Soul-Patrol Newsletter



SPN: Black History Month Special - Whatever Happened To The Five Stairsteps and What's Their Future? (Interviews, Music & More)
Soul-Patrol.Com ||Soul-Patrol.Net Radio || Free Soul-Patrol Network Feeds || About Soul-Patrol





  • 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.




    Soul-Patrol Newsletter Headlines:

    * WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE FIVE STAIRSTEPS?

  • Welcome To The Soul-Patrol Newsletter

    Since it is Black History Month, I wanted to give yall a little piece of Black History that is kinda special to me. It's a piece that I originally wrote back in 2006, but that I haven't really ever published before.

    On one level, it's all about the Five Stairsteps and what has happened to them since they mysteriously disappeared back in the 1970's.

    On another level, it's all about the ongoing/somewhat elusive, yet fascinating relationship that I have developed with the Burke family since 1997.

    And it is elusive indeed. Most of this piece is all about a 5 hour interview that I conducted with Clarence Burke Jr. back in 2004. As many of you might recall, Clarence Burke Jr. was the lead singer and guitarist for the Five Stairsteps during their 1960's heyday and into the 1970's as the Invisible Man's Band.

    Most of you are very much aware of the Five Stairsteps biggest hit record "Ooo Child". It was a huge hit song in 1970 and has been used in dozens of TV commercials, movies, etc. over the years. What some of you might not be aware of is that the Five Stairsteps also had about 10 hit songs, that were absolutely huge in the Black community during the 1960's. Most of them were magnificent slow jams produced by Curtis Mayfield that listening to today will cause you to understand why these songs are so fondly remembered by the folks who GRINED to them at BASEMENT BLUE LIGHT PARTIES back in the day. The vocal harmonies are superb, the instrumentation was superb and the production was suburb.

    As you read thru this newsletter, you will notice a big phat link to an internet radio broadcast which contains these recordings by the Five Stairsteps.

    Please take the time to listen to the recordings as you scroll down and read this piece, because as you listen, you will be taken to a "world of fantasy…", by one of the greatest groups of all time!!!

    Thanks in advance...

    --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.



    WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE FIVE STAIRSTEPS?


    Mike Calhoun - BioA number of incredible things happened to me over the summer. I am only now beginning to catch up and try to start writing about them, so I ask your forgiveness in advance.

    The subject heading of this email is one that I have seen quite often since Soul-Patrol has been on the internet. In fact, I'd be a rich man if I had a dollar for every time I have seen that subject heading in an email that was sent to me. The Five Stairsteps created such great music that truly has impacted so many people that those people (myself included) have truly developed a special bond with them.

    To people like myself, who took their music so closely to their hearts, it seems unimaginable that a group of young people who had such an enormous amount of talent could literally drop off the face of the earth.

    Well that is exactly what happened :(

    In 1997 I put this web page up on the internet....
    THE FIVE STAIRSTEPS ON THE SOUL-PATROL.COM WEBSITE
    http://www.soul-patrol.com/soul/five.htm

    As a result of putting that page up, the saga of the Five Stairsteps grew into something more than that of a musical group that stopped performing. It became almost like a detective story that would from time to time heat up and get really interesting and then just as suddenly disappear again into thin air, just like the group itself did.

    Initially the page was rather simple. It just had some reviews & lyrics of their music along with some commentary about them from some of the members of the Prodigy Urban Sounds BB. It also had a crude scan job done by me of the back cover of the Five Stairsteps Greatest Hits LP, and an extremely low fidelity .wav file of the song "Come Back" playing in the background of the page.

    Over the years I have had THOUSANDS of emails from people who have visited that web page, asking the simple question...

    WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE FIVE STAIRSTEPS?

    It's only been updated twice since that time....

    1. Charles Duke's fabulous essay on the Five Stairsteps.
    2. Gary Tyson's awesome internet radio broadcast featuring the music and history of the Five Stairsteps.

