LIVING FUNK – Documentary & Vinyl Reissue

LIVING FUNK – Documentary & Vinyl Reissue

August 15, 2019 29 By Kailee Schamberger


(Narrator) This is one of my favorite funk records. In 1988 while shopping in a used record shop, I came across an odd size acetate record that read Living Funk. It was only 29 cents so I took a chance and bought it I played it and I was blown away. I’ve often wondered who was Living Funk? So I Googled them. Turns out that both their early seventies 45’s are rare and sought after by collectors. Their songs were also featured on UK Funk compilations. As I listened to one of Living Funk’s other songs on Youtube, I noticed this comment, so I responded. Then someone else responded to both our comments. I reached out and set up a phone call. (phone ringing) (Strangelove) Stranglove’s the name I used all through Living Funk. (Narrator) I couldn’t find any info on the group? (Strangelove) We formed the group Living Funk back in the 70’s in Rochester, NY (Narrator) The single I have is not a 45. (Strangelove) Really? I’m still performing full time still involved in the music business (Narrator) Then we decided to meet. And here is the story of Living Funk. (Strange love) I am the founder of the group Living Funk To me there was no reason for us not to have taken off. I guess there were just things that were there that just blocked us from getting to that point. We were trying to achieve something that was materialistically bound that shouldn’t have been it should have been totally spiritual the whole time. it was Living Funk but it’s a living curse. You know. 1970 is the official year for Living Funk. Still in high school, so we were gigging in high school and everything Born and raised in Rochester, NY Been a musician since I was 15 years old a professional musician. I’ve been on my own since I was 15 years old. After having some turbulent times in foster homes and a turbulent upbringing. I found music. I think music saved me at 15. I had things inside of me and when I decided to form Living Funk that was my avenue to express myself. Heavy percussion rhythm section that was the thrust of our sound and I knew when I heard it. It was myself guitar & vocalist, Lewis Collins “Power” on bass, my brother Bruce Spraggins “EZ Dollar” on drums. That was the nucleus at that time. (Narrator) Who were the song writers of Living Funk? I was the only songwriter. I play about 7 instruments fluently, guitar & keyboards are my first instruments though. My major influences were Osibisa, Parliament Funkadelic, Gil Scott Heron, Chase. Any group that had their own sound influenced me, because they weren’t being led by somebody else. “Silver Black Summer Day” let me see (song playing) It’s a celebration of what was going on in the black community (song) It’s the Silver Black Summer Day, that’s what I say… (Strangelove) Because everything’s fine, we’re taking care of ourselves. That was real important for us as musicians and as people being activists in the community. That song symbolizes that. (Song) No problems yeah, of the man shooting me down… (Strangelove) There’s a song called “Long Train Running,” The Doobie Brothers had out at the time. It was in G minor and it goes… but then it goes to a transition to C minor Well I like the C minor but I didn’t wanna play it on that rhythm that they were playing it. I want to take “Silver Black Summer Day” and do something like this. Speed it up a little bit, just kept the groove right there. (singing) It’s a Silver Black Summer Day… that’s what I say… no problems yeah of the man shooting me down I can cry yeah and reach out for the stars… transition now that’s an orchestral chord you hear a lot of times Chuck Mangione from Rochester (Singing) it’s a Silver Black Summer Day that’s what I say. boom, percussion and stuff I knew for us to survive financially we had to be able to cover the cover stuff, you had to you know or you’re going to starve but I was not going to give up my originality for the cover stuff. We would cover songs like Brother Louie. Remember that song? (Singing) She was black as the night and Louie was whiter than white… People were going, your a black band, why are you playing that? Within the whole night at the club you saw this cover band, this show band, and then this crazy band did last show of the night. That’s when Living Funk showed up, and we could be us wigs, capes, long gloves, big boots, brother onstage in a diaper, (laughing) I mean it was crazy man cause that was us. So hence Living Funk our funk is alive it’s not covered it’s not commercialized this funk is just innate tribal funk. When you are unique group like Living Funk was a lot of those agents, promoters, and stuff, they are not coming your way. Alright so what do you do? You sit there wait and die, or you do it yourself. That lead us to Canada to press our record and also to start Funk Music Unlimited our label. “Silver Black Summer Day” & “Fools Love” was done in PCI Studios Rochester, NY. If you listen to “Fools Love” it’s basically written for my first wife before we got married. Because I was a crazy musician (laughing) and did some inappropriate things that that got us to break up and I wanted her back. And basically with “Fools Love” if you listen to the record it’s a… I’m playing all over that. then go up & change (singing) “We say that we love each other we say we always cared we say that we love each other “Fools Love” is still there… At that time all the love groups were out Delfonics, Stylistics, Blue Magic. So we released “Fools Love” which we got the most airplay on. So your listening to a slow record, a ballad and your going okay that’s who I’m coming to see, that’s not who we were. We were this stormy, rhymatic, groovonic funk group. We had our record out “Fools Love” / “Silver Black Summer Day” we were kicking, that was our time man. And a group comes into town called The Commodores. Their hit record “Machine Gun” alright fine you got Motown. We get a call from WDKX, Little John Smith, saying these guys have no equipment. Can they use your equipment? I’m not that dumb I’m saying that these guys don’t perform that day Motown sees us, we get a chance to go. During the day of the concert we got ten thousand people there Highland Park Bowl, Rochester, NY. We’re there, they’re headlining, we’re the group before them and their saying can we use your equipment. And I’m looking at these guys, Lionel Richie all these cats. I said I don’t trust these cats Shanimba Nelson our manager says Strangelove man their gonna help us, their gonna help us. I was against it, and the whole group begged me Strangelove let them use