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I was in the eye of the American soulmusic storm way before the Ed Sullivan sirens sounded the alert. Born in the mighty Motor City in 1948 just a few years after His Lord Les Paul electrified this wonderful Kalamazoo-Michigan-made instrument of mass construction, my combo was already performing the musical masterpieces of the original founding fathers of American soulmusic. Like the four moptops from Liverpool who were about to blow the place to smithereens, we were mesmerized by Chuck Berry, Bo Diddly, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino,The Ventures, Dick Dale and the DelTones, Lonnie Mack, Duane Eddy, Link Ray, The Beach Boys, James Brown, all things Motown and the amazing Funkbrothers, and so many other incredibly gifted musical visionaries that brought forth the grinding, emotional, primal-scream soundtrack of Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Lightning Hopkins, Mose Allison, Screaming Jay Hawkins and so many of those original originals.
But there is no doubt that it was the Beatles and soon the Rolling Stones that reversed the earth’s axis in music lovers’ lives across America and beyond when they unleashed this new, uppity, ultra-passionate interpretation of their black American musical heroes on that fateful night on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” Feb. 9, 1964.
My Detroit band, The Lourds, had just won the Michigan Battle of the Bands, and our prize was to perform at the then brand new Cobo Hall as the opening act for the Beau Brummels and Motown’s amazing Supremes. Having the once in a lifetime dream to perform side by side with our heroes and every musician’s heroes, the Motown Funkbrothers and the world renowned Motown orchestra, it’s not like the Beatles hysteria and magical goosebumps on goosebumps Ed Sullivan moment was lost on us.
From the turbulent ashes of the 1960s social and cultural upheaval of political assassinations, violent riots, an unexplained war in unknown lands, a culture war kick-off after years of post World War II spoiled-brat denial, the escape provided by these four extremely talented and gifted music creators was indeed just what the doctor ordered.
Stranger than the fact that John, Paul, George and Ringo found each other and provided a magical chemistry of musical inspiration as a force to reckon with much more powerful than the sum of its parts, was the fact that the Beatles only performed live for a short few years due to the inexplicable craziness that their fans loved them so much they drowned out the music they supposedly loved every night by screaming louder than the Vox amps.
No matter how much we musicians love our music, there is no way we will go through all that trouble performing it if we can’t hear it.
So after recording some of the greatest records in the history of the world, the Beatles called it quits. We lost John and George much too soon, but as clearly displayed on the 50th Anniversary celebration last week, old Ringo and Paul still have that magic touch that makes them the legends that they are.
You probably couldn’t find two people with more polar opposite ideologies than Paul McCartney and myself, but when it comes to sheer musical brilliance, I could not care less what the man’s preference in diet or politics may or may not be. Like billions of real music lovers worldwide, I simply love the man’s creative genius, soul, musical gifts and creations.
Hell, if I had to agree with a musicians political beliefs, I wouldn’t be able to listen to much at all.
Happy 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ Ed Sullivan television debut to all my fellow original soulmusic masters. Those of us still recording and touring wish to thank the legions of music lovers everywhere who still celebrate and support the spirit of killer music. Without music, especially rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues, life would indeed be rather dull and boring. Johnny B. Goode forever!
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