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Bar-Kays

Initially a funky instrumental soul combo on Stax/Volt, the Bar-Kays were nearly destroyed when most of the band perished in the same plane crash that claimed Otis Redding. Amazingly, the Bar-Kays not only regrouped but prospered, evolving into a popular funk ensemble over the course of the '70s. They continued to score hits on the R&B charts through much of the '80s as well, making for a career longevity that no one would have predicted for Stax's formerly star-crossed number-two house band.

The Bar-Kays were formed in Memphis, TN, in 1966, growing out of a local group dubbed the Imperials. Modeled on classic Memphis soul instrumental outfits like the Mar-Keys and Booker T. & the MG's, the Bar-Kays originally included guitarist Jimmy King (not the famed bluesman), trumpeter Ben Cauley, organist Ronnie Caldwell, saxophonist Phalon Jones, bassist James Alexander, and drummer Carl Cunningham. Adopting a mutated version of their favorite brand of rum (Bacardi) as their name, the band started playing heavily around Memphis, and eventually caught the attention of Stax/Volt, which signed the sextet in early 1967. With help from house drummer Al Jackson, Jr., the label began grooming the Bar-Kays as a second studio backing group that would spell Booker T. & the MG's on occasion. That spring, the Bar-Kays cut their first single, "Soul Finger," a playful, party-hearty instrumental punctuated by a group of neighborhood children shouting the title. "Soul Finger" reached the pop Top 20 and went all the way to number three on the R&B chart, establishing the Bar-Kays in the public eye (although the follow-up, "Give Everybody Some," barely scraped the R&B Top 40). Producer Allen Jones began to take an interest in the group and became their manager and mentor; even better, Otis Redding chose them as his regular backing band that summer.

Unfortunately, disaster struck on December 10, 1967. En route to a gig in Madison, WI, Redding's plane crashed into frozen Lake Monona. He, his road manager, and four members of the Bar-Kays were killed. Trumpeter Ben Cauley survived the crash, and bassist James Alexander had not been on the flight; they soon assumed the heavy task of rebuilding the group. Adding insult to injury, the third and final single released by the original lineup, a cover of the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night," was virtually ignored. Nonetheless, with Allen Jones' help, Cauley and Alexander assembled a new Bar-Kays lineup featuring guitarist Michael Toles, keyboardist Ronnie Gordon, saxophonist Harvey Henderson, and drummers Roy Cunningham and Willie Hall. At first, their sound was similar to the original lineup, and they were used as the house band on numerous Stax/Volt recording sessions; they also backed Isaac Hayes on his groundbreaking 1969 opus Hot Buttered Soul. Still, they were unable to land a hit of their own, and Cunningham and Gordon both left the group in 1970; the latter was replaced on keyboards by Winston Stewart.

With 1971's Black Rock album, the Bar-Kays debuted their first-ever lead vocalist, Larry Dodson, and incorporated some of the psychedelic-inspired rock/funk fusions of Sly & the Family Stone and Funkadelic. After playing on Isaac Hayes' hit Shaft soundtrack, Cauley and Toles both joined his backing band permanently, and were replaced by trumpeter Charles "Scoop" Allen and guitarist Vernon Burch. This new lineup took a more mainstream funk direction, scoring a minor hit with a takeoff on Jimi Hendrix's "Foxy Lady" dubbed "Copy Cat." The follow-up, another good-humored goof on a recent hit, was "Son of Shaft," which in 1972 became the group's first Top Ten R&B hit since "Soul Finger." That summer, the Bar-Kays played a well-received set at Wattstax (the black answer to Woodstock), but it wasn't enough to keep their commercial momentum going, especially as Stax/Volt headed toward eventual bankruptcy in 1975.

