 12
1972 Do You See What I See? 45
1974 Coldblooded
1976 Too Hot to Stop 69 8 Mercury
1977 Flying High on Your Love 47 7
  • US: Gold
1978 Money Talks 72 21 Stax
Light of Life 86 15 Mercury
1979 Injoy 35 2
  • US: Gold
1980 As One 67 6
1981 Nightcruising 55 6
  • US: Gold
1982 Propositions 51 9
1984 Dangerous 52 7
1985 Banging the Wall 115 11
1987 Contagious 110 25
1989 Animal 36
1994 48 Hours Basix Music
2003 The Real Thing JEA Music
2007 House Party IM Records/Koch
2012 Grown Folks [EP] Right Now Records
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.


Year Title Peak chart positions
US Pop
US Dance
1967 "Soul Finger" 17 3 13 33
"Knucklehead" 76 28
"Give Everybody Some" 91 36
1972 "Son of Shaft" 53 10
1976 "Shake Your Rump to the Funk" 23 5 41
1977 "Too Hot to Stop" 74 8
"Spellbound" 29
1978 "Let's Have Some Fun" 11
"Attitudes" 22
1979 "Holy Ghost" 9
"I'll Dance" 26
"Are You Being Real" 61
"Shine" 14
"Move Your Boogie Body" 57 3 90
"Today Is the Day" 60 25
1980 "Boogie Body Land" 7 73
"Body Fever" 42
1981 "Hit & Run" 5 49
1982 "Freaky Behavior" 27 60
"Do It (Let Me See You Shake)" 9
1983 "She Talks to Me With Her Body" 13 62
1984 "Freak Show on the Dance Floor" 73 2
"Sexomatic" 12 51
"Dirty Dancer" 17
1985 "Your Place or Mine" 12 44
"Banging the Walls" 67
1987 "Certified True" 9
"Don't Hang Up" 56
1989 "Struck by You" 11
"Animal" 66
1994 "Mega Mix" 96
1995 "The Slide" 82
2021 "Perfect Gentleman"
2022 "Choosey Lover" (feat. Jazze Pha)
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.


  1. ^ a b Huey, Steve. "Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved January 21, 2022.
  2. ^ McDonough, Jimmy (August 29, 2017). Soul Survivor: A Biography of Al Green. Hachette Books. p. 125. ISBN 978-0306822681.
  3. ^ Hanson, Amy. "The Bar Kays: Flying High on Your Love > Review". AllMusic. Retrieved February 23, 2022.
  4. ^ Hanson, Amy. "The Bar Kays: Propositions > Review". AllMusic. Retrieved February 21, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "The Bar-Kays Songs ••• Top Songs / Chart Singles Discography ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Soul Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 16. ISBN 0-85112-733-9.
  7. ^ "The Bar-Kays on iTunes". iTunes. December 10, 1967. Archived from the original on October 22, 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  8. ^ Lauterbach, Preston (December 1, 2007). "The Day the Music Died: Ben Cauley remembers the passing of Otis Redding and the Bar-Kays". Memphis Magazine. Retrieved January 21, 2022.
  9. ^ Strong, Martin Charles (2002). The Great Rock Discography. The National Academies. p. 144. ISBN 1841953121. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  10. ^ a b Thompson, Dave (2001). Funk (illustrated ed.). Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 74. ISBN 0879306297. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  11. ^ Bogdanov, Vladimir (2003). All Music Guide to Soul: The Definitive Guide to R&B and Soul (illustrated ed.). Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 35. ISBN 0879307447. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  12. ^ Bogdanov, p. 34
  13. ^ "Bar Kays Member Killed by Robbers in Memphis". Jet. Vol. 67, no. 6. Johnson Publishing Company. October 15, 1984. p. 13. ISSN 0021-5996.
  14. ^ "The Band Tragedy Could Not Silence". Retrieved January 21, 2022.
  15. ^ Bacle, Ariana (September 23, 2015). "Stax Records trumpeter Ben Cauley dies". Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  16. ^ "Ben Cauley, Sole Survivor of Otis Redding Plane Crash, Dies at 67". The New York Times. September 24, 2015. Retrieved April 29, 2021.
  17. ^ "The Bar-Kays". Memphis Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 21, 2022.
  18. ^ "Breakin' - Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. Retrieved January 21, 2022.
  19. ^ "The Bar Kays: Billboard 200". Billboard. Archived from the original on February 19, 2020.
  20. ^ "The Bar Kays: Billboard Top Soul Albums". Billboard. Archived from the original on February 19, 2020.
  21. ^ Lwin, Nanda (1999). Top 40 Hits: The Essential Chart Guide. Music Data Canada. ISBN 9781896594132.
  22. ^ "BAR-KAYS | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Official Charts. Retrieved May 10, 2020.

External links[edit]