american star recording studio

Dynamic Corvettes

dynamic_corvettes Robert Moore, Earnest Baker, Wondel Brown, Paul Wills, and Joe Bennett (l-r) in manager Louis Chesley’s Maryland garage.
Funky Music Is The Thing – Dynamic Corvettes

It should come as no surprise that a Chevrolet played a significant role in the history of southern Maryland’s Dynamic Corvettes. In 1964 Louis Chesley purchased a Chevrolet station wagon for $77 to help transport the equipment for his brother’s band and worked his way up to being their manager.

The fact that the Dynamic Corvettes stayed together even after players left for college or the military is a testament to Chesley, who ran a tight ship. He offered loans to band members to purchase instruments and kicked them out when they couldn’t pay him back.

“We were poor boys,” says Chesley. “We needed each other to make it. We [were] poor together and weathered the storm. We chipped in together. All for one and one for all. If I had it they had it. If they had it I had it. That’s the way I operate.”

The Dynamic Corvettes played throughout Maryland including at the Starlight Club, Toys End, Warrens End, Club Paradise, Pomonkey High School, and Marshall’s Corner Hall. Along the way they crossed paths with the Midnighters, King of Hearts, The Hounds, The Diamonds, the Van Dykes, Scacy and the Sound Service, The Soul Searchers, and the Continentals.

In 1971 the Dynamic Corvettes recorded their first single, a funky organ driven anti-drug song called “Keep of the Grass” on Baltimore’s Ru-Jac Records. The b-side of the 45 was a track called “It’s A Trap.”

Ironically the lyrics of “Keep of the Grass” were misconstrued as pro-marijuana and the Dynamic Corvettes received some negative publicity. Undaunted, they returned to the recording studio—this time American Star Recording Studio in Falls Church, VA—in 1975 to record two 45s on the Nashboro Records imprint Abet, “Funky Music Is The Thing” and “Key to My Happiness.” The lineup at the time of the recording was:

Paul Wills: keyboard, lead vocals
Robert Moore: trumpet Ernest Baker: trumpet
Wondel Brown: trombone
Tyrone Thompson: bass
Irving Bennett: guitar
Dean Louis: drums

Produced by Joe Tate and Carroll Hynson, the “Funky Music is The Thing” featured a drum solo by Louis and electric piano with a wah-wah pedal by Brown that was later sampled by Double Dee and Steinski and DJ Shadow.

The two 1975 45s proved to be the Dynamic Corvettes’ last releases and ultimately even Chesley couldn’t prevent the group from parting ways. The Dynamic Corvettes still reunite on occasion to perform, as recently as 2011.

Mmm, mmm, mmm.

The Soul Searchers

The Soul Searchers
John Buchanan, Lloyd Pinchback, Bennie Braxton, Lino Druitt, Donald Tillery, and Kenneth Scoggins (l-r) at The Panorama Room.

Blow Your Whistle – The Soul Searchers

Jazz flutist Loyd Pinchback had been to the Chase’s Lounge many times before but he’d never heard a band as tight as this. The Los Latinos, who were performing that evening, featured a guitarist named Chuck Brown. Pinchback was able to secure a spot with the band that night and along with Brown and bassist John Euell, splintered off to form The Soul Searchers. Starting with performances at backyard barbecues, The Soul Searchers’ musicianship quickly led to regular spots at the Ebony Inn, the Red Carpet Lounge, and Model’s Extraordinaire.

Inspired by the big sound of Baltimore’s Tommy Vann & The Professionals and And The Echos, The Soul Searchers added new members to their rhythm section. In 1972 they recorded their debut LP “We The People” at Track Studios in Silver Spring, Maryland and released it on Sussex Records.

The lineup was:

Chuck Brown – Guitar, Lead Vocals
Lloyd Pichback – Flute, Saxophone, Vocals
John Euell – Bass, Vocals
John Buchanan – Trombone, Piano
Lino Druitt – Percussion
Hilton Felton – Organ
Kenneth Scoggins – Drums, Percussion
Donald Tillery – Trumpet, Vocals

The album’s title track was inspired by The Chambers Brothers “Love, Peace, and Happiness” and elements of Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” and “On The Corner.” The success of “We The People” let to a spot on the Soul Train Tour alongside acts like Bobby Womack, The Dramatics, and The Moments.

After the release of their debut LP The Soul Searchers were considered to be the top band in DC along with The Young Senators. Playing four times a week to crowds at go-gos–including The Burgundy Room, The Panorama Room, the Masonic Temple, and Northwest Gardens–The Soul Searchers began to extend their songs with instrumental breaks in order to keep people on the dance floor. Their percussion-heavy extension of Grover Washington’s “Mr. Magic” along with Chuck Brown’s call and response with the crowd was a predecessor for what later became known as go-go music. According to Pinchback’s book, “The Soul Searchers: 1968-1978,” some of the other bands performing in the area at the time were Aggression, Black Heat, Scacy & The Sound Service, Lead Head, Brute, Father’s Children, Ashanti, Spectrum Ltd., and New Breed.

In 1973 The Soul Searchers returned to the studio to record “Salt of The Earth,” also on Sussex Records, this time with Bennie Braxton on organ. Recorded at American Star Recording Studio in Falls Church, VA the 1974 LP contained regional hits “Blow Your Whistle,”  “If It Ain’t Funky” and “Ashley’s Roachclip,” one of the most sampled tracks in history. Scoggins’ drum break from “Ashley’s Roachclip” can be heard on Milli Vanilli’s infamous smash hit “Girl You Know It’s True.”

Due to the emergence of DJs, gigs began to slow down for The Soul Searchers shortly after the release of “Salt of The Earth. In 1976 they recorded “Bustin’ Loose ” at Arrest Recording Studios in N.W. DC, which Brown wrote lyrics to in response to his frustration with the group’s stagnation, but the record was never released.

In 1978 Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers re-recorded “Bustin’ Loose” with nearly all new members with the exception of Brown, Tillery, and Buchanan for the LP of the same name on Source Records. The single reached #34 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979, launching the band to national fame.

Chuck Brown went on to be recognized as the “Godfather of Go-Go,” inspiring such bands as Experience Unlimited (EU), Rare Essence, and Trouble Funk. He sadly passed away in 2012, drawing an overwhelming expression of emotion from all corners of Washington, DC. Pinchback and Buchanan currently perform with the go-go band Proper Utensils. Tillery performs with the band Truth Groove and was recently interviewed for WAMU’s Metro Connection.

You can purchase Chuck Brown’s music here.

Mmm, mmm, mmm.
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