Armed with new guitarist Lloyd Smith (who'd joined when Burch left in 1973), new drummer Michael Beard, and trombonist Frank Thompson, the Bar-Kays signed with Mercury in 1976 and began the most commercially productive phase of their career. Writing most of their own material and using more synthesizers, their label debut, Too Hot to Stop, was a hit, powered by the smash R&B single "Shake Your Rump to the Funk." The group consolidated their success by opening for George Clinton's P-Funk machine on an extensive tour, and that loose, wild aesthetic was now a more accurate reflection of the Bar-Kays' brand of funk, although they were more easily able to bridge into disco. Follow-up Flying High on Your Love (1977) was the band's first gold record, and Money Talks -- a Fantasy reissue of some previously unreleased Stax material -- produced another Top Ten hit in "Holy Ghost" the following year. Drummer Sherman Guy and keyboardist Mark Bynum subsequently joined the band, and a string of hit albums followed: 1979's Injoy (which featured the Top Five R&B hit "Move Your Boogie Body"), 1980's As One, 1981's Nightcruising (which spawned two hits in "Hit and Run" and "Freaky Behavior"), and 1982's Propositions (more hits in "Do It (Let Me See You Shake)" and "She Talks to Me With Her Body"). All of those albums, save for As One, went gold.

In 1983, Sherman Guy and Charles Allen left the group, presaging a more commercial direction in keeping with the urban sound of the early '80s. 1984's Dangerous produced one of the group's biggest hits, "Freakshow on the Dancefloor," and a couple more R&B chart hits in "Dirty Dancer" and "Sex-O-Matic." Their sound was becoming derivative, however, and although the group kept recording for Mercury through 1989, the changing musical landscape meant that the hits dried up. By 1987, only Larry Dodson, Harvey Henderson, and Winston Stewart remained; that same year, Allen Jones died of a heart attack, and the group scored its last R&B Top Ten hit with "Certified True." When their contract with Mercury was up, the Bar-Kays called it quits with 1988's Animal. Dodson and original bassist James Alexander put together a short-lived new version of the Bar-Kays for the 1994 album 48 Hours, released on the small Basix label. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: House Party

1. Sho-Nuff

2. What Goes-N-Da-Club Stays In Da-Club

3. Superstar

4. Glad You're My Lady

5. Hey Y'all

6. Let's Git Bizzy

7. Give Me My Heart Back

8. Hollar If You Like That

9. My Everything

10. Glad You're My Lady (Stepper's Remix)

11. We Can't Stay Together

12. Barkays

x

Track List: 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: Bar-Kays

1. Freakshow On The Dance Floor

2. Shake Your Rump To The Funk

3. Too Hot To Stop

4. Attitudes (Extended Single Version)

5. Shine

6. Move Your Boogie Body

7. Let's Have Some Fun

8. Hit And Run

9. She Talks To Me With Her Body

10. Do It (Let Me See You Shake)

11. Running In And Out Of My Life

x

Track List: Best of The Barkays

1. Evrybody Wants That Love

2. Let's Get It On

3. Friday Night

4. Shake Your Rump To The Funk

5. If Loving You Is Wrong

6. The Slide

7. Spend The Night

8. Too Hot To Stop '96

9. I Want You Back

10. Soul Finger

x

Track List: The Best Of Bar-Kays, Volume 2

1. Let's Have Some Fun

2. Boogie Body Land

3. Do It (Let Me See You Shake)

4. Spellbound

5. Flying High On Your Love

6. I Leanon You/You Lean On Me

7. Are You Being Real

8. Freaky Behavior

9. She Talks To Me With Her Body (12'' Version)

10. Sexomatic (12'' Version)

11. Your Place Or Mine

12. Dirty Dancer

13. Running In And Out Of My Life

14. Today Is The Day

15. Unforgettable Dream

16. Whitehouseorgy

x

Track List: The Best Of The Bar-Kays

1. Too Hot To Stop

2. Cozy

3. Shake Your Rump To The Funk

4. Attitudes

5. Shut The Funk Up

6. Standing On The Outside

7. Shine

8. I'll Dance

9. Move Your Boogie Body

10. Deliver Us

11. Hit And Run

12. Anticipation

13. Freakshow On The Dance Floor

14. Sexomatic

15. Certified True

16. Struck By You

x

Track List: Too Hot To Stop

1. Too Hot To Stop

2. Cozy

4. Spellbound

5. Shake Your Rump To The Funk

7. Summer Of Our Love

8. Whitehouseorgy

x

Track List: Grown Folks (Single)

x

Track List: Return Of The Mack (Radio Single)

