Previous Page | The Funky 16 Corners

• Roger Boykin Interview
• Charles Hunt Interview
• Wendell Sneed Interview

ROGER BOYKIN

E: You’re a bit older than the guys in the band, right?
R: Right, I finished Bishop in 1963. Wendell finished at around the same time. I left for the army in 1965, but before I went off, Wendell and I played jazz. He probably already had a foot in funk, but when I came out of the army in 1967 he was all the way off into funk.

E: Yup, in those two short years American r&b moved in that direction.
R: Let me tell you why that might have been. Look at the history of soul music in that time, and it was during that two year era that two important things happened. Motown groups like The Temptations had released hit after hit and James Brown was happening. I don’t have to tell you about James Brown’s influence. Wendell was one of those influenced.

E: And he was the leader of one of the funkiest groups in all of Dallas!
R: The nucleus of the Soul Seven, the funk in that sound came from the rhythm section. So it was three funky guys in the rhythm section and a horn section. I don’t think the horn players were influenced by James Brown except for Larry – who was probably listening to Maceo.

E: It doesn’t hurt to have the bandleader love the music so much!
R: To say that Wendell was the leader, I mean Wendell was Assistant Band Director at Bishop College at the time. By the time this came around, he was the leader of the band in that he was older and he was a band director at the college where the other members were students.

E: You’re one of the producers on the record – were you into funk yourself when the record came out?
R: At the time the record came out, I was playing straight ahead jazz with musicians like Marshall Ivory, James Clay, David “Fathead” Newman. From about 1957 to the present, my primary focus has been jazz.

E: But some of your best friends are deep funk legends!
R: Right. I met James Polk at Huston Tillotson College in Austin. A small historically black college of 485 students. I had been there a year before I met James. I think he was on the road with Lionel Hampton. When I first met him he was playing trombone and piano. I met him as an undergrad, in 1958. I met Timothy McNealy around 1970. He was a musician around town that had played with Bobby Patterson and The Mustangs. Bobby and I had gone to the same high school and we had worked together. When Tim made records on his own label, Shawn, since I was a pretty well known musician, he hired me to play on some of them. I was either playing guitar, keyboard or flute. Strictly as a side man.

E: Do you remember the music these guys made? Songs like “Just Plain Funk” by James Polk and The Brothers?
R: When Polk was doing the funk stuff, I was in Dallas and he was in Austin. He had transformed into a Hammond B3 player. James is primarily a jazz musician as well. All of the best jazz musicians can play any kind of blues. Pure funk too - some of the funkiest guys I ever met were the Jazz Crusaders out of Houston, Texas. They were weaned on the blues just like me. If you’re a black musician in Texas, that just goes with the territory. That affected Polk in Austin, me in Dallas and The Crusaders… James Polk and The Brothers played mostly jazz gigs.

CHARLES HUNT

E: Where were you born?
C: I was born in San Antonio. I was a drum major at Wheatley High School during my senior year. I was told by a member of the band that the band director at Bishop was interested – he had seen me play. So I went up, played horn and did the drums and got a four year scholarship for both concert and jazz band. During football season I was a drummer.

E: You were there for the formation of this great band.
C: I graduated high school in 1965. We started Soul Seven in the 1966 the ‘67 school year.

E: Whose idea was it to form the band?
C: It might have been Wendell’s idea. But he was our leader. Every evening we had band practice. We were all in the marching band – Bishop College Ambassador’s Band. The band started in one of the practice rooms, where we started jamming. Then we started playing at dances. We kept practicing, then we started having jam sessions after band practice.

E: When did you guys become an actual money making venture?
C: We started making money when a group called the manager of a group called The Primes called and tried to get us a gig. I was friends with him. He said that our group could come up and audition together with all these other groups at the Central Forrest Club. So we jammed as The Soul Seven. Shortly thereafter we became the house band for the Central Forest Theater. Central Forrest was the biggest club in the black side of town, South Dallas. It was a movie theater transformed to a night club. Motown acts came in, so the Soul Seven became a backing band. Two or so of the major musicians would come down and The Soul Seven would do their thing. This started in, like, 1968.

E: You must have played with some great groups.
C: Oh yes, we played behind David Ruffin, Rufus Thomas, Gladys Night and The Pips, Solomon Burke and The Emotions.

E: What kind of music did the Soul Seven prefer to play?
C: All funk. Jimmy was a James Brown freak. So we did all of that. Of course Mike and his outstanding bass lines – it just made tunes come alive.

E: If your recorded output is any indication, your music is a lot harder than the musicians you backed.
C: That was because of the rhythm section. Eugene and Mike were from Oklahoma City. They had that JB picking and the basslines. And we liked to throw a lot of riffs with the horns. We moved! We sweated more than people that we played behind.

E: Did you do a lot of originals? Anything besides “The Cissy’s Thang,” “Mr. Chicken ----,” and “Southside Funk?”
C: We would take something and put our own twist to it.

