WHO STOLE THE SOUL? THE DEATH OF RHYTHM AND BLUES IN VANCOUVER, PART IV
By MICHAEL – LOUIS INGRAM, EDITOR – IN – CHIEF
PHILADELPHIA, PA and VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA (www.basnnewsroom.com) Like a steady breeze which turns over leaves to expose their shiny sides, a storm was coming.
The riots in Detroit in 1967 had diminished the joy and hope of “The Sound Of Young America” – and as 1968 rolled in, there was a King Sized notion that the sound locally would also undergo a dramatic change…
From the mid-1960s on, a wave of Soul Power was vibrating of the pulse of American culture. There was no part of the country where a little bit ‘o Soul was musically applied like your favorite condiment; and that flava had supposedly spread to the once sleepy fishing village of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
From 1965 to 1968, a foundation had been formed as a platform of creation – as Bobby Taylor (and the Vancouvers), The Night Train Revue and Soul Unlimited, along with Jayson Hoover and the Epics, were at the core of a true Soul Power source for an original groove above the 49th parallel…
Now local music – doesn’t work without local support.
The unwillingness to recognize began with the radio stations. While they were acknowledged as the best Soul/R&B band in the Lower Mainland, local radio did not follow through consistently. Epics’ guitarist Jimmy Harmata put it all in perspective. “We would drive down to Seattle and buy all the music which was popular at that time. Came back, played it all – and nailed it.”
Jayson Hoover also noticed something amiss. “You take a song like James Brown’s ‘So Good (I Got You)’ -that’s as generic and non – offensive as a JB song can be; but for the life of me, I can’t ever remember it being played on a Vancouver radio station. Seattle, for sure, but not in Vancouver.”
So as 1968 moved along, musical reflections were revealed across the Soul Map. From East to West, defined grooves were making moves. The New York Metro area sound was driven by Latin love songs, boogaloo beats, and world class begging on the part of the All Platinum crew (Sylvia Robinson, Moments, Whatnauts, etc.) along with the burgeoning funk of Kool and the Gang and Mandrill (nee The Wilson Brothers).
Looking upstate, Dyke and the Blazers were cooking up in Buffalo, NY and Steam would hiss up the charts with some blue eyed pop “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)” from that hotbed of soul, New Haven, Connecticut!
Philadelphia was cooking as The Delfonics, Intruders, the amazing Thom Bell, Gamble and Huff, The O’ Jays – and the birth of what would eventually become Philadelphia International Records. Their effect after The Intruders’ “Cowboys to Girls” would be felt through the Atlantic region down to Washington, D.C.
Ohio would one day become Ground Zero for funk from Cincinnati (King Records, Little Willie John, Bobby Byrd, JB) to Dayton (Westbound, Ohio Untouchables/Players). The Lords of Chicago (Gene Chandler, Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield, Vee – Jay Records, Chess/Checker Records) were serving heaping helpings of rhythm and blues…
Memphis would say a tearful farewell to the great Otis Redding, and Isaac Hayes would eventually emerge from the studio to re-stack the Wax at Stax…
New Orleans was a pocky-way away with The Meters, Aaron Neville and Eddie Bo…
Dial and Duke Records were pumping out soul deep in the heart o’ Texas (Joe Tex, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland)
Even California had some soul to supplement surf music with Bill Withers, The Righteous Brothers and The Association.
So, with all this flowing from the same timeline, The Gods of Groove looked at Vancouver and said, “What y’all gon’ do?”
Jayson and the Epics would respond with their first recorded song in December of ’68;
The next issue would be the number of venues where “King Size” could get worked, which rewinds us to where we were in Part I of this series – no place to play; but the group’s name on the label would become part of something else.
Ultimately, with the flow of soul ready for an infusion in the Pacific Northwest, there’s no other way to say it: Vancouver fucked up because there was no desire to pursue R&B or soul music in their market; there are definite racial overtones with this as well because of the gate keepers refused to take care of their homegrown talent.
How in Pacific Northwest Hell do you have a group named after the city, fronted by an exceptional talent like Bobby Taylor – and treat them like red-headed stepchildren? It didn’t seem as if there was any desire to book Soul Unlimited or The Night Train Revue? Given the choice to help them live or die depending on their talent, that inner circle in Vancouver – chose death.
At the suggestion of the group’s manager, the name of the band was changed to “The Trials of Jayson Hoover” – which would prove to be somewhat prophetic as the band’s future efforts would imply.
Some members did not see themselves with the group as they were going to be on the road across Canada and possibly beyond and desired to remain at home. While the renamed Epics were looking to go forward, it seemed none of the other connected local groups were able to go with them, leaving a disconnect as to what was to come. This was summed up by Harmata, who made the observation:
“Some people were dancing, but for those dancing, there were as many just standing around listening to the music while sharing a joint.”
To be continued…
“Always outnumbered…never outgunned.”
Copyright (C) 2021 Michael – Louis Ingram all rights reserved.