    Now there is a reason for this...

    Gary Tyson and Charles Duke were the two people who not only wrote in to me and asked the immortal question...

    WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE FIVE STAIRSTEPS?

    They had an amazing and intense interest and desire to get to the answer to the question. They also had a LOT of detailed information about the group, in fact far more than I had at that time. And they both wanted to add that information to the site, and ultimately they both did in their own way.

    I first met both Gary Tyson and Charles Duke because of that Five Stairsteps web page.

    However I didn't have the answer to their question...

    WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE FIVE STAIRSTEPS?

    Nor did I have an answer for anyone else who wrote in to me and asked that question.

    Well now I do have know the answer to that question.

    And the reason why I now know the answer to that question is because I spent 5 hours of my life this past summer talking with Mr. Clarence Burke Jr.



  • 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.



    As I said, finding out the answer to that question has been something of a "detective story" for me since the first day that Soul-Patrol's Five Stairsteps page went up. And yet strangely enough it's a story that I haven't really pursued with much vigor. That's because I have learned over the years in dealing with artists that have chosen for whatever reasons to leave the entertainment business, the best thing to do is to respect their wishes (ex: Sly Stone) and wait for them to approach me,
    rather than me chasing them down. My feeling is that they have had a lifetime of "people chasing them down", they don't need me added to that list!

    So that has been my approach with the Five Stairsteps. Over the years I have certainly been in touch with various memebers the Burke family via email and telephone:

    * Aloha Burke has written to me several times and then stopped.
    * Kenny Burke writes to me once every six months or so.
    * I have spoken with Mrs. Burke on the phone.
    * Heck, I have even spoken with "Cubie" on the phone.
    * I have also been contacted by various relatives of the Burkes over the years.

    Now if this sounds like a lot of contact, it really isn't. It's always been sporadic at best, and always clear out of the blue, and they always disappear right afterwards. My nickname for them is "The Elusive Burke Family"....lol

    Anyhow, here is the sequence of events that let to me meeting Clarence Burke Jr...

    * April/2004 - Our own PJ turns me on to some audio files of someone named Eleanor Grant singing the song "Come Back". Eleanor Grant's rendition of "Come Back" totally blows me away ("who in the hell ever covers the Five Stairsteps....") and I ask her to put me in touch with her so I can get a copy

    * May/2004 - I see the group "Silver Star" open for the Escorts in East Orange NJ, and cover the Five Stairsteps versions "Come Back" and "Ooh Baby Baby".

    * May/2004 - Kenny Burke emails me and tells me that he may be interested in attending the 2004 Soul-Patrol East Coast Convention

    * May/2004 - I start discussing with author Robert Batista (Brooklyn Story) the concept for the interview that I want to do with him and some of the music I want to play as a part of the show. The Five Stairsteps "World of Fantasy" plays a big role in the book...

    * May/2004 - I spend the rest of the month listening to "Silver Star's" CD which contains recorded versions of these two covers * damn near every day in the car during my commute to work. Each time I hear these songs I think to myself, "who in the hell ever covers the Five Stairsteps...."

    June/2004 - I get a copy of Eleanor Grant's CD in the mail, which actually contains three different versions of "Come Back" (a word for word cover, a cover with completely different words and an instrumental version). There is also a press kit with some publicity shots of Eleanor Grant (she is a STONE FOX and looks good enough to eat.....lol)

    * June/2004 - My Daughter Rachel sings the song "TURN THE BEAT AROUND" at her school recital.

    * June/2004 - The very next day I call Eleanor Grant's manager in Chester PA to tell him how much I liked her CD and could he put me in touch with her. He says to me: "I can do better than that, I can get her on the phone right now". Moments later Eleanor Grant is on the phone. I proceed to tell her how much I like her CD [Her voice reminds me a little of Teena Marie's] and of course.... "who in the hell ever covers the Five Stairsteps...."

