“Chopper ’70”: Horn-Heavy Funk

Jaco, the 2015 documentary about the virtuosic electric fretless bassist, informs us that Jaco Pastorius’s first professional engagement was with former King recording artist, Wayne Cochran, whose contributions to the field of funk have not always been fully acknowledged.

50-DOLLAR 45

Wayne Cochran King 45-aaWhile there’s no denying James Brown’s pivotal musical influence, Cochran and his backing band, The C.C. Riders, bring their own creativity to bear on “Chopper 70” — an appropriately high-adrenaline way to bring to a close an album that bears the gritty title, Alive and Well and Living in a Bitch of a World:

“Chopper 70”     Wayne Cochran     1970

Pastorius would join the band by 1972, when Cochran & C.C. Riders had made the big move to Epic, an imprint of almighty Columbia.  Two years prior, Cochran and company would record a pair of albums for King (with the first issued on its Bethlehem subsidiary) that would both be released in 1970.

Wayne Cochran & the CC Riders:  ALIVE AND WELL and living in …

Wayne Cochran LP-a… a b*tch of a world

Wayne Cochran LP-gatefold

Dave Dexter, in his “Dexter’s Scrapbook” column for Billboard, would file this report on Cochran in the May 23, 1970 edition:

“Platinum-haired Wayne Cochran was driving a garbage truck in Georgia, the father of three sons.  Today’s he’s a sizzling nitery star, with his C.C. Riders, and a big gun on Starday-King disks.  He blames parents for the generation gap:  ‘In this world today, you’ve got to change, you’ve got to move with what’s happening and that way you’ll never grow old.  The kids do their thing in order to dig what they are digging more, not so they can hate the kid next to them.  I’ve never seen a fight at a teen-age concert and I think I never will.’

Does that make sense, assuming you dig what he’s digging?”

CLASSIC COVER:  High Point for ‘biker funk’ Culture

Wayne Cochran LP-1aaWayne Cochran LP-1bb

Zero to 180 regrets waiting until now to sing the praises of Cochran, who left us only a couple months ago, as it turns out.  Cochran’s large horn-heavy ensemble, I would learn from Matt Schudel’s obituary in The Washington Post, was famously unrelenting, as their “shows had no stopping point: The band kept vamping from one song to the next, as the music and audience reached a point of frenzy.”

Choppers for the teenyboppers:  vintage 1970 Raleigh ad

Raleigh Chopper - vintage 1970 adJackie Gleason, who wrote the liner notes for Cochran’s self-titled 1967 release on Chess, would call the singer (who would often leave the stage to take his show out into the audience) “the wildest guy I’ve ever seen in my life.”  Gleason’s dance ensemble leader, June Taylor, apparently “took ideas for her dancers from the C.C. Riders choreography” during Cochran’s extended mid-60s run at Miami’s major soul club, The Barn.

I count 12 musicians in this photo (courtesy of Discogs)

Wayne Cochran & the CC RidersImpossible to write about Cochran without making reference to Cochran’s mountainous dome of hair.  Neil Genzlinger, in his New York Times obituary, would point out who inspired the decision behind the hairdo’s platinum color — Johnny and Edgar Winter (“Every time the lights over their heads changed colors, their hair changed colors. And I said, “Now there’s the color, if I could figure out how to get it”) — thanks to Cochran’s appearance on Dave Letterman’s NBC Late Night show in 1982.

UNESCO World Heritage Site
(Photo from Michael Ochs Archives via PITCHFORK)

Wayne CochranCochran’s first stint with King would last about two years – from late 1963 through early 1965 – before similarly brief runs with Mercury (1965-66) and Chess (1967-68).  King founder, Syd Nathan, would pass the year prior to Cochran’s return to the label (now renamed Starday-King), whose first single release would be an elaborately-arranged two-part Beatles mash-up medley of “Hey Jude” and “Eleanor Rigby.”

King Records Turns 75!  Cataloging the Classics

Big tip of the hat to Tim Garry of School of Rock – Mason, OH for allowing Zero to 180 the opportunity to compile a list of classic recordings put out by King Records (and its subsidiaries) in time for the label’s 75th birthday celebration.  This special tip-top list of nearly 200 songs – stretching from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s – is a fascinating cross-section of popular music styles (secular, as well as sacred) from the original rock ‘n’ roll era and beyond.  This PDF document is to be updated over time, as additional classic King recordings are identified by talent scouts embedded here and abroad — click on link below:

Classic Tracks from King Records:  Zero to 180’s Top Picks

Zero to 180 - 45

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