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The Bar-Kays

The Bar-Kays

HistoryThe Bar-Kays began in Memphis, Tennessee as a studio session musician group, backing major artists at Stax Records. They were chosen in 1967 by Otis Redding to play as his backing band. On December 10, 1967, Redding, his manager, and band members Jimmie King (born June 8, 1949; guitar), Ronnie Caldwell (born 1948; electric organ), Phalon Jones (born 1949; saxophone), and Carl Cunningham (born 1949; drums) died when their airplane plunged into Lake Monona while attempting to land at Truax Field, both near Madison, Wisconsin. Redding and the band were scheduled to play their next concerts in Madison. Trumpeter Ben Cauley survived the crash. Bassist James Alexander was on another plane, as the plane only held seven passengers. Cauley and Alexander rebuilt the group.The re-formed band consisted of Cauley; Alexander; Harvey Henderson, saxophone; Michael Toles, guitar; Ronnie Gorden, organ; Willie Hall, drums and later Larry Dodson (formerly of fellow Stax act The Temprees), lead vocals. The group backed dozens of major Stax artists on recordings afterwards, including Isaac Hayes's Hot Buttered Soul.Cauley left the group in 1971, leaving Alexander, Dodson (vocals, vibes), Barry Wilkins (guitar), Winston Stewart (keyboards), Henderson (tenor sax, flute), Charles "Scoops" Allen (trumpet), and Alvin Hunter (drums) to create the album Black Rock. Lloyd Smith joined in 1973 and the band changed musical direction during that decade to have a successful funk music career. With the Stax/Volt label folding in 1975, the group signed with Mercury Records. In 1976, Dodson (vocals), Alexander (bass), Lloyd Smith (guitar), Allen (trumpet), Henderson (saxophone), Frank Thompson (Trombone), Stewart (keyboards), and Mike Beard (drums) brought their Shake Your Rump to the Funk track into the R&B Top Five. In the Fall of 1977, the group came out with Flying High on Your Love, an album that featured Shut The Funk Up as a "near-perfect disco song punctuated by the funky horn triumvirate of Charles "Scoop" Allen."In 1983, Sherman Guy left the group and Larry{LJ}Johnson took his place on vocals and percussion. Charles Allen left the group just before the group took a more commercial direction. Nonetheless, the Bar-Kays continued to have hits on R&B charts well into the 1980s. Marcus Price was also a member of the Bar-Kays, until he was murdered coming from rehearsal in 1984, a crime never solved by the Memphis police. The band took a hiatus in the late 1980s, but regrouped in 1991, with Alexander once again being the only original member involved. Since 1991, Larry Dodson, Archie Love, Bryan Smith, and Tony Gentry have been added to the group.Alexander's son is the award-winning rapper and record producer, Phalon "Jazze Pha" Alexander, who was named after deceased band-member Phalon Jones. Jazze Pha produced the most recent effort by the group, "Grown Folks", released in 2012.


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