Maceo Parker & All of The Kings Men


Words By Joshua Raskin

Being in James Brown’s band in 1970 is about as good as funk gets for any funkateer on planet earth. In 1968 James Brown released “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” which became an iconic anthem for African Americans facing segregation and prejudice in a changing America. As the most influential member of James Brown’s band other than James himself, Maceo Parker played a major role in the shaping and sound of this important song. Maceo’s alto sax can be heard weaving in and around James’s voice as he howled the mighty anthem, SAY IT LOUD, I’M BLACK AND I’M PROUD to a changing America…



But as the 60’s came to a close and the 70s began, Maceo Parker and his brother, drummer Melvin Parker, were ready for their own revolution, part musical, part rebellion against their band leader and mentor James Brown. James Brown was a creative genius but working for him was often grueling and the pay and writing credits were often lacking. Maceo and Melvin would recruit a group of James Brown’s greatest musicians and form a new funk powerhouse, Maceo and All The King’s Men. The namesake reflecting the fact that the band was literally made up of all of The King’s Men: former James Brown members Bernard Odom on bass, L.D. Williams on tenor saxophone, Jimmy Nolen and Alphonso Kellum on guitar and Richard Griffith and Joseph Davis rounding out the all star line up on trumpets.  

From the day Maceo assembled the band at Sounds of Memphis Studio in 1970, the funk world would never be the same. Maceo Parker would release 15 independent albums from 1970 to 2007. The newly formed band also decided on a title that was equally reflective of their newfound independence from James Brown, their first effort would be titled, Doing Their Own Thing. And when this band did their thing, there was never anything better, or funkier.

Doing Their Own Thing is in many ways Maceo’s signature album. The record begins with a funky guitar groove alongside a thumping Bernard Odom bass line with a groovy cymbal sound coming from Melvin Parker and then it begins. “M....A....C....E....O....  MACEO.” As the band finishes this awesome lyric beginning the musical journey of Doing Their Own Thing, Maceo begins a saxophone jam that leads his horns into a funk jam session for the ages to announce the band and Maceo’s arrival as artists in their own right. With trumpets and saxophones trading leads and meshing so nicely, one can’t help but sing along with this tune, “M....A....C....E....O...”, not to mention dance around the room as the band takes you on a 7 minute 48 second funk odyssey to proclaim their arrival and independence to the funk nation…



The second song on the album, the classic “Got to Getcha”, would become one of Maceo’s most famous tunes that people would sing along to for decades to come. “I got to get you, I got to get you, I got to get you, I got to get you, I got to get you.” These are iconic lines in the funk world!  “I need a Turtles egg, to make her beg.” As Maceo and the band play their horns and this awesome song unfolds in its playful provocative way, it evokes a sexual energy present in many of the James Brown songs the musicians had worked on previously…



The next tune, “Southwick”, has become a staple Maceo Parker live track that is played often, and all of Maceo’s fans know it well. It is a funky instrumental that lays down a groove which remains rather constant throughout. The horns lay melodies down as the track unfolds. It never strays far from the groove, repeating the horn sounds in a way that puts the listener into a funk trance…



Another tune that stands out on the album is “Funky Women”. “Funky Women” pays homage to the amazing funky women of the era. It begins, “Once upon a time, there lived a man, now this man lived way back in the woods....”  And so the story begins as the song explains how a discussion between the man and the women might sound. However, the women in the song don’t sing, not with voices. The women respond with the sounds of horns. The song at one point asks saxophonist L.D. Williams, “Now LD,” “Yeah?” “What about that one standing on the corner on the left?” “In the red dress?” “Yeah. Now if you were to go over and touch her on the back, you know, just to speak, tell us, how would she speak to you?” L.D goes into a lengthy saxophone solo that reflects the perspective of the woman in such a sensual way that the listener can’t help but be brought into the sexy vibe of this song dedicated to those most amazing women, The Funky Women…  



The album closes with a mind blowing version of Sly and The Family Stone’s, “Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself Again” which was actually originally titled, “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)“. Perhaps this is Maceo and All The King’s Men’s way of proclaiming that from this point going forward when they shouted “Be Myself”, they were no longer working with the Godfather of Soul. Or maybe they just wanted to pay homage to the great Sly Stone. Either way, this version is a classic…



James Brown survived the revolution. He and the sole remaining member of his band, vocalist Bobby Byrd, would seek out a new group of genius musicians and form the JB’s. The band would feature virtuoso bass player Bootsy Collins, Bootsy’s brother, guitarist Phelps “Catfish” Collins, and legendary trumpet player Fred Wesley. James’s new band would take its own route, de-emphasizing the horn section. It would center on the resounding riff played by brothers Bootsy and Catfish Collins on bass and guitar. Bootsy had arrived…



However, it was Maceo Parker’s time to lead a preeminent funk band into the 70s. Doing Their Own Thing would announce to the world that Maceo Parker would be a funk force is in his own right for decades to come and that The Kings Men would be major players in the funk world from now on with or without James Brown. “Doing Their Own Thing” became a classic American album that has funked people up across the world for the last 40 years.   GO MACEO!!!!!  

www.maceoparker.com

Comments

  1. Maceo should be on everyone's list of musical heroes and this article proves why!
    Peace!

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  2. Wonderful article!

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