RIP: Billy Ball – Indianapolis Funk Legend, Leader Of The Upsetters

We’re sad to report the passing of Naptown funk legend Billy Ball, whose three funk masterpieces “Tighten Up Tighter,” (on King Records) “Sissy Walk” and “Popcorn ’69” (on his self-funded Apollo) were three of the first licenses that Egon brokered in the late 90s. Ball, whose tenure with his ever-changing ensemble The Upsetters lasted from the mid-60s until his death, was one of the first artists lionized in the Deep Funk scene of the early to mid 90s. But when Egon tracked him down in an Indianapolis dive bar where he was playing with long term guitarist Clint Jones (he the one behind the every present wah-wah that made Ball’s Apollo release so in demand, and also sadly deceased), a patron made it a point to question why “anyone would care about this damn Chuck E. Cheese music.”

Well, the answer is now obvious, as Ball’s music has outlasted the Deep Funk fad: his Apollo release still commands upwards of $4000 in private sales and at auction and is regarded as one of the finest 45s in the independent funk canon. Egon included “Tighten Up Tighter” on his Stones Throw anthology The Funky 16 Corners; both sides of Ball’s Apollo release can be found on our Soul 7 box set.

Thanks to Jason Yoder, who visited Ball at his home in the mid 2000s and archived the early-70s photo you see above.

Link: Billy Ball obituary in Indianapolis’s Nuvo Magazine
Download: “Sissy Walk”
More: Interviews with Billy Ball and Clint Jones by Egon and Jason Yoder

Posted in News