Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

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The First Funky Song?

I tried an interesting exercise:  searching the 45Cat singles database to see if I could locate the earliest use of the word “funky” in a popular song title.

First, I did a basic keyword search using the word “funky“:  46 pages of results, with the first page of funky tracks leading off in vague chronological order with the 1966 hit, “Funky Broadway (pts. 1 & 2)” by Dyke & the Blazers, followed by Wilson Pickett’s version the following year, along with Chris Kenner’s angry retort – “Fumigate Funky Broadway” – plus Young Jesse’s sports-minded “Funky Funky Football”; James Brown’s “Funky Soul #1”;  Pretty Purdie’s “Funky Donkey,” and a flood of other tunes from 1967-1970.

I then repeated the search (“funky”) but added the term “1965” as a filter.  The results:

  • Al Caiola – “Hunky Funky” – United Artists B-side – February, 1965
  • New Hollywood Argyles – “Do the Funky-Foot” – Kammy B-Side – November, 1965
  • Big Ben – “Funky Junky” – Ric B-Side – November, 1965

Funky 45aFunky 45b

Same search but this time using “1964″ as the filter.   The results:

  • Jeannie & Her Redheads – “Funky & Fleopatra” – Decca UK B-Side – February, 1964
  • Shirley Scott & Stanley Turrentine – “The Funky Fox” – Prestige A-Side – 1964
  • Les Nocturnes – “Dansons Le Funky” – Laval (Canada) B-Side – 1964

Funky 45cFunky 45d

Repeated the search, but guess what?  That’s right, “1963” as the filter.  The results:

  • Howard Roberts (& Jackie Wilson) – “Color Him Funky” – Capitol B-Side – May, 1963
  • Lou Donaldson – “Funky Mama (pts. 1 & 2) – Blue Note A&B-Side – 1963
  • The Castanets – “Funky Wunky Piano” – TCF B-Side – December, 1963

Funky 45eFunky 45f

Are we almost there yet?  No way, man – let’s try “1962” as the filter.  The results:

  • Lee Evans Trio – “Funky Night” – Capitol acetate – 1962
  • Mezzrow Bechet Quintet – “Funky Butt” (*) – Denmark EP (“Really the Blues”) – 1962

What happens if I try “1961” as the filter?  The results:

  • The Cavaliers – “Funky” – Coral A-Side – January, 1961 (surprisingly unfunky – listen for yourself by clicking on the triangle below)

NOTE:  Streaming audio temporarily unavailable = SUBSTITUTION:

“Funky Virginia”      Sir Guy & the Rocking Cavaliers     1969

I struck out with “1960” and “1959” – but hey, I did turn up an item with “1958“:

  • Terry Gibbs & His Orchestra – “Funky Serenade” – EmArcy (Sweden) – 1958 EP

I then struck out with 1957 but turned up something using “1956“:

  • Pete Brown Quintet – “Funky Feelin’ Blues” – EmArcy (UK) – 1956 EP

1956 “split” EP with Pete Brown Quintet’s funky track on the A-side

Funky UK EPAnd then not one funky song prior to 1956 in the 45Cat database.  Surely, this UK release can’t be the earliest of the funky tunes, right?  That’s where we need the public’s help.

One key historical fact:  45Cat contributor, mickey rat, astutely asserts that Memphis Minnie’s “New Orleans Stop Time” from 1936 might “possibly be the earliest recorded use of the word ‘funky'” [click on link above – 0:45 mark].

Except if you go back to the tune “Funky Butt” [(*) covered in 1962 by Mezz Mezzrow],   you quickly discover that this composition was written by legendary New Orleans cornetist, Buddy Bolden, who did not live past the year 1931.  So, despite Memphis Minnie’s valiant efforts, it is clear that we must confer Buddy Bolden as the reigning renegade of funk until proven otherwise.

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