our stuff, their gonna help us, their with Motown man. I agreed to it. Hey Lionel, thank you man, drummer, hey thank you. We’re gonna help you cats don’t worry about it, We get there – you cats get their man. They did the show, we did our show. Great show. Tore our equipment up, guitars, drums, everything. They were a wild group. Great show, wild group. Tried to contact these cats man for a couple years nothing, nothing, nothing. They came back on a world tour Fancy Dancer. I think it was three years later. I tracked these cats down man. After the show Lionel, the drummer, everybody…we never been here before. Drummers in the elevator, never been here before. Lionel, he came to the back door, because he didn’t want anybody to see him. Lionel what’s up baby? You know what I’m saying remember your gonna help me out? …I’m spinning man come to my hotel room. Goto the hotel room, door locked, nobody answers it. That’s when I lost faith in cats man. I said you know maybe that’s part of curse? Maybe it’s that you try hard, your a nice person, and you know it just doesn’t happen when it’s supposed to happen. Just some wild things man. I’ll never forget that Lionel! Once we completed the gig with the Commodores and the stuff like that and we didn’t get signed. That’s when we did “Let Your Mind Take The Place of Your Body” a funk jazz instrumental. It was just to go into the studios in Brooklyn Just to lay down a heavy funk track and introduce the band so everybody takes a solo Listen to the music, let your mind go with it, and “Let Your Mind Take The Place of Your Body” It’s in the key of A minor, nine chord. it’s in a key like that and it basically it just starts off with a bomp, bomp, bomp, bomp and the guitar is this… (Narrator) Alright Christopher, this started our journey. I wanted to show you this record that I bought, it’s how I became a Living Funk fan. (Strangelove) Get out here man. (laughing) Let me hold it right, now. This is the original acetate. This is crazy. This is crazy. (Narrator) I want to play you that version it’s different than the 45. (song playing) Yeah, I’m gonna have to check my record. That’s crazy. This record doesn’t have it on there. You know something I probably I never paid attention to it. The original version is the way that you got it. That is weird. for me to have saw that documentary on Sugar Man and I just said to myself, that reminds me of me. Then I go on the internet let me look some Living Funk stuff go on Youtube “Silver Black Summer Day” I said okay, this is wild. because this is all happening in one night now. So then I started reading, you’re trying to find out who the bass player was Then we started talking and you said I got this record here. I go, what do you got a 45? You go, no man. It’s an acetate, that’s an original acetate. So now here it is a year later we’re sitting here talking to each other brother. Believe me, I appreciate you so much for holding on to that. But at the same time, you go you know what happened that’s in the back of your head you know What could have been? Living Funk broke up and I’m kind of sorry for that because those were my brothers. Management handled the records and record sales at that time Didn’t pay too much attention to how to take a record that which got alot of regional play and local play and you could ride it for 2 or 3 years. I don’t think he knew how to ride it like that. I would think he probably did more consignment without getting paid then actual sales. That led me to push the group Push, push, and I got frustrated because the more I pushed the more I was learning and more I was advancing and I just felt that the group wasn’t advancing. Professionally or creatively at the time. But now that I look at that and I think about it a whole lot, I kinda let my brothers down, Because I should have stayed there, I should have just pulled them along. (Narrator) You referred to the group as Living Curse. Why did you feel that? It was kinda weird, just going back to King Solomon Brown, our original keyboard player. before he exited the group. He would say man this is not Living Funk, this is the Living Curse and I go why do you say that? He said it’s a cloud and I don’t know, was he high when he said that I was too young to interpret what he was saying I think he was like 9 or 10 years older and he said Strangelove, thats what he called me, he says YOU are Living Funk man he said YOU are Living Funk and you have to carry this man. I’m gonna leave and a lot of other people gonna leave. What do you mean by that? We’re young, we’re gonna stay together forever But it did come to flourishin that that’s what happened, everybody left, everybody passed away, and I’m still here at 60 and having a great time and still trying to spread the music and now I can say this…I understand. Hey alright baby, we are the CDL band here at Palm Gardens tonight. We’d like you to sit back relax, enjoy your meal, enjoy your friends and enjoy your libations, here we go… I ran into an older lady, she said you know something Christopher, you seem to be happy with what your doing I go, yeah I’m not rich, but your happy, yeah she says money only makes you comfortable, never happy and that stuck in my head that stuck in my head. I said so actually I really got it kinda made I love doing what I do I love waking up to do what I gotta do For some odd reason when all the chips are against me the first thing dawns on me, I think about that little kid. That was raised around pimp hoes, prostitutes. Mother and father not around. A kid who shoe shined, who made his way, put himself through school. A kid went through foster homes, all that crazy stuff. A kid that every time that something happened I look back in gods mirror and said guess what Do the work. and I always did the work. So my glass is always half full, never half empty I’m always optimistical never pessimistical, and that lets me wake up and say like today I woke up if you notice my windows are always open the lights on and until the light goes out baby I’m gonna keep doing this (laughing) The first person I actually got into the group was Lewis Collins which we called “Power”, he was actually dating my first wife to be (laughing) this guy shows up at the audition and I go hold it but we looked at each other didn’t know each other might been enemies, but we said it’s about the music man without saying a word, we knew it’s about the music, not about them chicks that was my main man, Lewis Collins “Power” (Narrator) Finally, finally! (Strangelove) Yeah It’s been a while man The projects been planned for last year or so. (Narrator) I’m glad we made it happen…