Soul-Patrol Newsletter



SPN: Soul/Funk, Re Introducing Clarence Burke Jr/Five Stairsteps, Blue Magic, Persuaders, Skyy, Brass Construction, Danger She's a Stranger, Concert Review, Exclusive Pictures, Analysis, Internet Radio Broadcast
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Welcome To The Soul-Patrol Newsletter

This is a very special edition of the Soul-Patrol Newsletter. It's one that I have been literally waiting 30 years to be able to present to you.

It's all about the re-emergence of one of my favorite artists, Mr Clarence Burke Jr, of the Five Stairsteps. It is also the latest chapter in what has been an ongoing "14 year detective story" for me with regards to trying to attempt to answer the often posed question, "Whatever Happened to the Five Stairteps?"

Some of you may recall the last instalment of this detective story:
http://www.soul-patrol.com/newsletter/in/view1.php?id=215

There are just two articles in this issue of the Soul-Patrol Newsletter:

--The first is a review of a SLAMMIN concert that took place this past friday in Newark, NJ, featuring Mr. Clarence Burke Jr, documenting his return to the scene and perhaps foreshadowing a much larger return.

--The second article is something that I wrote almost a year ago over the Memorial Day weekend, which deals with my lifelong obsession with the Five Stairsteps song called "Danger She's a Stranger," which was co-written by Clarence Burke Jr. and the late/great Curtis Mayfield. (A few of you brothas out there who keep telling me that your getting burned by the "chat room women" may want to take a listen to the song)

The "detective story" continues. Certainly there are a LOT of questions; "When will Clarence Burke Jr. perform next?" "Will the Five Stairsteps ever reunite and do a concert/release an album?" "Will they ever reveal the complete story of what happened to them?" "Where is Cubie?" "Will the "2nd Resurection Album" ever be re-released?" (& more)

A whole lotta folks think that I know the answers to these questions, but I don't. However, I do have a suggestion on where you can ask some of these questions:

Go to Clarence Burke Jr's website at the following link and drop him an email:
http://www.clarenceburkejr.com
(perhaps he may be able to answer some of your questions)



--Bob Davis
609-351-0154
earthjuice@prodigy.net

Co-Founder www.soul-patrol.com
Blues, Hip Hop and Soul Music Director www.radioio.com



Soul-Patrol Salutes the FIVE STAIRSTEPS. Gary Tyson presents us the complete history of the Five Stairsteps as it evolved from the 'First Family of Soul' and it's classic and rich Blue Light In The Basement Slow Jams of the late 1960's to the surprising DISCO FUNK of The Invisible Man's Band, to the solo career of JAZZ/SOUL/FUNK of singer/bassist/producer Kenni Burke into the 1980's.

Concert Review: Newark, NJ: Clarence Burke Jr @ the Key Club (March 12 2010)

PRESS RELEASE: Clarence Burke Jr (Five Stairsteps Lead) Returns @ Key Club in Newark, NJ (March 12, 2010 at 8 PM)"One, two, three...Waiting on the dance, To get started. Hollywood stands, it's jammed down, OOH CHILD It's a party now..."

All i gotta say is that it was one of those rare times when ya get to experience pure musical genius on display. This was like seeing Prince, or Shuggie Otis, or John Lee Hooker or Curtis Mayfield or John Lennon. No I take that back, it was more like seeing them all rolled up into one at the same time!!

And really that should be enough. I really shouldn't have to write another word. But since I know that won't be enough for you and that you simply just won't take my word for it, now you are going to be subjected to the manifestation of some of my worst writing instincts.

This concert was nothing short of a dream come true. You see, not only was it a chance to experience a 40 + year nostalgic fantasy of mine, of actually hearing a voice that has been locked inside of my mind for 40+ years but it also gives me the opportunity to bear witness to having experienced the musical genius of one of the true "unsung heroes of Black music.

