Interview with The Funk Center

Check out DJ Lady Funkalicious’ interview with The Funk Center below:

1. Give me a little history on the Dayton Funk Sound. Groups that came from here, etc.

It all started in 1965 at Roosevelt and Dunbar high schools in Dayton, Ohio. The initial sound can be attributed to James Brown, and some of the first groups were The Morrocos, London Fog and the Continentals. The following list highlights the trailblazers of the Dayton Funk sound:

• Ohio Players – The first Ohio band to get a major record label contract; the band was active from 1959 thru 2002; they were also known as The Ohio Untouchables (original band broke up in 1963); the band was signed to Bound, Mercury (1974), Arista and Boardwalk record labels; gold singles were Funky Worm, Skin Tight, Love Rollercoaster; platinum albums were Skin Tight, Fire and Honey; founding members were Robert Ward (vocals/guitar), Marshall Jones (bass), Clarence Satchell (saxophone/guitar), Cornelius Johnson (drums), Ralph Middlebrooks (trumpet/trombone); Gregory Webster (drums) and Leroy Bonner (guitar) joined the band in 1963 after Ward left for a solo career. The group re-invented themselves several times from 1963 to 2002. (Other notable members: Walter Morrison (keyboards), Jimmy Williams (drums).

• Lakeside – The band became active in 1969 and is still active today; the band was also known as The Nomads, Ohio Lakeside Express, and The Young Underground; the band was signed to Solar and ABC labels; the founding members are Stephen Shockley (lead guitar), Mark Wood (lead vocals), Tiemeyer McCain (vocals), Norman Beavers (keyboards), Thomas Shelby (lead/background vocals), Marvin Craig (bass 1973 – present); Fred Lewis (percussion/mini moog 1974 – present), Otis Stokes (lead/background vocals 1975 – present), Fred Alexander Jr. (drums 1977 – present). Other notable members – Donald Tabie (keyboards/vocals, Johnny Roger (keyboards).

• Roger Troutman & The Human Body, later known as Zapp – The began became active in 1975 and remains active today; the band was signed to Warner Brothers and Zapptown Records (Reprise and Oarfin were labels Roger signed with also) labels; founding members were Roger Troutman (all instruments), Lester Troutman (drums), Terry Troutman (keyboards/bass/background vocals), Gregory Jackson (keyboards/lead & background vocals), Bobby Glover, Vontel Troutman and Larry Troutman (percussion). Roger Troutman is well-known for his use of the Talk Box/Electro Harmonix “Golden Throat.”

• Faze – O – The band was signed to She Records; the founding members were Keith Harrison (keyboards/lead & background vocals), Ralph Aikens (guitar/Talk Box/lead & background vocals), Tyrone Crum (bass/lead & background vocals), Robert Neal Jr. (percussion/lead & background vocals) and Roger Parker (drums/percussion)

• Slave – The band was active between 1975 and 1996; they were signed to Cotillion, Atco and Ichiban (subsidiary of Atlantic) record labels; gold albums were Slave and Stone Jam; their founding members were Steve Washington (trumpet), Steve Arrington (drums/percussion/lead & background vocals), Mark Adams (bass), Mark Hicks (guitar/lead & background vocals), Floyd Miller (trombone), Tom Lockett Jr. (tenor & alto sax), Carter Bradley (keyboards), Danny Webster (guitar), Orion Wilhoite (keyboards), Tim Dozier (drums); Other notable members were Starleana Young (vocals), Curt Jones, and Ray Turner (keyboards).

• Sun – The band became active in 1976 and remains active today; they were signed to Capitol, Air City Records, Century Vista and Blip Blop Records; the founding members were Byron Byrd (tenor saxophone/keyboard/vocals), Kym Yancy (drums), Chris Jones (trumpet/vocals), John Wagner (trumpet/vocals), Hollis Melson (bass/vocals) and Shawn Sandridge (guitar) (NOTE: On Sun’s first album deal, Roger Troutman played guitar and talk box and Lester Troutman played drums) Other notable session musicians were Sheldon Reynolds (of Slave on guitar), Roger Parker (of Faze-O on drums), and Larry Houston (keyboards) just to name a few.

• Dayton – The band was active between 1980 and 1985; they were signed to both Liberty Records and Capitol labels; the founding members were Chris Jones (trumpet/keyboards/vocals), Shawn Sandridge (guitar/vocals), Derrick Armstrong (vocals), Kevin Hurt (drums/percussion), Jennifer Mathews (vocals) and Rachel Beavers (vocals)

• Aurra (Deja) – The band was active between 1979 and 1986 as Aurra and 1987 to 1989 as Deja; they were signed to Salsoul, Next Plateau, 10 Records (UK), and Virgin labels; the founding members were Curt Jones, Starleana Young, Charles Carter and Buddy Hankerson. Other notable musicians were Steve Washington (Slave), Charles Carter, Mark Stevens, and Thomas Lockett Jr.

