Monday, June 30, 2003

Amos: Funk returns to Cincinnati for Cameo appearance

'If there's music, we can use it, you're free to dance. We don't have the time for psychological romance."

It's a funky kind of wisdom that R&B group Cameo lays down in "Word Up," one of funk music's chart-toppers in the 1980s.

Cameo is slated to perform at Cincinnati's first Funk Fest at Annie's pavilion in Columbia Tusculum on Thursday.

The funk will flow at least for the day. It's about time Cincinnati showed its funky roots.

Funk music - heavy in rhythm, infectious in attitude - got its start in Cincinnati. James Brown laid down his first tracks at the old King Records in Evanston during the 1950s.

His slew of hits inspired generations of musicians, including the still-reigning funk-maestro William "Bootsy" Collins.

Collins lives and works in music from his Anderson Township studio. He and his brother, Phelps "Catfish" Collins, played for Brown as teens and expanded funk as adults.

But more funk music is played in Dayton than Cincinnati, Catfish Collins says.

Dayton's claim to the funk begins with the Ohio Players, tops in the 1970s.

"The original Ohio Players were the tightest band in the land; they laid down some funk, too," Bootsy Collins says.

"But when you compare that to James Brown, who was recording all his funk right here in Cincinnati, you do the math.

"Cincinnati was the home of Godfather funk."

Other homegrown funk artists include the Isley Brothers, Midnight Star and L.A. Reid.

If Cincinnati is a funk capital, why doesn't it flaunt it?

The only public commemorations of Cincinnati's funky past are in Cleveland, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Some of Cincinnati's formerly local stars are honored there, as is King Records, a pioneer of rock 'n' roll, bluegrass and R&B.

The hall of fame also has a plaque ready for Cincinnati, but it's unclear where city officials want to hang it. Cincinnati City Councilman John Cranley is championing a King Records exhibit, but he needs a home and $300,000 for it.

Funk roots

King Records was among the first labels to integrate. From the mid-1950s through the early 1970s, black and white musicians and executives made hits in a building in Evanston. That building's a privately owned warehouse now.

Cincinnati needs a music museum highlighting funk.

"It should be like a monument people come to visit. I don't understand why the city hasn't picked up on it," Catfish Collins says.

Last year a variety of artists covered King Records' tunes on a CD that sold nearly 9,000 copies locally. Proceeds go to the Inclusion Network, which helps disabled people.

The city also plans a King Records Summer Nights concerts for Fountain Square.

Focusing on King Records is good, but more light should shine on funk, says Chip Wilson, a longtime drummer.

Rappers are sampling funk now. Record companies are releasing nostalgia CDs.

Cincinnati's "bringing the funk. We've got to stand our ground," he says.


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