There is a music oriented TV show currently running on one of the cable TV kne-gro channels called "Unsung Heroes." The title of the show would lead one to believe that the show is about artists whose names we don't know and would tell us the reasons why we should know who they are based on their overall musical/cultural contributions. Instead the show tells us more details, then perhaps we need to know about artists who are already at least moderately famous, most of which could easily be obtained by going to that artist website and taking at least a few moments to actually read what is written there. That is not to say that the show itself is bad, it's actually pretty entertaining, but the title is misleading.

CLARENCE BURKE JR. IS A REAL "UNSUNG HERO" OF BLACK MUSIC.

Clarence Burke Jr and Wendell Saywer of Blue Magic and Evan Willis of the Persuaders As the lead singer, lead guitarist and key songwriter of the Five Stairsteps, Clarence Burke jr's voice has been one that has been burned very deeply inside of the inner depths of the brain of this writer since he was a very young teenager. If you know ANYTHING about the history of the Five Stairsteps (which I will refrain from re-canting at this moment), you know that between 1966 - 1970 they released about 10 iconic slow jams. Not "ballads," I mean serious/hard core grind em down to the floor push em up against the wall basement blue light specials, dealing with everything from teen angst, somehow morphing into adult sexuality and back. Masterfully produced by Curtis Mayfield all of these songs are quite haunting and distinctive. These songs are all anchored by the angelic voice and super sweet/erotic funk guitar playing of a pre-pubescent young man out of Chicago named Clarence Burke Jr.

I was a HUGE fan of these iconic slow jams. So it should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone reading this that as a college student during the early - mid 1970's, I made a special "love tape." Once side was filled with songs from the Moments, Black Ivory, etc. The other side of the tape were those 10 iconic slow jams of the Five Stairsteps, featuring the voice of Clarence Burke jr. As you might also imagine, this tape served a very specific & strategic purpose in what was then my major lifestyle pursuit at that stage of my life. Needless to say, it is a fact of my life that the voice of Clarence Burke Jr. has helped me to obtain more p_____ than he (or you) can begin to imagine :)

Clarence Burke Jr SingingSo on March 12th 2010 on a cold, windy & rainy night at the Key Club in Newark, New Jersey at approximately 8:30pm when Clarence Burke Jr. emerged thru the curtain, wearing a serious black on black on black "John Lee Hooker style suit, complete with bowler hat, guitar slung over his shoulder a' la Hendrix and started singing, most appropriately..."YOU WAITED TOO LONG", "WORLD OF FANTASY" , "COME BACK", and "DANGER SHE'S A STRANGER," I felt as if I had died and gone to heaven. After all these were but a few of those "10 iconic slow jams" from my long lost "love tape" and for the very first time I was hearing them being performed live and being performed live by the same person whose voice/guitar playing singing those songs was by now a permanent feature of the core of my 53 year old cerebellum. Of course I was singing along, just as I have done hundreds of times before, the lyrics of these songs are second nature to me.

To make a statement like "Clarence Burke Jr's still got it," is something of an understatement. The proof of that could be seen as my eyes started to wonder around the room and I saw most of the other members of the audience (which included more than a few Classic Soul artists like members of Blue Magic, the Persuaders, Brass Construction & Skyy and others) doing EXACTLY the same thing I was doing. I observed the audience members, both male & female mouthing/singing the lyrics of these great songs. I wondered to myself if perhaps these folks had also created a "love tape", featuring the Five Stairsteps like I had way back in what seems like another lifetime?

For some, that would have been quite enough, but that segment would prove to be just the beginning, because Clarence had plenty more in store for us. He completely changed gears by doing a great stank azz cover version of the Sly & the Family Stone classic "Somebody's Watching You." As I sat and listened to this classic song of paranoia/distrust it made me not only think of Sly Stone's misguided comeback of a couple of years ago, but also of how the musical career of the Stairsteps went thru a state of both transformation & confusion during the same early 1970's timeframe that the rest of our society did. At the same time that America was struggling in earnest to transform itself from and imperialistic & racist society (ie; Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, etc.), the Five Stairsteps were trying to transform themselves from a stand up vocal group artists into a fully realized singer/songwriter self-contained funk band. And although they were able to make that transformation both successful on artistic & commercial levels, they lost their identity and to most of their fans, seemingly just disappeared.

