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Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band
Charles Wright performing at memorial tribute for the late founder of the Watts Summer Festival Tommy Jacquette on Saturday, 28 November 2009.
|Also known as||The Soul Runners, Charles Wright & the Wright Sounds, The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Charles Wright|
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|Genres||Soul, funk, R&B|
|Years active||1962 - present|
|Labels||MoSoul, Keymen, Warner Bros.|
|Past members||Al McKay, Benorce Blackmon, Gabe Flemings, Melvin Dunlap, James Gadson, Big John Rayford, Bill Cannon, Ray Jackson|
Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band is an American soul and funk band. Formed in the early 1960s, they had the most visibility from 1967 to 1973 when the band had 9 singles reach Billboard's pop and/or rhythm and blues charts, such as "Do Your Thing" (#11 Pop, #12 R&B), "Till You Get Enough" (#12 R&B, #67 Pop), and "Love Land" (R&B #23, Pop #16). They are best known for their biggest hit on Warner Bros. Records, 1970's "Express Yourself" (#3 R&B, #12 Pop), a song that has been sampled by rap group N.W.A and others.
Charles Wright was born on April 6, 1940 in Clarksdale, Mississippi.He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s, playing guitar and singing in several doo-wop groups including the Turks, the Twilighters, the Shields and the Gallahads. He also briefly worked in A&R for Del-Fi Records and was responsible for the 1961 hit record "Those Oldies but Goodies (Remind Me of You)" by Little Caesar & the Romans. In 1962, he formed his own band Charles Wright & the Wright Sounds which included future Watts Band member John Raynford, along with Daryl Dragon, later known as the "Captain" of Captain & Tennille. Over the course of the next six years, Wright would add more players to his group and these were the players who would eventually become known as the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, at least by 1968. Several of those members, including drummer James Gadson, bassist Melvin Dunlap, trombonist/arranger Ray Jackson, and both guitarists Al McKay and Benorce Blackmon, would play on several Dyke and the Blazers charting singles, including "We Got More Soul" (1969) and "Let a Woman Be a Woman, Let a Man Be a Man" (1969).
The Wright Sounds played in several venues across Los Angeles but their best known stint was three years (ending in 1968) at Hollywood's Haunted House nightclub. Originally located at Hollywood and Vine, the Haunted House was a popular club in the 1960s and appears in several popular culture artifacts, most notably the 1969 go-go dancing B-movie, Girl in Gold Boots .
The name, Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band was originally coined by Los Angeles producer and Keymen Records owner Fred Smith in 1967. However, between 1967 and 1968, the Watts 103rd name applied to three, arguably four different personnel configurations before settling into the final band who played on every Watts 103rd album from 1968 forward.
Smith produced a theme song for KGFJ radio personality, DJ Magnificent Montague. The song became so popular that Smith released it as a single in 1967 and created the name, Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band for the studio group who had recorded it. Purportedly, the players on the single included Wright, James Carmichael, Leon Haywood, and Bobby Womack.
There is some confusion because, after "Spreadin' Honey" became a success, Montague re-released the single on the MoSoul label (a Keyman subsidiary) and credited to a different group altogether, the Soul Runners. It has been long assumed that the Soul Runners were simply an earlier line-up of the Watts Band however, according to Wright, the two groups had nothing to do with one another whatsoever.
In 1966, Carmichael and Wright were both working as session players for the Nashville West recording studio. Their group of studio players was discovered by Fred Smith and comedian Bill Cosby who needed a backing band for his upcoming album, Silver Throat . Smith hired the Nashville West players and gave them the Watts 103rd name. This group included (but was not necessarily limited to): Arthur Wright (bass), Pete Fox (guitar), Streamline Ewing (trombone), Herman Riley (tenor sax), Jackie Kelso (tenor sax), Melvin Jernigan (tenor sax), Mel Brown (guitar), Abraham Mills (drums).
Due to their association with Cosby, the new Watts 103rd band landed a deal with Warner Bros. Records, becoming the first R&B band to sign with them. They released a debut album in 1967. Technically self-titled, the album has also come to be called Hot Heat & Sweet Groove after a sub-title found on the back cover. "Spreadin' Honey" was included on this album, per Warner Bros. insistence, even though none of the players on the album, save for Wright, had actually played on the "Spreadin' Honey" single.
Wright generally disavows this album as a true Watts 103rd project, preferring to describe the second album, Together as the "first" Watts 103rd LP.
When Cosby went on tour, Wright was put in charge with creating a Watts 103rd touring band which included both the musicians he had just recorded Hot Heat with but also added in the Wright Sounds as well. The Haunted House also began to bill Wright and the Wright Sounds as the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band.
Creative disagreements led to Smith selling his interest in the group to Wright. Newly freed, Wright reformed the Watts 103rd exclusively out of his Wright Sounds players and broke ties with the musicians he had recorded Hot Heat with.
A May 18, 1968 recording of a live session at the Haunted House became the partial basis for the second Warner Bros. album, Together.That album yielded the group's first major national hit, the slow grooving "Do Your Thing."
Their next album, In the Jungle Babe, is best known for both "Love Land," an uptempo, doo-wop-influenced soul ballad, as well as "Comment," where Wright discusses the state of racial affairs in America. Though the album was credited to the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band, the singles from this album and the group's next two albums, would be listed under "Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band".
