Lost but not least! Bar-Kays – Your Place Or Mine (Mercury)
‘Your Place Or Mine…’ Is it just me or??? Whenever chasing music, I learned to deeply check the credits. And whenever a group or an artist had got to my attention, there was nothing from them or him/her I then would miss. Unsurprisingly the Bar-Kays happened to already be in my list at the time. And I remember how ‘Your Place Or Mine’ literally stood me up when comin’ to open their 1985 aptly titled ‘Banging The Walls’ album…
To be honest, I hardly understand how ‘Your Place Or Mine’ didn’t manage to do more waves than this at the end. This despite its insane horn line melted with an infectious rhythm guitar part. And the whole over a syncopated bassline-driven slamming drum pattern. With big ups to Allen A. Jones for his stunning production work…
‘Your Place Or Mine’…Or one of the countless reasons that contributed makin’ of the Bar-Kays one of the most firing bands in the history of Funk. Here sounding like an unlikely meeting between Prince, Rick James and Parliament…
The Bar-Kays came to light back in the mid-60’s in Memphis, TN. First as a studio session group, backing major artists at Stax Records. They eventually delivered their debut-single – ‘Soul Finger’ – back in April 1967. That same year seeing them playing as the backing band of Otis Redding. On Dec. 10, 1967, the latter, four members of the band – Ronnie Caldwell (electric organ), Carl Cunningham (drums), Phalon Jones (saxophone), Jimmie King (guitar) – and their partner, Matthew Kelly, died when their airplane crashed into Lake Monona, WI. This while attempting to land at Truax Field, next to Madison where they were scheduled to play their next concerts.
Trumpeter Ben Cauley was the only survivor of the crash. Meanwhile bassist James Alexander was on another flight. As the plane carrying Redding held only seven passengers.
Alexander and Cauley reformed the band. Recruiting Ronnie Gorden (organ) Willie Hall (drums), Harvey Henderson (saxophone), Michael Toles (guitar) and later Larry Dodson (vocals). Even though their line-up came thru various modifications along with time.
The Bar-Kays backed almost everybody at Stax, including Isaac Hayes on his 1969 ‘Hot Buttered Soul’ album.
All in all, the Bar-Kays released 21 albums with their latest – ‘House Party’ – back in 2007. Thus delivering an impressive bunch of gems in the history of contemporary music. From late 60’s Psychedelic Rock to 70’s Funk and 80’s Electro Boogie. With the first comin’ to mind being the electrifying ‘Son Of Shaft’. But also ‘Too Hot To Stop’ not to mention ‘Shake Your Rump To The Funk’ which marked their arrival on Mercury back in 1976. Stax eventually comin’ to release the infectious ‘Holy Ghost’ in 1978. That same year seeing them delivering ‘Shine’ and ‘Shut The Funk Up’ for their ‘new’ label. Then getting into some P-Funk-ish vibes on ‘Body Fever’ two years after.
Other tracks worth the check including the boiling hot ‘She Talks To Me With Her Body’, ‘Sexomatic’ and ‘Your Place Or Mine’. With ‘Struck On You’ seeing them flirting with Go-Go back in 1988.
The Bar-Kays went to suffer another loss back in 1984. This when their guitarist, 19-year-old Marcus Price, was shot during an attempted robbery in Memphis. Price was leaving a rehearsal session when three men approached him, demanding his belongings. One of them placed a gun to his back. A struggle ensued, and Price was shot. He died at the Regional Medical Center shortly afterward. His murder remains unsolved. And tragedy struck again soon. This with the passing of the group’s long-time producer and manager, Allen A. Jones, of a heart attack on May May 05, 1987, aged 46.
Trumpeter Ben Cauley sadly died in Memphis on Sept. 21, 2015, at the age of 67.
James 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. Phalon is himself responsible for the oustanding ‘Rising To The Top’, from his 1990 album of the likes, and ‘Dance Floor Of Life’.