However, the Stairsteps didn't disappear, they just did what all "super heroes" did, they changed into another identity in order to "protect the innocent and fool the guilty."

Clarence Burke Jr backe up by First Friends outta Richmond VA After Clarence Burke Jr. finished playing "Somebody's Watching You" he played the songs "NINE TIMES OUT OF TEN", "PASADO", and "ALL THE WAY." This grouping of beautiful songs in many ways represent a huge departure from the previous incarnation of the Stairsteps. You could hear jazz influences, you can hear the influence of the Beatles, you can hear the influence of all of the artists in the mid-1970's who made "music for the head" during the early to mid 1970's. Most importantly you can hear the struggle of talented young people who are growing older & wiser, trying to make certain that their new found wisdom is making its way into their music. However historically for Five Stairstep fans these songs represent the period of time when the Five Stairsteps literally "fell off of the face of the earth" and disappeared into the ether. This is during the same period of time when the artists that most of us fans considered to be the "competitors" of the Five Stairsteps (Jackson Five, Sylvers, etc) were at their height. Clarence Burke jr knows all of this and that is why he is now performing all of this beautiful music immediately following the song "Somebody's Watching You" . Without sounding too "biblical" this is what is known as the "second resurrection" period of the Five Stairsteps (also the name of their mostly unknown, highly sought after and long out of print album).





Members of Skyy, Persuaders and Brass Construction watching Clarence Burke jr throw down In between Clarence plays a fierce and poinent cover version of the classic song "People Get Ready,' which not only reminds us once again of Clarence's substantial guitar playing skills, but also reminds us of an important fact that we all know, but is seldom discussed. During their initial period, the music of the Five Stairsteps was produced by the legendary Curtis Mayfield and in fact were on Mayfield's label "Windy C." What is painfully obvious, yet understated when watching/listening to Clarence Burke Jr. playing and singing "PEOPLE GET READY" is the influence of Curtis Mayfield. It is indeed a joy & a pleasure to watch and serves as a perfect set up (get ready folks") for what is to come next….

THA
FUNK
BOMB

What most Five Stairsteps fans don't realize is that during the timeframe when they thought that the group had disappeared, the Five Stairsteps were actually right in front of their faces. You see, the Five Stairsteps had indeed made that successful transition from a stand up vocal group artists into a fully realized singer/songwriter self-contained funk band. However they did it in-cog-ne-gro, under a completely different name and persona, which bore absolutely no clues to their fans as to what had happened to them.

They did it with the incredibly funky and infectious song, "ALL NIGHT THANG," under the improbable name "THE INVISIBLE MAN'S BAND" in 1980, which to my knowledge has never been performed live. (dat's cuz you ain't supposed to see "the invisible man's band....lol)

That is until March 12th, 2010 on a cold, windy & rainy night at the Key Club in Newark, New Jersey at approximately 9:30pm when Clarence Burke Jr. absolutely TORE THA ROOF OFF THA SUCKA when he played 10 minute or so rendition of "ALL NIGHT THING." Needless to say, the audience went absolutely nuts and Clarence absolutely ate it up. Now he was indeed "wielding his axe," as the crowd rose to it's feet, dancing & hollering as loud as they could for as long as they could.

For most artists, that would have been more than enough to end the show. Crowd on it's feed, everyone all sweaty and smiling. However everyone knew that the show wasn't over. Everyone knew that there was one more song that had to be performed in order to not only legitimize the show, but to also put the entire story that Clarence Burke Jr. had managed to musically tell on stage on this cold, windy & rainy night at the Key Club in Newark, New Jersey.