2. Tell me about The Funk Music Hall of Fame & Exhibition Center

We want to create a tribute to Funk music as most other genres have (rock and roll, country, jazz, etc…) Collectively, we thought it was time for Funk music to have its own place in the annals of time. It is important that we create a space and environment where people can come see, hear, and feel what it means to be “Funked Up!”. By creating The Funk Music Hall of Fame & Exhibition Center, what we lovingly call TheFunkCenter (no spaces please), we can ensure Funk music is recognized and appreciated 300 years from now. Bach and Beethoven’s music was preserve. Funk artists contributed to that same music timeline and their art deserves to be respected as well.

3. Why hasn’t this been celebrated years ago, why is it taking so long, are we passive here?

We have been asking ourselves these very same questions. The bottom line is it takes money. There have been ideas in the past, but no one had the initiative or strong enough desire to actually take on the responsibility to make it happen, until now. Most of us are in the twilight of our careers and we need to make sure that Funk music stays relevant, especially since Funk music is still being sampled 50 years later.

4. This sound was defining at the time and still used today, but like the Wright Brothers, people don’t know it came from here.

Thank you. The Wright Brothers are recognized as innovators of flight, just as the groups mentioned earlier were the innovators of funk. Not that we were the first, just that we took a sound and expounded on it and made it our own. Just as Motown and Philly have that recognizable sound, so does Dayton.

5. What is your plan moving forward?

The short-term goal is to bring awareness to the music and share the history. The long-term goal is to construct a building to house memorabilia. We want to display any and everything from the Mothership, to Bootsie’s boots, Roger’s guitars, Lakeside’s pirate costumes, and Sugarfoot’s double neck guitar. There is a substantial list we have on hand, as well as wanting to acquire (smile).

6. What do you need people to do?

To lend their financial support, in other words, give money. We also need people to donate their time and share their talents so we can continue to spread the word.

7. Why are you so driven?

We love music and Funk needs to be recognized on its own merit as an individual genre. Funk also needs its own category at the award shows, because it is still under R&B and in some cases Rock/Roll/Pop.

8. And after all is said and done and people come from miles around what kind of experience do you want them to come away with?

We want everyone to walk away knowing the people and groups who made Funk music and understand the historical significance of the music. Our goal is to educate, as much as possible, on another truly unique American art form.

9. Why does this Hall of Fame belong here in Dayton?

Demographically, all these groups came from this area; the tri-angle of funk, Indy-Cincy-Dayton (Sinbad’s description). Looking back, one could breach the argument that Dayton produced more groups that contributed to this phenomenon – Funk music. Just as Dayton is considered the birthplace of flight, as well as thousands of other innovations, so too should it be considered the birthplace of Funk.

10. Anything I missed you want to add?

TheFunkCenter has garnered praise and recognition from the State of Ohio where the word “Funk” was actually uttered on the floor of The Assembly Hall by members of the 131st General Assembly of Ohio, which presented TheFunkCenter with the 2015 Excellence Award in the best series program of the Philo T. Farnsworth Video Competition, sponsored by the Central States Region Alliance for Community Media, through Senate Resolution #303. The cities of Trotwood and Dayton Ohio made December 12th and August 26th, respectively, “Funk Music Day”. The City of Dayton also presented TheFunkCenter with a Key to the City.

TheFunkCenter has for three years running won a daytime Emmy, the Philo T. Farnsworth award, for “Best Series” and “Excellence in Programming”, for its number one public broadcasting TV show “Funk Chronicles”. Former mayor and State representative Rhine McLin currently hosts the show. If you have not seen an episode, just go to YouTube and search for TheFunkCenter. Artists as well as other dignitaries from around the world, share their experiences on a variety of topics.

Details were also released about the future Funk Entertainment Epicenter that will also be in Dayton, Ohio. TheFunkCenter is just Phase 1 of the project. Other developments include:

• The Groove Line Restaurant (A funk infused and inspired restaurant)

• Funky Walk of Stars (A beautification project in downtown Dayton which will pay tribute
to Funk Artists and any significant contributors to Funk Music)

• The Legends of Funk Tour (A world class tour of legendary Funk Bands all in one show)

• Dayton Fly Records (A record label developing and producing new Funk)

• School of Music and Performing Arts (With emphasis on Funk Music with Funk Artists as mentors and instructors)

• On the One – The Funk Chronicles (A music magazine)

• An annual Funk Awards and Induction Ceremony (A red carpet event)

• A Funk Music documentary will be filmed throughout the process with in-depth interviews from the legendary Funk Artists and contributors of Funk Music. David R. Webb, Sr., TheFunkCenter’s President and CEO, declares that “Dayton, Ohio will literally be ‘The Funkiest Place on Earth!’”

Check out this TEDTalk with the founder of the Funk Center: