Bill in front of the Fatback office on Linden Blvd in St. Albans, Queens, NY
February 24, 2010
40 years of serving funky music and still serving, right here! Let me set the record straight, Fatback started in the summer of 1970. our first Album - Let’s Do it Again - was released in 1972 on Perception Records (plp28). The first single from that album was “Street Dance,” you can download it here. The guys who recorded it were Johnny King (guitar), Johnny Flippen (bass & percussion), Warren Daniels (soprano & tenor saxophone), George Adams (flute & tenor saxophone), George Williams (trumpet), Earl Shelton (tenor saxophone), Billy Hamilton (organ), and Bill Curtis (drums, percussion & vocals).
Our first studio was Blue Rock Studio on Green Street in Chinatown, New York City. Engineered by Eddie Karvin, it was there in Blue Rock studio that the Fatback sound and style was born. It was Eddie who said "let's keep it raw," and his mixing was the key, because when we went in the studio for the first time we didn’t know anything about recording. I was the producer. I didn’t know what it meant to be a producer, all I knew was what I felt, and I’ve been using that formula ever since.
One of the thing I’ve learned, in the studio there can be only one chief and everyone can’t have a voice in the mixing, they can have musical input because when it come to mixing it's a personal feeling and everyone feels and hears differently. I know I’ve made a lot of guys in the band mad with my mixes, and there is no thing as a perfect mix, believe me. But it was team work, I was only the quarterback.
From Blue Rock came the Fatback house beat (disco Beat) the open high-hat sound with a 4/4 on the Bass drum. That beat was first heard on "Goin’ to See My Baby" on our first album. Something else that came out of Blue Rock was "Percussion Bass." I wanted to hold the beat down and I also didn’t want to break up the rhythm pattern, so you hear Flip sometime playing "percussion" on the wooden part of his bass, beating out rhythm fills. This was a first in 1972.
If you do have that album, you've probably noticed that all the songs are instrumental except one. That's because we were supposedly making a country and western funk album, but no one at that time had ever heard of such a thing. Nowadays, most of your so-called country music uses funk beats, well just about all music recorded now uses the basic funk beat pattern.
Most of you guys out there know our story about how we used to go into the studio with no idea of what we was going to do. One of the reasons is that I was from the school that believed everything was done in the studio. Someone would have some lyrics and hire some musicians to put music to it. When this was done, he would get on the microphone and start singing. I would pick up a beat, and if he liked it he would say "yes, that's it, I like it" or "no, not like that." So I just keep playing around or someone would say "let's try this." Now that’s old school. and that's the way we did it except we didn’t have lyrics, the music always came first with Fatback.
As you also notice, we didn’t put that much thought into our lyrics, that didn’t come until later. The recording time on first album was about four hours, we did nine songs, and mixing was about the same. No remix, no overdubbing, just in and out and that is the way we did it for the first three album at Perception.
I am very grateful for the experience we had at Blue Rock and to Eddie Karvin for guiding us in those early days. When I look back and think it was Eddie who just lay back and let us be ourselves... my hat's off to him!
In the next letter I will tell about the Gerry Thomas years
I'd still like for you guys to help us build our community of friends; sell our brand of music around the world. If you like to get involve promoting or you want to have us to play for one your affairs, I have attached a link to our EPK (Electric Press Kit).
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