Clarence Burke Jr  + A Touch of ClassThe song "OOH CHILD" reached #8 pop and #14 R&B way back in the year 1970. Not only is it the signature song of the Five Stairsteps, but it is also an anthem for anyone who grew up in the 1960's/1970's. It is an uplifting/message song which transcends race, gender, geography, etc. and over the years has become a staple of many movie/TV soundtracks which deal with people growing up in the 1960's/1970's. Clarence Burke Jr. knows that there is no way that he is going to leave the stage without singing "OOH CHILD," so he is gonna make it special.

As the band starts to play the song, Clarence informs us that there are only two people who have ever been allowed to replace any of is brothers onstage if they were ill or couldn't make a show. It just so happens that those two men today are members of a local New Jersey group called "A Touch of Class and since the "just so happen to be in the audience tonight,"can they join him on stage to sing"OOH CHILD. Of course "A Touch Of Class" joins Clarence on stage and together they all do a fabulous rendition of "OOH CHILD," to end the show.

I could probably write a whole lot more about what happened on this cold, windy & rainy night at the Key Club in Newark, New Jersey. However I'll save that for another time, because I suspect that your patience has already been worn thing, by what I have written thus far.

Clarence Burke Jr and Bob DavisInstead I will simply leave you with the words of Clarence Burke Jr. himself as he said many times from the stage on a cold, windy & rainy night at the Key Club in Newark, New Jersey:

"I'm only one stairstep, in a minute there's gonna be two stairsteps and soon there will be three and before you know it, there will be five stairsteps on stage right in front of your eyes."

I have no idea when that is going to happen, but you can bet your bottom dolla that whenever it does happen, Bob Davis will be in the audience. That's because despite the fact that on a cold, windy & rainy night at the Key Club in Newark, New Jersey, Clarence Burke jr. delivered certainly the best show I have seen thus far in 2010, in fact it was one of the best shows I have ever seen period, this show can be characterized mostly by two things:



1. What was there (the best show that I have seen thus far in 2010)
2. What wasn't there (the voices of Alohe, Keni, Dennis, and James Burke)

"Some day, we'll get it together and we'll get it all done...."

--Bob Davis


--Bob Davis
609-351-0154
earthjuice@prodigy.net



Soul-Patrol Salutes the FIVE STAIRSTEPS. Gary Tyson presents us the complete history of the Five Stairsteps as it evolved from the 'First Family of Soul' and it's classic and rich Blue Light In The Basement Slow Jams of the late 1960's to the surprising DISCO FUNK of The Invisible Man's Band, to the solo career of JAZZ/SOUL/FUNK of singer/bassist/producer Kenni Burke into the 1980's.

Danger She's a Stranger (Memorial Day Memories)

PRESS RELEASE: Clarence Burke Jr (Five Stairsteps Lead) Returns @ Key Club in Newark, NJ (March 12, 2010 at 8 PM)For some reason earlier today I started playing some music by the Five Stairsteps. This is not an unusual thing for me to do, simply because the older I get, the more their music brings a smile to my face. It's not just the awesome vocal harmonies of this talented group of siblings that makes me feel that way. Nor is it just the incredible lyrics sung in such a matter of fact manner, by young people who couldn't possibly recognize the adult subject matter of the topics of the songs that they were singing. And it wasn't just the incredible musicianship of this self contained band that would later become perhaps even more popular for their "funksmanship."

It's actually all of the above and none of the above. It's mostly just pure nostalgia that gets me off about the Five Stairsteps. You see it's simply (mostly) about my own memories of specific situations that I was involved in relative to the music of the Five Stairsteps.

"Danger She's a Stranger" is a song that for me on a personal level as great as the music, the lyrics, and the singing is, is really a song that says more about myself than any of the other factors (music, the lyrics, and the singing).

You see it's really about the situation and about how I am going to deal with it. It's really all about meeting strangers. And when you're a teenaged boy, regardless of just how confident you may want people to think that you are, the whole idea of meeting strangers (especially of the opposite sex), is both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

"Hey Baby,
Could You Maybe
Have Some Love , For Me

If Ya Think So
Then Will I know
All my possibilities
Of Lovin…
A STRANGER
DANGER….Ooo, Ooo, Ooo…"

What lyrics, eh?

