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Dyke & The Blazers

Funky Broadway Part 1

Dyke & The Blazers

Funky Broadway Part 1


He never enjoyed the mass adulation of James Brown, but Arlester 'Dyke' Christian was one of the leading architects of funk during the latter half of the '60s. Had he not been blown away by a gunman during a March 13, 1971 street altercation in his adopted hometown of Phoenix, perhaps he'd be more widely venerated more now.

Born June 13, 1943 in Buffalo, New York, Dyke (the nickname reflected his penchant for shooting dice) ran the mean streets as a youth. He learned how to play electric bass from his pal, guitarist Alvester 'Pig' Jacobs, and both were hired by local bandleader Carl La Rue to join the organist's combo, The Crew, in 1961. The band subsequently relocated to Phoenix at deejay Eddie O'Jay's behest. La Rue returned home in '65, but Dyke and Pig stayed, forming their own outfit and playing extensively at the Elks Club. By the time producer Art Barrett brought them to Floyd Ramsey's Audio Recorders in September of '66 to cut the stone-cold streetwise one-chord vamp Funky Broadway, The Blazers consisted of Dyke, Pig, saxists J.V. Hunt and Bernard Williams, organist Richard Cason, and drummer Rodney Brown.

Barrett split the five-and-a-half-minute groover in half to fill both sides of a single that he initially issued on his fledgling Artco label, which he founded with Austin Coleman (thus the Artco handle). When it started to break locally, Barrett brought the master to L.A. and leased it to deejay Art Laboe's Original Sound label. Part 1 made it to #17 R&B and #65 pop, marking the first time anything with 'Funky' in its title had graced the charts. But their version was eclipsed a few months later by Wilson Pickett's Muscle Shoals-cut cover for Atlantic, which paced the R&B charts.

Dyke kept it unremittingly raw and funky, notching lesser hits with So Sharp and Funky Walk – Part 1 (East). When The Blazers splintered, Dyke hung up his bass (at least in the studio) and recorded from 1968 on at Original Sound's studios on Sunset Boulevard with a contingent from The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, giving his '69 smashes We Got More Soul and Let A Woman Be A Woman – Let A Man Be A Man a slightly more polished sound. Christian continued to push the funk envelope right up to the end (the socially conscious Runaway People was his last chart entry in 1970), which came all too soon.

- Bill Dahl -

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