E: You didn’t begin as a percussionist...
M: No. I got into music at age 7, my mother and father gave me classical piano lessons. I couldn’t stand it. I got into high school and I was still taking piano. But I had some drums going in my head –‘til I saw a guy in my class, who had a little band, in a talent show with conga players. Then, the whole (focus) went to the conga player. I started to listening to congas - I remembered that all through elementary school I had rubbed my teeth together, playing rhythms.

E: Were your parents supportive of your change in instruments?
M: My parents didn’t stop me from playing - as long as I kept playing the piano. I got a job as a paperboy and saved money to buy timbales. I practiced in the back room.

E: Were your parents musicians?
M: They were on 102.9 FM - Jazz DJs. My dad was program director. Companies would send records to him and I went through the records all day. Anything I heard a conga on, I tried to mimic. I learned from records. This was around 1967, 1968.

E: But you were playing along on your timbales – you hadn’t bought any actual congas yet…
M: Well, I would go play in different parks – I wanted to play, but if I had congas I’d be behind…. Everyone. So I had to pick something so that I could play along – so that I wouldn’t be behind. Timbales! Nobody was playing them. I was good at accompaniment. I would keep time while the conga players were all over the place. If I kept time and didn’t solo all over the place, they dug me. Because I would be supporting them playing. Then I could play with all these bad cats! If I tried to play conga, they wouldn’t let me in. L

E: Who were you listening to on the timbales?
M: I listened to Willie Bobo, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria. Those were the three biggest. Then Joe Cuba - Iwould get records from Cuba. I listened to timbale and conga. But the only Spanish people I saw in LA were Mexicans. I would look at these records and say, “These people don’t look like the people I see here, these people don’t sound like the people from here.” The whole Spanish thing… I had to learn.

E: What was your professional start?
M: One of the guys in one of the shows, a piano player Harold Johnson, started a sextet. Ndugu was drummer. Billy Jackson was congero. I would hang out, just play time. I eventually said that I wanted to play. Back then they had parties in a house where they would play records – they played 45s back then.

E: Guess what, we still do!
M: (Laughs) We went to this party in a house on 8th avenue, just South of Slauson. Billy was driving a Volkswagen with a sun roof. He picked me up and my friend, an upright bass player. It was a ‘66 Beetle. We would have congas and bass – somehow we got three people, an upright bass and timbales and two congas into this Volkswagen! We went to this party, with everything, brought them in and people were dancing… We stopped the records and we started playing. People dug it. This was the first time I’d ever seen this. We’re in a party, people are dancing - they dug it, we’re having fun. And they paid us like $5. I said, “You mean I can play the stuff I want to play, people will love it AND I can get paid? I want to do this for the rest of my life.”

E: When was this?
M: Well, I was in high school. I graduated in ’69, from Washington High School.

E: Then you attended college, correct?
M: I went to LACC - for piano. But my heart was more into percussion. I used to come home everyday from school and practice. Then I quit throwing papers – I just wanted to play the timbales. But the thing about playing piano that I dug later on, was since I learned to read music and play chords, I learned to write music. I had the music in my head.

E: You went on to become a highly regarded sessioner. How did that all begin?
M: Back then jazz was starting to change into something different – it was more avante garde. So I started listening to more salsa music. The more you play, the more you meet all different kinds of musicians. People who hear you play can tell how you sound when you’re recorded. And nobody was playing timbales. I would hear the congas in his head, and sometimes I would have to play congas. The whole thing is having the music in your head first

E: Do you remember the first session you played on?
M: I don’t remember. I played with a singer – a friend of a friend - we used to go to clubs and sit in. At that time there were a lot of jazz clubs around in South Central LA. People dug us coming in then and people would ask us to record something.

E: How did you start recording for Jordan? That was your mother’s label right?
M: My mother was doing the programs, and she was starting to record. My parents had a lot of different jobs – thenmy father got the job Djing on the radio and he brought my mother on. My mother’s side of the family is very musical. My aunt is Nellie Lutcher. She was big in the ‘30s, ‘40s and 50s. She had her own records out – she was signed to Capitol. Anyway, my mother started these plays, musicals actually. She would write musicals, stories and programs for children to perform. She was into musical plays that were about learning also, and getting people to perform. She’d do this with whatever age group at schools, community centers, churches. She was into the church – she didn’t write gospel type plays but they had a spiritual aspect. And she was signed on for these grants (from the government). So she founded Jordan Records. Because her sister had released some records, she learned a lot.

