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The Bar-Kays
OriginMemphis, Tennessee, United States
GenresR&B, soul, funk
Years active1966–1989, 1991–present
LabelsStax, Mercury, Rhino, Island Records
Associated actsOtis Redding, Albert King
MembersJames Alexander
Larry Dodson
Willie Hall
Past membersBen 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
Mike Beard
Frank Thompson
Sherman Guy
Larry "LJ" Johnson
Harvey Henderson
Tony Gentry
Archie Love
Bryan Smith
Carl Sims
Daroll Hagen

The Bar-Kays are an American soul, R&B, and funk group formed in 1966. The group 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.

History: Black rock years[edit]

The Bar-Kays began in Memphis, Tennessee, as a studio session group, backing major artists at Stax Records. 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.[1] Their first single, "Soul Finger", was issued on April 14, 1967, reaching number 3 on the US Billboard R&B Singles chart and number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100. 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, 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. Bassist James Alexander was on another plane, as the plane carrying Redding held only seven passengers. Cauley and Alexander rebuilt the group.

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.

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.[2] Lloyd Smith joined in 1973, and the band changed musical direction during the 1970s, forging a successful career in funk music. With the Stax/Volt label folding in 1975, the group signed with Mercury Records.[3]

Career: 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.[3] 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'".[4]. Group peaked as funk band from late 70s to late 80s. They released funk single such as "Move Your Boogie Body[5]" (1979), "Hit and Run" (1981), "Freak Show on the Dance Floor" (1984), "Satisfied True" (1987), "Struck by You" (1989).

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.[6] The Bar-Kays continued to have hits on R&B charts well into the 1980s.

Guitarist Marcus Price, a member of the band, was murdered after leaving a rehearsal in 1984; the crime has never been solved by the Memphis police.

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.[7] 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.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

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

"Freakshow On The Dance Floor" was featured in the first breakdance scene in the 1984 movie, Breaking.

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.



  • 1967: Soul Finger (Volt S-417)
  • 1969: Gotta Groove (Volt VOS-6004)
  • 1969: Hot Buttered Soul by Isaac Hayes (Enterprise ENS-1001) the band backs Hayes on his second solo album
  • 1971: Black Rock (Volt VOS-6011)
  • 1972: Do You See What I See? (Volt VOS-8001)
  • 1974: Coldblooded (Volt VOS-6023; Volt VOS-9504)
  • 1976: Too Hot to Stop (Mercury SRM-1-1099)
  • 1977: Flying High on Your Love (Mercury SRM-1-1181)
  • 1978: Money Talks (Stax STX-4106)
  • 1978: Light of Life (Mercury SRM-1-3732)
  • 1979: Injoy (Mercury SRM-1-3781)
  • 1980: As One (Mercury SRM-1-3844)
  • 1981: Nightcruising (Mercury SRM-1-4028)
  • 1982: Propositions (Mercury SRM-1-4065)
  • 1984: Dangerous (Mercury 818 478-1)
  • 1985: Banging the Wall (Mercury 824 727-1)
  • 1987: Contagious (Mercury 830 305-1)
  • 1989: Animal (Mercury 836 774-1)
  • 1994: 48 Hours (Basix Music BXCD-9308)
  • 2003: The Real Thing (JEA Music 74017)
  • 2007: House Party (I M Records/Koch IMRCD-4000)
  • 2012: Grown Folks [EP] (Right Now Records 802097124726)


  • 1967 – "Soul Finger" (number 17 pop, number 3 R&B, number 13 Canada)
  • 1967 – "Knucklehead" (number 76 pop, number 28 R&B)
  • 1967 – "Give Everybody Some" (number 91 pop, number 36 R&B)
  • 1972 – "Son of Shaft" (number 53 pop, number 10 R&B)
  • 1976 – "Shake Your Rump to the Funk" (number 23 pop, number 5 R&B)
  • 1977 – "Too Hot to Stop" (number 74 pop, number 8 R&B)
  • 1977 – "Spellbound" (number 29 R&B)
  • 1978 – "Let's Have Some Fun" (number 11 R&B)
  • 1978 – "Attitudes" (number 22 R&B)
  • 1979 – "Holy Ghost" (number 9 R&B)
  • 1979 – "I'll Dance" (number 26 R&B)
  • 1979 – "Are You Being Real" (number 61 R&B)
  • 1979 – "Shine" (number 14 R&B)
  • 1979 – "Move Your Boogie Body" (number 53 pop, number 90 dance, number 3 R&B)
  • 1979 – "Today Is the Day" (number 60 pop, number 25 R&B)
  • 1980 – "Boogie Body Land" (number 73 dance, number 7 R&B)
  • 1980 – "Body Fever" (number 42 R&B)
  • 1981 – "Hit & Run" (number 5 R&B)
  • 1982 – "Freaky Behavior" (number 60 dance, number 27 R&B)
  • 1982 – "Hit & Run/Freaky Behavior" (number 49 dance)
  • 1982 – "Do It (Let Me See You Shake)" (number 9 R&B)
  • 1983 – "She Talks to Me With Her Body" (number 62 dance, number 13 R&B)
  • 1984 – "Freak Show on the Dance Floor" (number 73 pop, number 2 R&B)
  • 1984 – "Sexomatic" (number 12 R&B)
  • 1984 – "Dirty Dancer" (number 17 R&B)
  • 1985 – "Your Place or Mine" (number 44 dance, number 12 R&B)
  • 1985 – "Banging the Walls" (number 67 R&B)
  • 1987 – "Certified True" (number 9 R&B)
  • 1989 – "Struck by You" (number 11 R&B)
  • 1994 – "Old School Megamix" (number 44 rap)
  • 1995 – "Mega Mix" (number 96 R&B)
  • 1995 – "The Slide" (number 82 R&B)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Bar-Kays on iTunes". December 10, 1967. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  2. ^ Strong, Martin Charles (2002). The great rock discography. The National Academies. p. 144. ISBN 1841953121. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  3. ^ a b Thompson, Dave (2001). Funk. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 74. ISBN 0879306297. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  4. ^ Bogdanov, Vladimir (2003). All music guide to soul: the definitive guide to R&B and soul. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 35. ISBN 0879307447. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
  5. ^ "AllMusic - Record Reviews, Streaming Songs, Genres & Bands". AllMusic. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  6. ^ Bogdanov, p. 34
  7. ^ Bacle, Ariana (September 23, 2015). "Stax Records trumpeter Ben Cauley dies". Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  8. ^ "Ben Cauley, Sole Survivor of Otis Redding Crash, Dies at 67". The New York Times, September 24, 2015. Accessed May 10, 2016.

External links[edit]