By Elmer Ploetz
I’m filling in for superstar record historian Bob Paxon this week, so I decided I’d go with one of the records from one of the older performers I know best: Carl LaRue.
Carl LaRue & the Crew are best known perhaps for providing the core members of Dyke & the Blazers, including Arlester “Dyke” Christian himself. Carl was a steelworker and occasional small-time numbers runner from Florida. He had taught himself piano as a kid in Florida before moving to Buffalo and working for Bethlehem Steel.
In the early ’60s, already over 30 years old, he put together a combo with a bunch of kids. They included Dyke on bass, Alvester “Pig” Jacobs on guitar, Willie Earl on drums. Those three, along with Carl, are in a postcard sized promo shot LaRue had made. The band also included saxophonist Tyrone Huckaby and occasional other players. The time was circa 1963.
They were a bit like Otis Day & the Knights, from Animal House, a band that could play the R&B hits of the day for white or black audiences, venturing into Canada, playing at Buffalo State College and any number of other venues. Sometimes they worked with “Baby Wayne” Peterson, a kid singer who grew up to become a well-known local drummer on the jazz scene before his death in 1989.
The group recorded two records with Kim Kimbrough, a friend and business partner of Carl’s (hence the KKC label name). The KKC record was a Baby Wayne 45, with James Manual credited on it.
The second record was a our feature 45 this week, a Carl LaRue original. It’s on the edge of ’50s R&B and ’60s soul. When Carl and some of the Crew/Blazers got together for some reunion gigs in the ’90s, it took on more of a gospel/James Brown edge.
The band later cut a second record on KKC, but that’s another week’s post.
The Dyke & the Blazers story is that the group hooked on with DJ Eddie O’Jay (who was one of the early DJ’s on Buffalo’s WUFO-FM), then went with him to Phoenix. O’Jay is also the guy who gave the soul vocal group its name. O’Jay moved on from Phoenix, the band petered out, and the kids wanted to try some more modern sounds. Carl came home, eventually worked 20-some years at Houdaille Industries and retired.
Dyke & the rest of the Crew, however, met up with some Phoenix musicians and came up with a little song called “Funky Broadway.” Maybe you’ve heard it.
For the full Dyke & the Blazers story, go to http://www.wnywebshop.com/ploetz/dyke.html
PS-When I referred to Bob Paxon as superstar record historian at the start of the post, it may have sounded like I was teasing. I wasn’t! Keep coming back to this blog every Friday or look at the past 45 Friday posts, and you’ll see why I mean it.