E: What trombone were you using back in the day?
C: I had an old Getz. Silver. It wasn’t expensive. My grandmother had bought it for me my last year in middle school. I still have it, at home. Never sold it!

E: How did you arrange the songs? Did you write everything out on sheets?
C: We just played the riffs over the rhythm section. Sneed would put his funky drums down, and then the guitar player came in. Then Mike would play his bass and we’d say, “Let’s do this, with the horns.”

E: How did “The Cissy’s Thang” and “Mr. Chicken ----” come about?
C: I think playing around with the horns - we kinda kept messing with it before we got to the studio. We didn’t have much money - Roger was on a low budget. We had like one hour, then we had to get the hell out of there! We recorded those tracks live. We went in and he mic’ed the drums and then he mic’ed the guitar and bass. I don’t remember if each of us had a mic, but we probably did as it was - an 8 track. We were all in the same room.

E: The recipe for funk success – given a great band of course.
C: We wanted to put out the funkiest thing possible and hopefully get gigs.

E: And what the hell is up with that intro to “The Cissy’s Thang?”
C: It wasn’t intended that way - we were just sitting around and ol’ crazy Larry just came out with it. And we liked it.

WENDELL SNEED

E: You’re a bit older than the rest of the band – you’re almost Roger’s age right?
W: Right, I started at Bishop in ’61 – I got out in ’69. I served as assistant band director at the school.

E: How did you and Roger become friends?
W: I met Roger because we were dating two cousins. I dated his cousin in high school; he dated my cousin while he was in Bishop.

E: How did the Soul Seven form?
W: Well, I started a Wednesday afternoon jazz session. For musicians to just get together - start hanging around. At first it was just three people. We just started jazzing, at first I had just brushes on a snare drum. But I eventually brought in my kit. I got into the funk somewhere in-between. Roger and I were playing in the Texas Soul Trio.

E: And Mike McKinney – he brought a lot of the funk to the band.
W: Mike was in the drum section of the Band, but he was a bass player. He was into funk, and he started turning me onto different things. He liked what he heard. Funk was something new in 1967. He was listening to George Clinton and The Parliaments – the purveyors of funk. I was already listening to James Brown, ‘cause he had two of the baddest drummers in history. If you were a drummer of any kind, you had to play some James Brown somewhere. You had to play some funk. I was messing around with Clyde and Jab’o. I heard some things they were doing that influenced my style of playing.

E: Along with Mike, you fell into the position of bandleader – with some of your “funk-inclined” students.
W: We just kinda collectively started playing together. We saw some money in it – we started at The Central Forrest Club. We sttormed into the city and started playing the different clubs. We’d be the intermediate band, between the headliners and the opening acts. But we made a name, and the manager of the Central Forrest had us in on a regular basis. Then, as the bigger acts started coming in, they knew that we could read music and that we could play along with the acts. We wound up being the house band at the club.

E: Tell me a bit about the band.
W: Our guitar player was a Jimmy Nolan fan. He could do all the “dk-dka-dk” stuff. He turned the band onto Mike. So when they all came to school, they all hung out together. Charles Hunt was the pretty boy. Everyone was in the Marching Band. JB was a big sound, and besides him we started playing anything current - we were a cover band.

E: How about the songs? How did they come about?
W: Remember George Clinton in the “I Wanna Testify?” That guitar sound was called “Chicken Plucking.” So that’s how the name for the A side came about. And our version of (The Meters’) “Cissy Strut” became “The Cissy’s Thang.” We’d gotten into The Meters. Yeah. You start researching Jab’o and Clyde, inevitably, when you’re talking about funky drummers you wind up with Zigaboo Modelieste. Coming out of New Orleans, that gave him validity.

E: So you were a cover band, but you were covering some deep acts!
W: You tried to find stuff no other band was doing. The other bands weren’t doing James Brown or The Meters with authenticity. We came along, got that 2 and 4 on the drums…

E: Like Bernard Purdie always said…
W: Bernard Purdie, you couldn’t get a record he wasn’t on! All the records we were covering, he was on them.

E: The label was a real DIY affair, founded by yourself and Roger right?
W: Soultex came about because it was hard to get radio play, and we wanted to do records and record. So we started our own label. We recorded ourself as The Texas Soul Trio, and put it out. Then, we did the Soul Seven. Now it’s popular to do an independent label, then it was way ahead of its time.

E: Have you any idea about the whereabouts of the band members now?
W: Well, Harold is in Waco. I heard about Eugene recently – he’s still up there. Mike went onto the greatest fame. At the time, the Black Mafia and Apollo Commanders were the biggest competition to the Soul Seven. Mike left us and went with the Commanders. Then, he replaced Jermaine Jackson in the Jackson 5’s touring band. And he’s married to my ex-wife’s sister! I think he’s in Oklahoma City. Berry’s a minister in Houston. “Paco” Blake – he was the bad boy of the group. No one knows where he is.