E: What was your role in the organization?
M: I played as part of the ensemble. Ndugu was our drummer on a lot of the songs. I knew him, but we weren’t great friends or anything. We knew and respected each other. Mother would always get good musicians on the scene to come and play. She would hire them to develop the music.

E: On “What About You” she developed a funk sound.
M: Funk? That’s like, if you grew up in that environment then that’s in your head. If I heard some funk, and I heard some congas – oh, I’m going to listen to that! My ear was being brought up to that. The thing about the congas in some funk - they all got to lock together with the drummer. The drummer and conga and bass player… I got into that. I got into playing some drums, but I was more into playing percussion.

E: On top of being a wicked precursor to rap music, “What About You” is a valid social commentary.
M: The whole thing was about having people grow up and mature - do the right things in life. It was about pulling people’s coats about mistakes they made. A rap blessing to open people’s eyes to life.

E: Over the most barebone of funk rhythms
M: Why not? If someone is saying something that is opening your ears, and there’s rhythm in it – and we have rhythm down in this neighborhood – that’s what opens your ears. It’s a message, a fun way of doing it, and it has people’s ears open. And it relates to their lives.

E: Do you remember the actual recording of the track?
M: We recorded on 8th Street. At CBA Recording. It was all done live in isobooths. We played conga and drums together, then overdubbed the tambourine all the handclaps. Back then, we probably did it in three to five takes.

E: Your son, Mixmaster Wolf, is a notable DJ and the lead singer of the Breakestra. He’s keeping the funk lineage of the Jackson family alive!
W: Yes, he collects a lot of records! He’s interested in learning the history. He’s listening to the funk I was listening to the stuff that I listened to when it came out.

E: You have any ideas of why that nitty, gritty funk is so popular right now – thirty years after it was recorded?
M: Well, everything is always growing. People dug something a certain way, and they try to keep it that way. Funk has changed. The way it sounds now is not like it did back then. There are some people that are keeping it alive, bringing things out. Like Breakestra.

E: Do you dig them?
M: I dig them for the fact that they respect what was going on back in the day and are putting life into the music right now. If they wanna play some funk, and they play the funk out of it, then I’m into it! I like Breakestra – they’re funky. This is stuff I used to play, way back then.

E: And you’ve sat in with them before – to great results.
M: I fit right back in. I fit in with people playing any kind of rhythm. I’m going to play with them, not put throw my stuff in and make them play with me. I’m going to lock in.

E: Now, are you younger or older than Munyungo?
D: Younger, I’m the baby of six children. There’s about nine years difference between us.

E: And it’s my understanding that you got your recording start with your parents on the radio?
D: Yes – when I was 5 years old. I was in kindergarten. My mother was on in the afternoon, and I recorded station breaks. I started performing on stage when I was ten.

E: When was this?
D: Well Co-Real Artists started in 1969, and I joined then.

E: Co-Real Artists… Can you elaborate?
D: It was a family venture - Cooperative and Realistic. It started as a church program at St. Mark's Lutheran Church for black history. In 1969 the black movement was becoming popular and one of the progressive things our congregation wanted to do was have a black history program. They looked to my mother who had playwriting and book-writing experience. She started a black history program called Where Are We Going. That was a production that we did in the church, then we began to get bookings at other churches and community events due to the nature of the show - we were talking about black history. Our contributions, you know? Bringing that out. We began to get a lot of interest. My mother started the Co-Real Artists, our non-profit organization with the assistance of Mr. C. Bernard Jackson, Founder/Executive Director of the Inner City Cultural Center. They were performing black plays and Mr. Jackson was very impressed by what my mother was doing. The talent she got was from the community, from the church, from her family. At one point, our whole family was part of the cast!

E: What?!
D: My mother was the writer, my father was the narrator, Munyungo was on percussion, my two sisters performed poetry, my oldest brother was the sound engineer… I was 11 at the time, doing the poetry and little speeches. I wasn’t quite the star of the play. They called me Little Black Fish. The play surrounded me being a fish out of water - opening my eyes to see what black history was all about. So the play took place before my eyes and went from dramatizing slave capture to African dance to poetry readings to the black power skits, and songs.

