If you read yesterday’s post, you know I was on a Soul Train memory cruise. Well today, I’m going to give Funky Friday a taste of the big train. The very first show aired on October 2, 1971, and the guests were Gladys Knight & The Pips, Eddie Kendricks, The Honey Cone, and Bobby Hutton.
As I don’t even know what songs Bobby Hutton ever sang, I’m going to discreetly drop him from today’s lineup. Instead, we’ll do two songs from Gladys & The Pips, Kendricks and The Honey Cone. Their funkiness may be in question, or may not: I tried to find the funkiest songs that I liked from each act. Besides, the show didn’t always have funky artists as guests anyway. O.C. Smith? Johnny Mathis?
If you remember how things went on the show, the guests would “sing” or lip-synch two songs. Sometimes, a third guest would only get to do one. Well, since this is my Soul Train dream, the three artists today get two songs each. Now, they won’t all be (with the exceptions by The Honey Cone) the ones that the artists sung on that first show, but ones that I chose by them that I liked. Ok, strongly liked. There also had to be at least one scintilla of funk.
First up, Gladys and the smooth-moving Pips with an Ashford & Simpson song, “Taste Of Bitter Love.” This is one of my favorites by this group, even as it wasn’t one of their biggest hits. Again, credit must be given to Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson, who wrote and produced this song, and have more classics under their name than I care to count.
Next up, we have the falsetto stylings of Eddie Kendricks. When Kendricks appeared on the first Soul Train show, he had just left the Temptations, where he had made his name. He sang two songs from his first solo album on that show, but I chose “Keep On Truckin'”, which was the best of a string of funky dance smashes Kendricks had after he left the Tempts.
The Honey Cone were one of the first groups formed by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland, also known as Holland-Dozier-Holland. The three songwriters (who were responsible for the lion’s share of hits by The Supremes and Four Tops) had left Motown a few years earlier and started their own label known as Invictus/Hot Wax. One of their first big hits after starting the label was “Want Ads.” This song was actually performed on that first show.
For the second song for Gladys & The Pips, I chose “Save The Overtime (For Me)”, which was produced by Leon Sylvers III. At that time he was primarily known for his work at SOLAR Records and as a member of the group Dynasty. He had made hit records for Shalamar and The Whispers, and he brought that magic touch to this song, which was a #1 R&B hit.
The second song from Kendricks has been called a forerunner of disco. “Girl You Need A Change Of Mind” proved very influential in dance circles, but it was also a top 20 R&B hit. It was also the template that Kendricks followed when he made “Keep On Truckin'” a year later, and “Boogie Down” the year after that. There’s some funk in there too.
To close out the show, we have “Stick Up” by the Honey Cone. An obvious rewrite of “Want Ads,” with a tit-for-tat storyline that might not play well today. Nevertheless, it was another hit for the group, whose fortunes quickly cooled not long after their first appearance on Soul Train. And yes, they performed this one also on that opening show.
I hope you enjoyed my re-tweaking of the first Soul Train episode, and even if I didn’t include all the songs that were featured, the artists certainly were. Have a great Friday and as always, thanks for reading and listening.