    Then Eleanor says to me......"Well Bob you must not have read the liner notes very carefully, because if you had, then you would have realized that Clarence Burke Jr. is playing guitar thru out the entire album. With that she starts cracking up and asks me what I know of the Five Stairsteps? So I start telling her and of course I make mention of "The Elusive Burke Family". Then Eleanor says to me, "If you want to speak with Clarence Burke Jr, I can make that happen right now......I GULP and say.....dayum [to myself]. Eleanor then says, hold on a sec "I'm gonna call up my "EX", Clarence Burke Jr is staying at his crib and those two negroes are probably there right now..." Then Eleanor's manager breaks in and says: "Bob you wouldn't have any way of knowing this, but Eleanor's "EX HUSBAND" is Peter Jackson, the man who wrote the song "TURN THE BEAT AROUND" and also one of the producers of Eleanor's CD". At this point I'm now saying to myself, "this is starting to get a little spooky, but hey it's the Burke family so I just gotta go with tha flow..." Within a few moments the voice of Peter Jackson [In NJ] is on the line saying hello. Eleanor tells him to put Clarence on, but Peter says that Clarence is out at the store. Eleanor explains who I am, that I want to interview Clarence, and that he had betta make that happen [all done in a tone of voice that only an EX WIFE can get away with I suppose.....lol] We speak with Peter for a while longer, we all exchange numbers and I promise to call back later in the day, to arrange for a day, time and location for the interview. I also remind Eleanor that with all of this, that I haven't forgotten about her CD, that I really like it and I want to do something special with it for Soul-Patrol Radio.



  • 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.

    /font>

    * June/2004 - As you might have predicted, I spend the next week playing telephone tag with Clarence Burke Jr, Peter Jackson, Eleanor Grant and a new party who has become involved in this saga who specifically asked me not to mention his name [so I'll just call him "the un-indicted co-conspirator"]

    * June/2004 - During this week I get an email from someone at BMI saying that they are trying to contact the Five Stairsteps because the song "Ooh Child" was used in a TV show and they are owed royalties

    * June/2004 - Finally after about a week or so, "the un-indicted co-conspirator" calls me, informs me that he and Clarence Burke Jr have business in the afternoon in Trenton, NJ and would it be convenient for us to meet somewhere in that area. Turns out that is good for me, so we agree to meet at a deli that is in a shopping center.

    So now I am finally going to get to meet Clarence Burke Jr.
    THE
    LEAD
    SINGER
    OF THE
    FIVE STAIRSTEPS

    (one of the GREATEST male vocalists in the history of Soul Music)

    Well I know that some of you have been waiting for this installment with baited breath...:)
    So I'll give you the "lowdown".
    And I'll make it short and sweet for now.

    The story that Gary Tyson tells on Soul-Patrol's Five Stairsteps retrospective @
    http://www.soul-patrol.net/stairstep.ram
    Is pretty much on point.

    What Gary tells of their career is pretty close to what Clarence Burke Jr. told me in more detail than I could ever hope to type out right here. Basically the Five Stairsteps just "grew up" and went their separate ways. They live in Atlanta, Chicago (and apparently sometimes in NJ.....lol)

    They wanted to experience life away from the music business and be "normal people". Sure they did the Invisible Man's Band, 2nd Resurrection and Kenny Burke has a "solo career". They had and still have the goods to be a major force in the music industry, as you can hear in the guitar playing of Clarence Burke Jr. on Eleanor Grant's album.

    In fact at a point in time during this interview I asked Clarence Burke Jr, if he could still sing the way he did back in the day. He says "of course I can". I said, "no way that you could possibly sound like you did when you were 10 years old..." Clarence Burke Jr. said, "I'll prove it to you, do you have that Eleanor Grant album with the intrumental version of "Come Back" on it, with you?" I said of course I do and I put it into the CD player.

    And you have already guessed what happened next...