Comments

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A Stax legend,the bar-Kay's.
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Lj00oo
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Late nights my time to lay back and remember back in the day . Bar-Kay's all the way from San Jose. LA Tweedy
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Love the bar kays 79
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The barkays was one of the group's that 22nd and my friends where jamming to back in the day and still I love to jam with barkays thank you do the jams you are one of the best dver
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1978, Dallas tx. Oklahoma city, Little Rock Ark. Greenville miss,....... t h a . r e a l duty south...
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Bar-kays, one of the best old school groups of the old school era! Love the old music, it all has a meaning, with no bad words!
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The Bar-Kays Is THE BEST. Alison Boulding
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Luv the Bar- Kays!
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Thank you for the insight on this fantastic group, may those funk masters souls RIP, your legacy still remains today..TY, for sharing your talent during my lifetime!
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I love the barkays "Do it" . It's actually a motivation song . Barkays are the best !!
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Now Playing: She Talks To Me With Her Body by Bar-Kays on Old School Radio (Hits1 Radio Network)

Jammin' Old School
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That was my jam then, and now........

Funkin' With N'Cool. :-)
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Soul and funky
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No. ? No 1. Funk. Band of. All. Time !!!!!
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FUNKAYS!
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One. Of. Funk. Best. Group. If. Not. The. Best Love. This. Jam
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Some serious funk was made by this group!!!!! Move your boogie body, Holy ghost, Shine and I'll dance just to name a few.......
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One of the greatest bands assembled. Favorites, freaky behavior and do it.
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this song made u cool the beat got u up on the floor
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The. Bar-kays came out with song called. Holy ghost, it's not in your library. Please see if you can find it. Thanks, Herbert
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209ricm
Hit n run
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These is the Father of sample that made rap music as powerful as it is / on the 4- realer !!!!!
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That's funk
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Bar-Kays..th e y just don't make music like this anymore.
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209ricm
Bad jam
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That's what they (Bar-Kays) say in the the song
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Freaky behavior . He wants to be my best friend. ....
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Poor Otis Redding…he died at age 26—and 2/3 of "The Bar-Kays" band members—4 out of 6 died too…5 people died!!! Boo-hoo-hoo!
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biedrar
Firme rolotas. ..my carnal. Jams way back.in SOMA ARIZONA. MR JU1CE
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That's. Music. Like i like it
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db_rollin64
Shake Your Rump..... still sounds good in 2014!! I ♥ this song!
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Love this
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Sex o matic
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Love the. BarKays
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brenda490
BRENDA
Attitude was the one song I played over and over and over again!! LOVED IT!
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use to jam the barkays growin up
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i want to dance
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Santa Ana here, back in the 90's when i dj'd house partys they bumping hard and loud when I played anything of the Bar-Kays, the police hard to come and shut down the party before I turned off the music, I still have the original vinyl records. Those were great days. Viva Santana!!!
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Love the Barkays!
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FREAKY BEHAVIOR? ITS ALL GD ON DA DANCE FLOOR YAY!! YAY!!
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That beat is hittin!!!
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Great concert in Pine Bluff, Ar 1979
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Low Riders!!! Good times.
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This was the s**t :)
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She's got that body talk,!
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Soul Funky
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SANTA Ana's
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I danced a lot to this song
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Larry Dodson's voice made the latter Barkays songs hits... credit were it is due,and the musicians rocked....
Show more

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