In the band's early years, they were mostly known for playing covers of popular R&B hits but by the late 1960s, the group began to create original songs, resulting in a sound that was, as Charles Wright put it, "the middle ground between Otis Redding and James Brown",reflecting the group's musical blend of different regional R&B and funk styles. Their experiments in long, loosely structured grooves, best heard on the Express Yourself and You're So Beautiful albums, could be heard as both influences on and influenced by contemporaries such as Sly and the Family Stone, the Isley Brothers and Parliament-Funkadelic.
As early as 1969, the Watts Band began to lose members. Al McKay left the Watts Band in 1969 and soon joined Earth, Wind & Fire. He was replaced by Benorce Blackmon. After recording the 1971, You're So Beautiful album, Gadson, Dunlap, Jackson, and Blackmon left the Watts Band to work with Bill Withers, playing on the albums Still Bill (1972) and Live at Carnegie Hall (1973).
Charles Wright went on to record four solo records after the departure of the Watts Band's core rhythm section, Rhythm and Poetry (1972), Doin' What Comes Naturally (1973), Ninety Day Cycle People (1974), and Lil' Encouragement (1975). In 2007, he released a new album, Finally Got It Wright, which includes an updated version of "Express Yourself."
"Express Yourself" was sampled by Los Angeles rap group N.W.A 1988 and has been used for many soundtracks of movies, including Remember the Titans , Cheaper by the Dozen 2 , and Mr. & Mrs. Smith , plus numerous television commercials. "Do Your Thing" was featured on the soundtrack to Boogie Nights. "65 Bars and a Taste of Soul" serves as the theme music for the Chuck character Roan Montgomery.
|1966||"Grits 'N Corn Bread"||—||33||MoSoul Records||"Spreadin' Honey"|
|1967||"Chittlin' Salad"||—||—||"Chittlin' Salad (Part II)"|
|1967||"Spreadin' Honey"||73||44||Keymen Records||"Charley"||Hot Heat and Sweet Groove|
|1968||"Brown Sugar"||—||—||Warner Bros. Records||"Caesar's Palace"|
|"Bottomless"||—||—||"65 Bars and a Taste of Soul"|
|"Do Your Thing"||11||12||"A Dance, a Kiss and a Song"||Together|
|1969||"Till You Get Enough"||67||12||"Light My Fire"||In the Jungle, Babe|
|1969||"Must Be Your Thing"||103||35||Warner Bros. Records||"Comment"||In the Jungle, Babe|
|1970||"Love Land"||16||23||"Sorry Charlie"|
|"Express Yourself"||12||3||"Living on Borrowed Time"||Express Yourself|
|"Solution for Pollution"||96||—||"High as Apple Pie"|
|1971||"Your Love (Means Everything to Me)"||73||9||"What Can You Bring Me"||You're So Beautiful|
|"Nobody Tellin' Me About My Baby"||—||—||"Wine"|
|1972||"I Got Your Love"||—||—||"Let's Make Love - Not War"||You're So Beautiful|
|1966||"Help Yourself"||—||—||Capitol Records||"Number One"|
|"(I'm Living on) Borrowed Time"||—||—||Philips Records||"Keep Saying|
(You Don't Love Nobody)"
|1970||"(I'm Living on) Borrowed Time"||—||—||"Keep Saying|
(You Don't Love Nobody)"
|1972||"Soul Train"||—||—||Warner Bros. Records||"Run Jody Run"||Rhythm and Poetry|
|"You Gotta Know Whatcha Doin'"||—||—||"Here Comes the Sun"|
|1973||"(Well I'm) Doin' What Cums Naturally|
|—||27||Dunhill Records||"(Well I'm) Doin' What Cums Naturally|
|Doing What Comes Naturally|
|1975||"Is It Real?"||—||—||"Don't Rush Tomorrow"||Ninety Day Cycle People|
|Year||Album||Billboard 200||R&B||Record label|
|1967||Hot Heat and Sweet Groove||—||—||Warner Bros. Records|
|1969||In the Jungle, Babe||145||42|
|Year||Album||Billboard 200||R&B||Record label|
|1970||Express Yourself||182||27||Warner Bros. Records|
|1971||You're So Beautiful||147||39|
|1972||Rhythm & Poetry||—|
|1973||Doin' What Comes Naturally||45|
|1974||Ninety Day Cycle People||—|
|2007||Finally Got It Wright||—|
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"Love Land" is a song written by Rose Marie McCoy and Luther Dixon. It was first recorded by Al Hibbler in 1959. Charles Wright and Don Trotter covered Al Hibbler's recordingand performed by Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. It was released in 1970 on the Warner Bros label. It reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #23 on the U.S. R&B chart. The song was featured on their 1969 album, In the Jungle, Babe.
"Express Yourself" is a song written by Charles Wright and performed by Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. It was released in 1970 as the title song of their 1970 album, Express Yourself, and is their signature song. It reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was also their biggest hit on the U.S. R&B chart, reaching #3.
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"Do Your Thing" is a song written by Charles Wright and performed by Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. It reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #12 on the R&B chart in 1969. The song was featured on their 1968 album, Together.
"Till You Get Enough" is a song written by Al McKay, Charles Wright, James Gadson, John Rayford, and Melvin Dunlap and performed by the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. It reached #12 on the R&B chart and #67 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969. The song was featured on their 1969 album, In the Jungle, Babe.
"Your Love " is a song written by Charles Wright and performed by Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. It reached #9 on the R&B chart and #73 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971. The song was featured on their 1971 album, You're So Beautiful.
Charles Wright is a singer, instrumentalist and song writer. He has been a member of various doo wop groups in the late 1950s and early 1960s as well as a solo artist in his own right. He is also the former leader and writer of hits for the group, Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band.