Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band Biography

Originally conceived as an instrumental group, Bernard Blackman (guitar), Raymond Jackson (trombone), John Rayford (1943; tenor saxophone), Melvin Dunlap (bass) and James Gadson (drums), were still known by their former name, the Soul Runners, when a 1967 release, ‘Grits ’N Corn Bread’, reached the US R&B Top 40. Having changed their name in deference to the Watts district of Los Angeles, they enjoyed further success with ‘Spreadin’ Honey’ the same year. The group also backed comedian Bill Cosby, whose influence helped secure a recording contract with Warner Brothers Records. The new signings then acquired a featured vocalist, Charles Wright (b. 1940, Clarkdale, Mississippi, USA), and following two 1969 singles, ‘Do Your Thing’ and ‘Till You Get Enough’, the band’s name was changed to Charles Wright And The Watts 103rd Street Band. Subsequent singles ‘Express Yourself’ (1970) and ‘Your Love (Means Everything To Me)’ (1971) both reached the R&B Top 10, but their unstable personnel constantly undermined the group’s potential.

Wright later left the group for a solo career but revived the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band in the late 90s. The band’s ‘Express Yourself’, ‘High As Apple Pie’ and ‘I Got Love’ have been sampled on several rap and pop records, by artists including Zapp, Puff Daddy and Naughty By Nature.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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