We had the funk

CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER | Updated 9/27/2012

A new double album chronicles the 1960s-70s Twin Cities R&B scene.

Of course, a few of the musicians weren't so lucky. Harp blower Mojo Buford and guitarist Donald Breedlove died in the past year, adding urgency to the project. Buford toured in Muddy Waters' band back then. Here, he is featured with his own funky act, Mojo & His "Chi 4," singing (get this) "She's a Whole Lot's a Woman. "

A few "Lost Grooves" stars really were lost. Dave Brady & the Stars' namesake frontman still hasn't been tracked down. Some thought Harris was deceased. (He moved to Ohio.)

The James Brown-channeling Harris and his pioneering record label of the late '60s, Black & Proud, were an impetus for "TC Funk & Soul." The other big spark was the Lewis Connection, a coed dance band led by brothers Pierre and Andre Lewis. Its 1979 self-titled album caught the attention of Secret Stash staffers because it was selling for $500 in collectors' circles. The reason it's so sought after is the same reason Secret Stash opted not to reissue it: Prince. He plays guitar on one of the tracks -- but not "Get Up," the "Funkytown"-like party tune featured on "TC Funk & Soul."

Secret Stash's crew was ultimately too afraid of Prince's litigious ways to issue the whole album. Still, it planted the seed, and the collection grew relatively easily from there.

These bands were much more about performing than recording.

"Everyone went out to see the show bands and the singing groups," remembered Jacox. "I don't know if people today can understand the kind of excitement these groups generated at their shows."

They would play to mostly black audiences in north Minneapolis at the Riverview Supper Club, the Blue Note or the Cozy Bar. Crowds were more mixed south of downtown at Mr. Lucky's and, later, the Flame. "There were nights we would have 700 people at the Flame," Young remembered. "It only held about 500."

Not that racial issues were anywhere near utopian. Some black musicians felt they received lesser treatment. And there are lingering memories of police harassment at one late-'60s hotbed, King Solomon's Mine. Located at the foot of the Foshay Tower, it was the first racially integrated club in downtown Minneapolis but closed in 1970.

"All in all, things were pretty good," said Willie Walker, one of several singers in the collection who relocated from the South. Not only were crowds integrated, "but you had the jobs up here," said Walker. "Music didn't pay all the bills."

Many of the musicians featured on "TC Funk & Soul" don't expect much financial benefit from sales of the new compilation. Still, they hope it might lead to more live shows.

At last month's preview party, Young and fellow Valdons singer Monroe Wright III sang the Tom Jones hit "I (Who Have Nothing)," which the Valdons also recorded. Afterward, they laughed over the last time they had sung it together: "It was eight years ago at karaoke," Young recalled.

"I think we shouldn't do this once and call it a day," interjected Jimmy "Jimmieapolis" Wallace, a saxophonist with several of the bands. "We should make this a regular thing. None of us are getting any younger."

No laughs this time, just nods of agreement.

TWIN CITIES FUNK & SOUL PARTY

With: Members of the Valdons, Exciters, Wanda Davis, Jackie Harris, more. When: 8 p.m. Sat. Where: Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Av. S., Mpls. Tickets: $13. www.thecedar.org.