Soul Seven

Now-Again | Oct. 18, 2008 | News | , ,

In 1969, at a small historically black school called Bishop College in Dallas, Texas, an Assistant Band Director had an idea for six students he led in the school’s Ambassador Marching Band – why not record two of the hardest-hitting funk songs of all time? Wendell Sneed, a jazz drummer par excellence who caught the funk bug around 1967 from soon-to-be bandmate Mike McKinney, assembled The Soul Seven from a multi-talented bunch attending Bishop on music scholarships. With the help of old friend Roger Boykin, another Bishop alumnus (1963), Sneed released his project on the fledgling Soultex label.

A third song from the session – a heavy duty cover of the Stax/Volt stalwarts’ “Grab That Thang” retitled “Southside Funk” – didn’t find a release until 2001, as Now Again Records’ parent company Stones Throw seven inch and as part of The Funky 16 Corners compilation. “We would take someone’s song and put our own twist to it,” trombonist and on-stage leader Charles Hunt remembers. Distilling the Soul Seven experience into one sentence, he adds, “We wanted to put out the funkiest music possible and hopefully get some gigs.”

While The Soul Seven certainly achieved Hunt’s goal, their live performances were often recorded – if at all – using one microphone, with a 1/4” reel to reel moving at the slowest speed possible. Thankfully Boykin and Sneed booked The Seven at their independently financed and produced South Dallas Pop Festival on the evening of June, 22nd 1970, and hired a professional recording engineer to document the night’s proceedings. Alongside friendly rivals The Apollo Commanders and The Black Maffia, The Soul Seven revue turned out an intense set that highlighted guests Eddie Purrell, Monica Harris and The Voices of Time and Mama Dee… and of course found the band doing what they did best – rocking the show with heavy, heavy funk.