E: And eventually your mother decided to commit some of these skits to wax.
D: We had a very talented group of musicians. Because of her connection with Mr. Jackson, she got financial support. She was funded by the National Endowment for The Arts. They could perform aspects of the show in LA Unified School District. We were doing shows on a daily basis - sometimes three to four shows a day. She thought the music was so good, and the talent so fresh. People would ask after the performance if they could buy the music. She got inspired, and decided on one of the first songs, “What Was Her Name.” This was around 1971.

E: Now I’ve never heard that, but “What About You” rang with a heavy funk influence. Can you explain that one?
D: Well, funk was not at all a big part of the show. But my mother ahead of her time. She wasn’t a musician per se, she didn’t play an instrument. But the style of music at her shows covered a wide range – we did some country, some jazz, swing, there was a broadway style number. Her music was very dramatic - not necessarily commercial. The message - the content - was very powerful. So the natural thing was to record it in some way. “What About You” was her first attempt at a funk song. We did that about 1972. Before there was even hip hop! I was probably in junior High when we did that recording. One of my school mate’s was on it, Anthony Green.

E: And you performed that song countless times before you recorded it?
D: Yes. Gordon Jackson was part - he was one of the lead actors in the performance troupe. We’re not related. Then we needed another guy who could be a gangster. Gordon had, I believe, a cousin, Anthony Green. He was just perfect! And I was there as the kinda cool girl with the big afro! We did that song as a trio on stage, with just percussion behind us.

E: “What About You” has a bit of a social message to it – what purpose did it serve in the show?
D: Where Are We Going needed a bit of a comic relief by that part of the show. The show was about people on welfare and we talked about that in a comical way. It kinda got people, especially black people, to look at what they were doing.

E: Was this much different than your early recording up at the 102.9 FM studios?
D: That was my first time EVER doing anything like that! It was an overwhelming experience. We were all in the studio. My mother produced the session. She had David Crawford, one of the arrangers, get the musicians, for the flip side. He was the flute player. We only sold that record at shows, at the time, I don’t think it was received well commercially - it was so different. There are two other versions of that song, floating around somewhere.

E: Is your mothers organization still functioning today?
D: She passed in 1994. I took on the role of keeping the organization alive as artistic director. We keep doing performances in school, we still do “What About You.” But now we do it with a rhythm track from the keyboard, and we’ve updated the lyrics to be in tune with the trendy slang.

E: That’s nice that you’ve kept your mother’s vision strong.
D: We’ve never stopped. We will not let it stop. It’s taken on a new life –we still do performances and a version of the original show. We still tell the story of black history.

E: Munyungo went into session work and touring to pay the bills. Now he’s playing on platinum selling records and flying all over the world playing his drums. Have you stayed within the entertainment field?
D: Yes. Because of my early involvement, I’ve always been drawn to the stage. But I’m not as comfortable in front of the scene, as I am behind. So I became a director. In my early 20s, I was doing the shows, helping the shows keep going. Then I went to USC and majored in cinema/television production. Now I’m a script supervisor and I also write for stage. I’ve done some documentaries; I’ve worked on A Different World. Now I’m working on Days Of Our Lives

E: You’ve a talented family.
D: There’s a rich history in my family. My mother came from a musical background. She’s from Lake Charles, Louisiana, one of 13 children! Their father was a bass player. So it was a natural progression for his kids and his grandkids to be involved as well. Nellie Lutcher is the eldest sister, she is a jazz pianist. She was just honored in 2001 by the city of Los Angeles on June 23rd as a pioneer. She recorded for Capitol Records in the ‘40s. That was part of the legacy. Then my uncle, Joseph Woodman Lutcher, plays
the sax. He was instrumental in Little Richard’s life. He got Little Richard into the church.

E: Now we have Munyungo’s son, Mixmaster Wolf, keeping the flame alive.
D: (Laughs) In the early ‘80s, Daryl (Wolf) had a rapping part in the performance. Kurt Marshall was doing beat box. The show was called Young Fun. Wolf, who was at the very beginning of his coolness, was all hip hop at the time. “What About You” was the first rap that he performed that he got his skills on! So that’s making (the song) come full circle. That’s how he got into it, he performed the song… He liked it so much he kept playing it on his club dates and all that – and here we are.