sussex records

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.

Erik Johnson

Erik Johnson

The World Today – 95th Congress

On Maine Avenue SW past the hustle and bustle of the Maine Avenue Fish Market, the Channel Inn Hotel’s Engine Room hosts a weekly Open Mic. The evening has attracted such Washington, DC icons as Marion Barry, The Young Senators’ Jimi Dougans, and the late soul singer Terry Huff. Erik Johnson, former drummer for the band 95th Congress, originated Open Mic.

Johnson started playing the drums when he was 11 years old. He met two Federal City College students when he was in junior high school who brought them into their band Flavors of Soul. Producer Van McCoy became interested in Flavors of Soul and changed their name to 95th Congress, adding them to a small selection of groups with political names under his wing. 95th Congress performed in clubs and cabarets around DC alongside groups like The Young Senators, The Soul Searchers, One Hundred Years Time, and Brute and in the Virginia and West Virginia Chitlin’ Circuit. In 1971 95th Congress—Brothers Erik and Rudy Johnson, Ron Galvez, Rocknell Swilling, Gary Corum, Dan Adams, and Victor Green—recorded McCoy’s “Fiddle De De,” and Rudy Johnson’s “The World Today,” at Rodel Studio in Georgetown. Swilling sang lead on “Fiddle De De” and the group and McCoy performed vocals on “The World Today.”

Sussex Records released the recordings to little fanfare and then 95th Congress ran into some bad luck. First they fell out of favor with McCoy after they showed up late to an important gig with Isaac Hayes and then they had all of their equipment stolen. Together the incidents caused the band to break up.

Johnson remained in music after the dissolution of 95th Congress. He played with The Orioles and the Heavy Weather Jazz Orchestra and in the late 1980s started Open Mic at the Channel Inn Hotel with his band Natural Selection. In 2001 Johnson released “Dancin’ Shoes,” his first solo album. Johnson eventually had to depart Natural Selection due to health issues but he still writes music and teaches piano lessons at the Bladensburg Community Center.

“It’s a God given talent,” says Johnson. “And once you get in you never give it up. And that’s my plan, never give it up.”

Mmm, mmm, mmm.
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