Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

“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.

Written by Charles Brent

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” by 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 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-1aa

Wayne 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 ad

Jackie 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 Cochran

Cochran’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.”


September 14, 1968

Extra Credit!

Reading Assignment

Billboard – June 24, 1967

“World of Soul” special issue

King Records Turns 75!

Cataloging the Classics

Big tip of the hat to Tim Garry of School of Rock – Mason, Ohio 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

One Response

  1. Wow nothing but pure history & real musicans. This reminds me of how the era of the Big Bands like Tommy Dorsey and Duke Ellington are fading, but wait this was in 1970 Wayne Cochran and just a few years later the theme to Jaws. Music history is not being taught in this country. This was 20th century history. I hope that High School Bands & Colleges continue to study that this is music evolution. Rock is not Rock any more, Country is not Country music anymore and unfortunately the arts are becoming one person with a computer in closet and the musicians are a dying breed. We need the social face to face such as the great James Brown. They would play music and also everyone got along. People are not getting out and we are in for more disdain. You never heard of mass shootings in Schools and people could go to the mall or in public safely back in the day. We need youth to learn to communicate with each other not on snap chat or share there music on social media for no one to listen to it. The music business use to employ millions of jobs. Now unfortunately we have billions of dreamers because there is no industry to support or give hope to youth to play to crowds. Music is a way of communication and it saddens me to see the changes for others to ever really feel the emotion of performing or hand written arrangements. To easy to hit the mouse on a computer and upload music to audience that is not listening and is not at there show. Thanks for the hip words Wayne. I hope the Hipsters don’t expect to have experience that all the great bands of the 20th century had. I hope they can dig! Hopefully repurposing places like King, will bring hope for music and the industry to thrive again one day!

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