    He sang the ENTIRE SONG BACKED BY HIMSELF on the CD player, while sitting in the passenger seat of my car. And the voice of Clarence Burke Jr. sounded EXACTLY the same as it did on the other thousand times that I have listened to the song "COME BACK!!!!"

    Just to give yall a clue...

    When the Five Stairsteps first "broke up", Clarence Burke Jr. and Kenny Burke were a part of the ORIGINAL configuration of Graham Central Station, playing guitar & bass as a part of the band. Trust me, they are absolute musical geniuses (thus the "quirkiness") and we should all be quite proud of them.

    However, they all went on to have careers and families mostly outside of the public eye. I totally respect their decision to do so and their right to privacy.

    The FIVE HOUR conversation that I had with Clarence Burke Jr. was in many ways, similar to the conversations that I had with the members of Sly & the Family Stone.

    We discussed their misunderstood legacy, commitment to family, spirituality, politics, social change, the corruptness of the music industry, the burden of being "child stars", great live performances on the "chitlin circuit", crazy stuff/sane stuff and more

    The key thing for Clarence Burke Jr. (and with the rest of the Burke family that I have spoken with) is the idea of FAMILY...

    While we might have a tendency to think of them as a "musical configuration", for them it's all about family, growth as people, etc....Same as with the members of Sly and the Family Stone, Mandrill and others here on Soul-Patrol who despite some of our external perceptions as fans, are really "family groups"!

    For example, the first thing that Kenny Burke said to me via email was that he wanted to thank me for what I had done for his FAMILY. When I met Clarence Burke, he said the same thing to me. When I have talked with other members of the Burke family, they say the same thing to me. They thank me for what they perceive that I have done for their FAMILY. In fact, the whole time I was with Clarence Burke Jr, he was constantly saying that he only spoke for himself and that I really needed to speak with everyone else as well.

    It all has little to do with music, and everything to do with PEOPLE.

    Clarence Burke Jr. is the FIRST "classic soul" artist that I have ever interviewed, who was about the same age as me. That seemed to make a difference as well.

    I spent 5 hours talking with Clarence Burke Jr. He and I immediately hit it off, just "brotha to brotha". That's why we are able to talk for 5 hours. He wanted to know just as much about me, as I wanted to know about him. He wanted to know about my family. He wanted to know what my family life was like. He wanted to know about my parents. He thought it was wild that my father and his father were both "big city police officers" (his in Chicago, mine in NYC) during the 1960's, and just how tough that was at that time in the history of OUR people. When I told him that I ran Soul-Patrol in partnership with my brother, his eyes lit up! He wanted to know what he could to to help me to maintain and grow the site.

    Clarence Burke Jr made me feel like I had known him my entire life. And in reality, I have. I have been listening to the sound of his voice talking to me for over 35 years.

    Now for the inevitable next question....

    WILL THE FIVE STAIRSTEPS EVER MAKE MUSIC TOGETHER AGAIN???

    Clarence Burke Jr. told me a lot about himself, his family and his plans during that 5 hour conversation, at a "secret location" in the heart of New Jersey on a warm summer evening. I have no doubt that they will once again get together and make music once again for the public. The reality is that they really have never stopped making music, it's just that the vast majority of us have never heard it. (much like Sly and the Family Stone)

    And I'm gonna save the rest of the story for when that occurs.

    (stay tuned....)

    NP: "Come Back"
    --Five Stairsteps






  • 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.



    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

    Soul-Patrol Email Blast/Sponsorship Oppurtunities:

    If you or your organization is has a need to reach Soul-Patrol Newsletter readers (Soul, Funk, Jazz, Blues, Rock n Roll fans) on a worldwide basis, then you may be interested in talking with us about doing a targeted email blast. They are inexpensive and highly effective for announcing a new CD, concerts, website launches, new products, new or existing businesses, etc.
    We also have sponsorship oppurtunities available for Soul-Patrol's Website, Soul-Patrol's Daily Interactive Mailing List and the Soul-Patrol's Newsletter.
    Contact us for the current rate schedules via
    email.