You see, "Danger She's a Stranger" is all about a situation and about just how you are going to react to it. And for me, going to those "blue light basement parties", was 100 percent about "meeting strangers."

The whole point was to not just "meet a stranger", but to also come as close to having sex with that stranger as possible, without removing any clothing while doin the grind, and of course to "cop the phone number."

So this is what we did as teenagers, roaming around the neighborhood, roaming around the city, going wherever we could, all in search of basement parties, where there were teenaged girls, that we didn't know, who willing to let us "grind them up against a pole." That was the objective and the reality was that the objective was usually achieved.

"Danger She's a Stranger" is co-written by Clarence Burke Jr and Curtis Mayfield. It's one of the greatest slow jams of all time, not only because of the fantastic vocal group harmonies, or the understated raw funkiness of the music or it's haunting melody. It's a great song because it provides real world words of advice for the "young man on the make." And its advice coming directly from a fellow teenager named Clarence Burke Jr, Since Clarence Burke Jr. not only wrote "Danger She's a Stranger", but it is also his voice singing lead for the Five Stairsteps and presumably he has been "burned by meeting a stranger." "Danger She's a Stranger" was #16 on the Billboard R&B charts in 1967, however it's chart ranking is of little consequence today. What matters today is the ongoing brilliance of this masterpiece and as I listen today, it's easy to see just why this song is truly the anthem of every brotha who ever "crashed a party and grinded with some girl he had never met before."

Of course what Clarence Burke Jr. knew was that each and every one of those young ladies that one could meet inside of a dark basement, inside of a home where even the homeowner's names were a mystery, wasn't always "safe", and was thus "dangerous."

I don't quite know why I'm listening to this song today and certainly I'm not sure why I'm writing about it today, on a day when there are so many other things that I could be writing about instead. However it is such a beautiful song, one thing is for certain, when I listen to "Danger She's a Stranger", I can't listen to it just one time. So far I must have hit the repeat button on the remote control unit of my CD player a dozen or more times.

Everything about the song "Danger She's a Stranger" by the Five Stairsteps is buried deep within my own personal musical DNA. I haven't heard the song in over six months and yet right at this moment I can't get enough of it.

My guess is because it's Memorial Day weekend and at this moment, my thoughts aren't of the Memorial Day of the war's in Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead my thoughts are of Memorial Days from long ago in what now seems to be another universe, that I'm not exactly sure ever really existed. Because in that universe a young teenaged boy who wasn't really as confident as he wanted everyone to think that he was, wanted nothing more to meet "strange girls", grind them up against structural poles inside of dark & damp basements.

It was always on Memorial Day weekend along with Fourth of July weekend & Labor Day weekend, where I always stood the greatest chance of "meeting a stranger." Someone visiting from out of town, it was "easy prey", right?

Little did I know at that time, just how little I know, so today I just want to thank Clarence Burke Jr. for trying to help me to understand just how foolish I was way back then? He tried, and God bless him for trying, but it didn't work for me or anyone else I knew. That's because we didn't really understand that whole "hunter get's captured by the game" philosophy. We always opted to try and "meet a stranger."

But now we do (don't we?)

--"Men think that women want to hear what they have to say, actually women want to hear what they have to say, only with a deeper voice…" (Bill Cosby)



--Bob Davis (5/2009)
609-351-0154
earthjuice@prodigy.net


 

If you have a news item, update, review, commentary, etc that you would like to submit to the Soul-Patrol Newsletter, please send them via email for consideration to:

earthjuice@prodigy.net


Hopefully you enjoyed this edition of the Soul-Patrol Newsletter.
We will be back soon with the next edition, with email alerts for local events, Soul-Patrol website updates/chat sessions or breaking news in between, as required.

If you have any comments, questions, etc feel free to drop me an email and let me know what's on your mind.
Bob Davis
earthjuice@prodigy.net

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