maxx kidd

Elvans Road LTD.

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Mike Dean, Tyrone Thomas, Elliot Adams, Michael Jones, Claude Hodges, Freddie Ross, Keith Holmes, and Buddy Green (l-r) on Elvans Rd. SE.
Can I – Elvans Road LTD.

Marshall Hall was an amusement park in Charles County, Maryland that Washingtonians traveled to by ship every summer from the early 1900s through 1980. The ship, later known as the Wilson Line, featured live performances including Elvis Presley’s only show in the District. In the 1970s the Wilson Line was a venue for national acts such as Funkadelic and local bands including The Matadors.

The Matadors were a band from Southeast DC, primarily from Anacostia High School and Ballou High School. They played popular music at churches, military bases, and non-commissioned officer clubs, and later the Wilson Line, The Panorama Room, and the Washington Coliseum with groups including The Young Senators, EU, Distance, Trouble Funk, and Leadhead. The Matadors played a variety of genres including songs by Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and James Brown.

Unfortunately for group there was already a funk band from St. Louis, IL called Bull & The Matadors so they changed their name to Elvans Road LTD. after the location of their band house. In 1976 Elvans Road LTD.—Michael Zakee Jones, Tyrone Thomas, Roosevelt Smith, Mike Dean, Paul Wilkerson, and Vernon Cooper—recorded two tracks at American Star Recording Studios in Merrifield, VA: the instrumental “Summer-Free-Fo-All” and “Can I,” written by keyboardist Smith with vocals by Thomas. The record was produced by future go-go icon Maxx Kidd on his Cherry Blossom Records Inc. and arranged by Al Johnson.

“Summer-Free-Fo-All” received minor airplay on WOL but it wasn’t enough for Elvans Road LTD. to gain traction. Ultimately the group split up after several members left to perform with Leadhead.

Michael Zakee Jones continued in music, eventually joining Symba, which scored a Billboard Hot R&B charts hit with “Hey You” in 1981, written by the former Elvans Road LTD. member. Currently Jones performs with Jimi Smooth & Hit Time, which also features Jimi Smoot from The El Corols Band & Show and George “Jackie” Lee from Sir Joe Quarterman and Free Soul.

Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Alonzo Hart

alonzo_hart

Mix It Up – The Stridells

Walking through the hallways of Alonzo Hart’s Eastern Senior High School in the 1960s was similar to roaming around an audition for American Idol today. Three part harmonies grew louder at the turn of each corner coming form the likes of The Love Tones, The Deacons, Jerry Cummings of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and The Stridells—Hart, Reginald Marsh, Charles Blagmon, and Wardelle “Twin” Everett. The Stridells became a familiar presence to fans of the Showmobile, an orchestra-backed musical lineup that would travel from park to park, and were soon joined by two new members, Wardell “Twin” Everett and Larry Scott.

“We didn’t get into any trouble, we just sang,” says Hart. “If you gave us a light post and somewhere to sing that’s where you would find us.”

Producers Maxx Kidd and Bob Morgan discovered The Stridells at the Showmobile. Kidd and Morgan wrote “Mix It Up” and “I Remember Christmas” for the group, which they recorded at the Hit Factory in New York City over a period of 23 hours and 14 minutes. The 1969 Yvette Records release “Mix It Up” with Johnny Graham on lead vocals became a regional hit, helped by a second pressing on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records.

“Before we recorded this song if we went to a party in someone’s neighborhood we might have to fight our way out,” says Hart. “After we put the recording out everyone was cool with us.”

The Stridells released a second 45, “The Power To Dream“/”Stick-Em-Up Kind Of Lovin” on Morgan Records in 1969, but the response was less enthusiastic. The group began to disagree about heading in a doo-wop or funk direction and they broke up in 1972. Marsh released several LPs as Osiris; Blagmon helped start The Choice Four; Scott and Graham began another group; and as was his destiny all along, Hart became a fifth generation pastor.

“I would just love to run into my boys,” says Hart. “Just to see them, even if we just sat down and break bread that would be worthwhile. I’m going to keep looking for them.”

Mmm, mmm, mmm.
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