Back in the day, no state in the Union seemed to have more funk bands than the state of Ohio. The center of that funk revolution was Dayton, Ohio. In Dayton alone, there was Zapp and Roger Troutman, Lakeside, and the Ohio Players. One of the funkiest bands of them all was Slave, with its bass and guitar players, Mark Adams and Mark “Drac” Hicks.
When Slave first formed, it was a nine-member band formed by trumpeter Steve Washington, and either Hicks or trombonist Floyd Miller. Fleshed out with your requisite instrumentalists: a keyboard player, a couple more horn men, and a drummer along with Adams and Hicks, the band signed with Atlantic Records subsidiary label Cotillion Records in 1976, and released their debut album, Slave, in 1977. Their first single proved to be their biggest hit, and their only R&B #1.
That jam is “Slide,” and it’s today’s Funky Friday song.
Can I interest you in a little bicycle horn? Listen in the first five seconds, and you can hear the odd instrument (if you want to call it that). It repeats in various places through the song. I called out Adams and Hicks earlier because believe it or not, the two were mere teenagers playing on this song. Adams’ work on the bass belies his youth; from this song and many others on the albums that would follow, he would become one of the best known and most copied bass players in R&B. As for Hicks, listening to his guitar solos on this song, he listened to a lot of Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers. Isley himself was influenced by Jimi Hendrix. Hicks may not have been as good as either Isley or Hendrix, but he was plenty good enough.
Throw in your funk basics—horns and a groove that just won’t quit—and you have the ingredients for a funky classic. While Slave would have more top ten R&B hits (“Just A Touch Of Love,” “Watching You,” “Snap Shot”) by 1982, the hits dried up. Like many bands, they suffered through personnel changes, which left only a few of the original band members in the group by the time they broke up in 1996. Adams and Hicks both passed away in 2011, within three months of each other. You can bet there probably aren’t too many teenagers that could claim they played on a classic funk tune by one of the genre’s revered bands.
Find your bicycle horn and join in! Have a great Friday, and thanks for reading and listening.