Friday, June 27, 2008

Dyke and the Blazers on It's Great Shakes' 3rd Anniversary

Today's the day, the third anniversary of It's Great Shakes. When I started doing this in June 2005, I sure didn't know how long it was going to last. Of course, there was that five month gap when the blog was dormant. And there are certainly other times when I don't feel like taking the time to post anything. But, mostly, it's been a lot of fun and often educational. I've learned a lot through my posts and the resulting comments left by readers.

I want to thank everyone who's taken the time to read the blog and especially those who've commented. Also, as always, a big thanks to Brian for his continued, excellent contributions. His posting often helps make up for my outright laziness.

In deciding what to post today, I had a look back at the past three years. It dawned on me that we've never posted a single thing by Dyke and the Blazers, a major oversight, if you ask me. Given the anniversary, today would be a good time to make up for that and then some.

Dyke and the Blazers are perfect for It's Great Shakes, their music being a nexus of gritty r&b and funky soul. The band was led by Arlester "Dyke" Christian, who wrote their material, sang lead and even played some bass guitar in the beginning. Arlester's best known tune is undoubtedly "Funky Broadway", originally released by the Blazers on the local Phoenix, AZ Artco imprint in 1966. By 1967, the tune appeared on Original Sound, as would the remaining musical output of the Blazers. All in all, there were at least ten singles and a pair of albums, all released between 1967 and 1971.

You may know the rest of the story on "Funky Broadway". Wilson Pickett recorded it in 1967 and it became a huge hit for him. The Blazers' own version did okay, reaching Billboard's Hot 100 and the top 20 on the r&b chart. Pickett's version made the national top 10 and was a #1 r&b smash.

In addition to Dyke, the Blazers included Alvester "Pig" Jacobs (lead guitar), Otis Tolliver (bass), Bernard Williams (saxophone), Maurice "Little Mo" Jones (trumpet), Ray Byrd (keyboards) and Wardell "Baby Wayne" Peterson (drums), although their line-up doesn't appear to have been static. Over the next couple of years, the Blazers released about a half dozen more singles, including follow-ups "Funky Walk" and "Funky Bull". In 1969, they split up and some future recordings used members of the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band as session musicians.

In March 1971, Arlester "Dyke" Christian was shot to death in Phoenix, AZ at the age of 27. It's certainly one of the more tragic endings in popular music. He wrote every song on today's playlist, taken from my copies of the 45's. I hope it's a fitting tribute to both his talents and his band's.

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