Zero to 180 is thrilled to learn that two titans of funk who both recorded for King – Bernard ‘Pretty‘ Purdie and William ‘Bootsy‘ Collins – are teaming up for a set of new recordings. In accordance with this event’s historical significance, the Mayor of Cincinnati, John Cranley, recently paid tribute to Purdie’s King drumming legacy by proclaiming January 5, 2019 to be “Bernard Purdie Day“! Zero to 180 is honored to have provided the King Records Building Non-Profit Steering Committee with background research in preparation for this proclamation.
Bernard Purdie @ King Records – 1/5/19
Photo by Celia Purdie
Purdie’s first King sessions for Mickey and Sylvia, actually, precede his work for James Brown and yet, nevertheless, connect him once more to hip hop history, as vocalist, Sylvia Robinson (née Vanterpool) – “the Mother of Hip Hop” – would go on to found Sugar Hill Records! Ruppli’s King Labels recording sessionography lists Bernard Purdie as the drummer on Mickey and Sylvia’s big hit, “Love Is Strange” — not the original 1956 recording but a “redo” of the song several years later for the tiny Willow label, as Purdie recounted for Drum Magazine in their January 16, 2013 edition.
But wait — as Ruppli reveals, Willow was, in fact, a label distributed by King Records. Furthermore, Discogs asserts Willow to have been a subsidiary label “created in 1961 by Mickey [i.e., Baker, long-time King session guitarist] and Sylvia.” Purdie’s name is listed as drummer for Mickey and Sylvia on at least 4 sessions for Willow in 1961 that produced six songs [click on all song titles below for streaming audio]:
Check out Mickey Baker’s searing guitar work on “Darling (I Miss You So)” – a fantastic 45 waiting to be rediscovered:
Five years later, Purdie would lay down drums on the first of six recording sessions for James Brown between the years 1966-1968, according to Ruppli’s session notes:
Session #1> March 30, 1966 — New York City
James Brown with Band – Sammy Lowe, arranger/conductor – including Waymon Reed, Dud Bascomb & Lamar Wright (trumpets); Haywood Henry (baritone sax); Unknown (trombone); Nat Jones (piano); Jimmy Nolen or Wallace Richardson (guitar); Unknown (bass) & Bernard Purdie (drums) plus strings:
Session #2> January 25, 1967 — New York City
James Brown with Band – Sammy Lowe, arranger/conductor – including Joe Newman, Waymon Reed & Dud Bascomb (trumpets); Ernie Hayes (trumpet/piano); Richard Harris, Jimmy Cleveland & Garnett Brown (trombones); St-Clair Pinckney (baritone sax); Carl Lynch & Wallace Richardson (guitars); Al Lucas (electric bass) & Bernard Purdie (drums):
- “Kansas City”
- “You’ve Got the Power” [unissued version]
- “Think” [issued as by James Brown & Vicki Anderson]
45 Spain – 1967
Session #3> March, 1967 — New York City
James Brown with Orchestra – Sammy Lowe, arranger/conductor – including Unknown (trumpets, trombones & French horns); Ernie Hayes (trumpet/piano); Jimmy Nolen or Wallace Richardson (guitar); Al Lucas (electric bass) & Bernard Purdie (drums) plus strings:
- “I Guess I’ll Have to Cry, Cry, Cry” [unissued]
- “Too Much” [unissued]
- “You’ve Got the Power” [issued as by Vicki Anderson & James Brown]
ALSO = King Coleman (vocals) “with similar band” – Sammy Lowe, arranger/conductor – on two tracks:
Session #4> April 5, 1967 — New York City
James Brown with Band – Sammy Lowe, arranger/conductor – including John Grimes, Dud Bascomb & Waymon Reed (trumpets); Ernie Hayes (trumpet/piano); Richard Harris, Jimmy Cleveland & Garnett Brown (trombones); Alfred ‘Pee Wee‘ Ellis (tenor sax/piano); St.-Clair Pinckney (baritone sax); Carl Lynch & Wallace Richardson (guitars); Al Lucas (electric bass) & Bernard Purdie (drums):
- “You’ve Got to Change Your Mind” [issued as by James Brown & Bobby Byrd]
- “It Won’t Be Me”
- “Stagger Lee”
- Untitled Instrumental [with James Brown on organ – unissued]
*ALSO = Vicki Anderson “with prob. same band” on “prob. same date” recorded “People” [although unissued].
Session #5> October 4, 1967 — New York City
James Brown with Band – including Dud Bascomb, John Grimes, & Ernie Hayes (trumpets); Richard Harris (trombone); Haywood Henry (baritone sax); Wallace Richardson & Carl Lynch (guitars); Al Lucas (electric bass); Bernard Purdie (drums); Julian Cabrera (congas); Rafael Rivera (timbales) & Edward Williams (percussion) plus strings [Selwart Clarke; Charles Libove; Harry Katzman; Sam Ram; Winston Collymore; Harry Melnikoff; Nick Hardone; Matt Raimond; Marion Cuabo; Sidney Edwards]:
Session #6> June 27, 1968 — New York City
James Brown with Band – Sammy Lowe, arranger/conductor – including John Grimes & Waymon Reed (trumpets); Les Asch (tenor sax); David Parkinson (baritone sax); Alfred ‘Pee Wee‘ Ellis (organ/piano); Wallace Richardson (guitar); Al Lucas (electric bass) & Bernard Purdie (drums):
- “A Cottage for Sale”
- “Suffering with the Blues”
- “Home at Last”
- “Talk to Me, Talk to Me”
- “Heartbreak (It’s Hurtin’ Me)”
- “Bill Bailey”
- “Let Them Talk” [*issued on 1968 LP Say It Loud I’m Black And I’m Proud]
ADDITIONAL James Brown tracks!
According to musician credits posted on Discogs, Bernard Purdie also played drums on James Brown B-side “I Know It’s True” , as well as “Woman (Pts. 1 & 2)”  — both songs arranged by Sammy Lowe (though, “Woman (Part 2)” appears not to have been issued in the US market, curiously).
Update on King Records Preservation Efforts:
“King Dream Team” at 1540 Brewster Ave.
[L to R] Philip Paul; Bernard Purdie; Celia Purdie; Otis Williams; Bootsy Collins; Anzora Adkins
Photo by Elliott V. Ruther
According to Herzog Music, “The City of Cincinnati now owns the King Records buildings on Brewster Avenue in Evanston. The King buildings are being stabilized with $700,000 of city and Evanston funds, thanks to a united City Council.”
“With Mayor John Cranley and the City of Cincinnati, a restricted fund for the buildings has been established through the King Records Building Non-Profit Steering Committee to raise private funds and realize the revitalization vision. The Steering Committee comprises leadership of Evanston Community Council, Bootsy Collins Foundation, King Studios and Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation (CMHF).
“CMHF will acknowledge the tax deductible donations and share with each Steering Committee organization as it works to formalize the non-profit arrangement with the City. CMHF is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization — donors may deduct contributions as provided in IRC 170(c)(3) of the U.S. Tax Code.”
You can be part of the King Records revitalization success story — please consider a donation to the King Building Fund.
The Men in Black: Bernard & Bootsy
Photo courtesy of the Bootsy Collins Foundation
Special thanks to Elliott V. Ruther of the Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation
Derek Trucks wearing a Bernard Purdie shirt on Austin City Limits