    Bob Davis - Soul-Patrol
    798 Woodlane Rd
    Suite 10264
    Mount Holly, NJ 08060
    609-351-0154




    Click Here to Subscribe/Unsubscribe For Your Free Bi-Weekly Issue!

  • SOUL-PATROL
    SPONSORS
    SOUL-PATROL.NET RADIO
    Classic RnB @ RadioIO.com, from the 1950's - the 1980's Classic RnB @ RadioIO.com
    Cracked Ice: "Soul Noir" Cracked Ice: Soul Noir
    Soul Summit, Featuring: Bob Babbit, Karl Denson, Richard Elliott, Steve Ferrone, Mike Mattison, Maysa, Jason Miles, Susan Tedeschi, Reggie Young Soul Summit, Featuring: Bob Babbit, Karl Denson, Richard Elliott, Steve Ferrone, Mike Mattison, Maysa, Jason Miles, Susan Tedeschi, Reggie Young
    5th Sam Cooke Fan Tribute, In Memphis April 3 - 5, 2008 5th Sam Cooke Fan Tribute, In Memphis April 3 - 5, 2008
    Chip Shelton - Have Flute Will Travel, Stop 2, Cape May Jazz Festival Live! Chip Shelton - Have Flute Will Travel, Stop 2, Cape May Jazz Festival Live!
    Angie Stone - "The Art of Love and War"
    Angie Stone - The Art of Love and War
    Queen Latifah - "Trav'lin' Light"
    Queen Latifah - Trav'lin' Light
    Temptations - "Back To Front"
    Temptations - Back To Front
    Walter Christopher - "Can't Wait"
    Can't Wait
    "All the Way from Philadelphia: Three Tenors of Soul - Russell Thompkins, William Hart, Ted Mills" (Featuring the legendary leads from the Stylistics, Delfonics and Blue Magic)
    All the Way from Philadelphia: Three Tenors of Soul - Russell Thompkins, William Hart, Ted Mills
    Fatback Band - Funky Free Music Download
    Fatback Band - Funky Free Music Download
    Mike Calzone - "In Blue" Mike Calzone - In Blue
    Mandrill: Live At Montreax DVD
    Mandrill
    Ledisi - "Lost and Found" Ledisi - Lost and Found
    Soulive - "No Place Like Soul" (New From STAX) Soulive - No Place Like Soul
    Charles Wright - Finaly Got It WRIGHT Charles Wright - Finaly Got It WRIGHT
    Deniece Williams - "Love, Niecy Style" Deniece Williams - Love, Niecy Style
    Gerri Allen - "Timeless Portraits And Dreams" Gerri Allen - Timeless Portraits And Dreams
    WILL WHEATON - OLD SCHOOL SOUL
    Will Wheaton
    What It Is! Funky Soul And Rare Grooves (1967-1977)
    What It Is! Funky Soul And Rare Grooves (1967-1977)
    Matte' Hypmotized - Great Classic Soul
    Matte Hypmotized - Great Classic Soul
    Angel's Nu-Soul Explosion Angel's Nu-Soul Explosion
    STAX MUSEUM OF AMERICAN SOUL
    STAX MUSEUM OF AMERICAN SOUL
    Jimmy Castor: "The E-Man is Back with a NEW EP" Jimmy Castor
    BILLY PAUL PHILLY SOUL/JAZZ LEGEND Billy Paul
    New Pittsburgh Courier:one of the oldest and most prestigious Black newspapers in the United States New Pittsburgh Courier
    Black Rock Coalition (BRC) Black Rock Coalition (BRC)
    Soul of America - Soulful Travel Soul of America Travel

    Soul-Patrol.com || Soul-Patrol.Net Radio || Soul-Patrol Times ||
    Soul-Patrol Event Calendar
     1999 - 2007
    Davis Industries
    All Rights Reserved.