Charles Earland Obituary
SOUL SHADOWS IN MY MIND/Death of a B3 “Rib Shack” FUNK Master
by Kevin Amos and Bob Davis
Sometimes even when bad things happen, something good can come of them.
Kevin Amos and i have been friends for over 25 years and during that time, while we were college students together, we used to listen to the music of Charles Earland together, over iced tea 🙂
The two eulogies that you are about to read about Charles Earland were written seperatly by each of us and first appeared in two completely un related forums.
Somehow it seems quite appropriate for both of these eulogies to appear together on the same web page. This is the discussion that Kevin and I would have had about Charles Earland, had we been together and heard about his death and of course put on some of the music of Charles Earland.
SOUL SHADOWS IN MY MIND
Last week I was informed of the untimely death of a musician who had befriended me as a young radio personality back in the seventies. We remained friends over the years and whenever “The Mighty Burner” would come to Pittsburgh, Charlie Earland and I would hook up either for me to do an interview with him on his latest goings on or to check him out in performance no matter where he played here in town. He turned me on also to other great musicians who accompanied him like Bob DeVos and Eric Alexander. He kept me informed on his label changes and made sure I had a contact to turn the public on to his work.
Charlie also was very encouraging when I told him of the work Bob Davis and I were involved in on the web as it concerns exposing everyone to Black music from a Black perspective. Whenever I called him in Chigago, he and his wife Shelia were always very, very nice to me never brushing me off and always ready to share conversation. Charles Earland was REAL not contrived and I loved him for that. The “Mighty Burner” was born and raised in Philadelphia. In one of our last radio interviews together we joked about all the great musicians from Philly and the Burgh comming to the conclusion that it “ must have been the water”
Many people may not realise this but Charles Earland started off as a sax player with Brother Jack McDuff in his teens. He eventually switched to organ and started his own group. Charles was also one of the many artists of color who also in the late sixties and during the seventies reflected their cultural pride. That caught the attention of many younger folks like myself who were listening to Jazz in it’s many various forms. Check out the recording BLACK TALK on Milestone and many of the other artists from that period if you think I’m lying. This week I was planning on doing a special on my radio program dedicated to Charlie and I had stopped in one of my favorite stores to find some music. The store owner asked me if I had heard about Grover. No, I replied and then he showed me where he had passed away on Friday in New York state. I was completely devestated by the news. I also had the privilage of interviewing Grover Washington Jr. on a couple of occasions by the good graces of his manager Paul Silverthorn and upon reconmendation by Dr. Nathan Davis. I particularly remember the conversation we had about a young group from Philly he had discovered. That group was PIECES OF A DREAM. Grover was also an incredible musician who could play any type of music as he proved time and time again. He was NOT just involved in Pop Jazz sounds as many who don’t know might speculate. Perhaps if they pick up the PITT JAZZ SEMINAR 25TH ANNIVERSARY recording folks will change their tune. The performances on that recording by Patrice Rushen and hisself are absoultely phenominal. A few months ago I picked up the SOUL BOX recordings on Kudu/CTI and most recently LIVE AT THE BIJOU was released on CD. Along with Mister Magic and Just The Two of Us , they STILL remain as classics on the radio today IN ALL FORMATS. These are two great artists as well as Lester Bowie who also passed on recently are great men who have done a lot for their communities and provided a lot of great music for the world. Sure we are going to miss them, but the important thing is not to let folks forget who they are and highlight their many, many accomplishments.
Death of a B3 “Rib Shack” FUNK Master
Charles Earland – Leaving This Planet
1. Leaving This Planet
2. Red Clay
3. Warp Factor 8
4. Brown Eyes
6. Mason’s Galaxy
7. No Me Esqueca
9. Van Jay
10. Never Ending Melody
Well it seems that the rumor about Charles Earland that i posted here the other day is in fact true…
It’s sad on many counts but I would like to take this moment to bring up something that truly does bother be and it’s something that I have discussed
Let’s give these people their props while they are still alive!
1. The other day I was seeking some official conformation about the death of Charles Earland and was unable to find anything at Yahoo, CNN, MSNBC, Associated press, etc. As a matter of fact I was able to find very little at all on the web about Charles Earland at all on the web!
2. When Urban Sounds first started, someone came to me who knew Charles Earland and suggested him as a chat guest. I am a pretty big fan of Charles Earland, the album “Leaving This Planet” got me thru many long nights in college.
I made a decision to NOT have Charles Earland on because I felt that he would NOT be a big enough “draw”, that he didn’t have a big enough “name” and that nobody would show up, leaving me and Charles sitting in a chat room by ourselves and the whole thing being an embarrassment for both Charles and for myself. I knew that I would be told NO so I never even advanced the idea to management at Prodigy
In this case I was making my decision based on considerations that had NOTHING to do with music, pretty stupid in hindsight, eh?
Right now, being able to read a one on one interview with Charles earland might be a pretty nice thing to be able to do, wouldn’t it? That opportunity is now LOST forever!
How foolish I was
3. About 3 months ago someone who is in their early 30’s on Prodigy sent me an unsolicited tape of the album “Black Talk”, an album I have owned for many years. Inside of the envelope there was also a hand written letter telling me that they wanted me to listen to the album. Seems that this album was a favorite of this person’s father and the father played it often for the son and it became for them a point of mutual interest and a way to provide a backdrop for communication between the two of them. His father has passed away and now the album holds a place near and dear to his heart, because it provides a connection for him to his father.
They said that listening to the album today brought them comfort and they wanted to share it with me because for them, the album “Black Talk”, was indeed the “definition of funk”!
I hadn’t listened to the album for many years and I listened to it again. Listening to it made me think about the relationship that this person must have had with his father and thinking about the fact of how music can be such a powerful influence over many things. It sure would have been nice if Charles Earland had known just how much his music had meant to this particular family.
Charles Earland wasn’t particularity well known or popular.
- He wasn’t really influential or controversial
- He didn’t change his name to an unpronounceable symbol
- He didn’t bleach his skin white
- He didn’t get make the papers for beating up his wife
- He didn’t make news for suing his manager or record company
- He didn’t make any public statements to my knowlege about anything else, except for music
He was a down home ‘rib shack” kinda B3 organ player, the kind that you can go and see for free in inner city bars on a friday or saturday night jammin some superFUNKY grooves on organ in the background as people are talking, lying and drinking the evening away.
As an instrumental artist, his voice is only heard thru his instrument.
I was a fan of his music.
Today I am sad because he is no longer with us.
I am even sadder because few people even know who he was.
Today I am mad at myself because I couldn’t have done something about that, and when given the chance, I didn’t.
I have learned that it’s more important to document whatever we can about these artists, much more important that “ratings” or “numbers” in a chat room or even if someone’s music is being played over the damn “urban” radio station.
It’s OUR history!
And if WE don’t tell the story, who will?
And when someone else does and gets the story “wrong”, whose fault will that really be?