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Dyke's Claim to Fame
(Often Emulated, But, Not Duplicated)


The background of this song, "Funky Broadway" is really the almost mythical story of one man and his group's, and maybe even another's beginning (and his ending) career, "Dyke" Arlester Christian, a bass player, sometimes vocalist born in 1943 in Buffalo, New York. His mother, Eva hales, of who it has been said, "...did a good job of raising him" (always known to well mannered) stated in relief when he was playing in Carl LaRue and his Crew, "Im so glad you got my son off the street." The gangs in Buffalo were as savage as those anywhere. Unfortunately, the street (apropos to the title of this song), which really did not totally mold him still had a draw. Dyke was in his twenties, when played in the O'Jay's backup group, The Blazers. One story is that The O'Jays1, after a Phoenix, Arizona gig in 1965, left the band behind when funds were only sufficient enough for the headlining stars to fly back East, and left not even spare change for the Blazers to return home to Buffalo. One could suppose the costs of their latest album Comin' Through they were promoting must have tapped them out. Another angle involves Eddie O'Jay2 who after hearing Carl LaRue's Crew3 brought them on tour (and to Phoenix as early as 1964), and did so with condition that he would not promise them more than room and board.


The boys, comprised of the elder (in his thirties) Carl LaRue, guitarist Alvester Pig" Jacobs, (who taught Dyke bass) drummer Willie Earl, (As the one legend relates decided to reform there and raise the money to get back home; and they enlisted some local talent.) LaRue and "The Boys" were a novel R n' B phenomenon that went over well in the southwest part of town 'closing' many of the mainly black bars. The other story is that the Blazers were the Three Blazers that were a Phoenix group that Dyke joined, after LaRue, not believing --to the point of acrimony-- in the hit record dreams of Dyke, returned to Buffalo in 1965.

Dyke, after hearing James Brown's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" knew the "funky" road his new song would go to match his new African-rhythmic inspired dance4. Saxophonist Bernard Williams and Pig Jacobs claimed they assisted in its almost year long composition, but no one thought it worthy enough to copyright it. It was originally called, "Funny, Funny Broadway"; renamed "Funky Broadway" potential problems were also created as at that time radio stations were hesitant to play anything with 'funky' in it with it's sexual slang connotations, but his was the first. Though playing now in Phoenix, where there was a Broadway they hung out near, the one he was waxing nostalgic was in the old 'hood' Buffalo, but:

Every town I go in,
There's a street
The name of the street,
Funky, Funky Broadway.


They had a hit. As they played live ,
Down on Broadway,
There's a nightclub,
The name of the nightclub is,
Funky, Funky Broadway.

The gathering celebrated with Dyke and the Blazers during their dynamic stage shows,

Down on Broadway,
There's a crowd there,
The name of the crowd,
The Broadway crowd.

Down on Broadway,
There's a dance step,
The name of the dance, man,
Is Funky, Funky Broadway.

Oh, this was too new a song and dance for the folks to know:

Temptations come
All over me now,
Gotta get up,
Part and see
And groove awhile.

'Cause you don't know now baby.
You don't know,
Gonna show you
How to do it now,
'Cause you don't know...don't know.

Now everyone is in the groove, it now becomes an invitational athem:

Do the Funky Broadway
Do the Funky Broadway,
Do the Funky Broadway,
(Do you feel it?)
Do you feel it now?

I gotta get down with it now,
I gotta get down with it now.
Do you feel it baby?
Now don't you feel it now?
Do the Funky Broadway.


The local music biz wiz's Art Barrett and Austin Coleman heard them and they got it recorded and released by Artco just as 1966 was coming to a close. It was recorded at Audio Recorders Studio that summer in less than an hour and Barrett recalls,

I used my paycheck to do the original recording. It cost forty-five dollars.
Barrett denied access to Phoenix radio stations, peddled the vinyl at gigs, and cajoled anyone listening to call in requests. Tony Evans began the airplay locally, making it to the second top spot there, causing it to spread throughout the Southwest. After being re-released by Art Laboe on LA's Original Sound, chosen over Capital, Motown, and RCA, because he gave them all his attention, it made it to seventeen in the R & B genre, and crossed over to number 65 on the Top 100. Only Dyke had the foresight to sign any contracts. It eventually sold a million units. During a homecoming performance, Rick James, who continued the Funk, remembered:
The world was stunned. It was revolutionary as far as its sound. And it showed me somebody from Buffalo could make music that was new and fresh and funky.


By 1967 the band now had a hit to take on tour, and they added a sax and a bass player, Alvin Battle, so Dyke could be the front man. Though the band did not benefit monetarily right away, the excitement propelled them onward. Dyke and the Blazer's zenith was reached when they played the Apollo Theater in 1967, this time the famous one in Harlem, NYC. Williams recalls how grueling the five shows a day for five days a week whilst being paid around a hundred dollars weekly. Battle phoned his mother and begged passage home, thus began the first exodus. Returning to Buffalo, Dyke drafted and picked up in a limo, drummer "Baby" Wayne Peterson, bassist Otis Tolliver, keyboard player Ray Byrd and trumpet player right out of high school, Maurice "Lil Mo" Jones. That same year Dyke pulled out of the abyss and they were back playing their wild style, twirling instruments and all.

Dyke, meanwhile would enjoy starting to collect royalties from the song when Wilson Pickett had an even greater success on Atlantic that year with his cover of the song. Notice the difference, (Though the huhs and yeahs were inflected in the original, too--

Every town I go, there's a street
Name of the street:
Funky funky Broadway
Out on Broadway,
There's a nightclub
Now now, name of the nightclub, now baby:
Funky funky Broadway
Out on Broadway,
There's a crowd
Name of the crowd, baby:
Broadway crowd
Out on Broadway,
There's a dance, yeah
Name of the dance:
Funky funky Broadway
Wiggle your legs now, baby;
Shake your head up

Do the shing-a-ling now, baby;
Shake shake shake now
You don't know, baby;
You don't know now, woman
Do the funky Broadway (sax solo)
Dirty filthy Broadway,
Don't I like Broadway?

At Broadway, looky here
Out on Broadway,
There's a woman
Name of the woman:
Broadway woman Out on Broadway, yeah,
There's a man
Name of the man, now...

Eventually the Supremes and the J. Geils Band would add their interpretation. Adding Willie Earl to his lineup, he now added an appearance on Dick Clark's American Bandstand to his list of highlights. He started doing studio work in Los Angeles with the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Section. He was able to buy a house in this desert city and with his wife Wanda, shared it with Wayne Peterson.


Though the next two years, 1968 and 1969, he was able to muster up some more songs a couple of which made the top forty, "We Got More Soul," and "Let a Woman be a Woman, Let a Man be a Man," but now began a personal and professional unraveling. This was a time that Dyke liked to hang around on the block, and started to score more than just the marijuana and gambling win, but was messing with the harder stuff. Willie Earl returned to Buffalo, and in 1969 all the musician's gear was ripped off at at a job. After breaking his oath that he would restore everything, most left except three of the original Blazers, who now called themselves the Odd Squad. They recorded a pathetic, prophetic prayerful, "Runaway People":

Runaway people, let's go home Wanna see mother,
Wanna see father
Wanna see sister,
Wanna see brother
Going home,
Where I belong
Give me B-U-F-F-A-L-O.

Hiding a heroin habit for years, still able to perform on stage, the secretly struggling Dyke actually was ready to record for producer and singer Barry White in 1971. Somewhere between practices for hitting beaches of England, he made one last stop in the 'hood.

It was an old, story. This one on March 13, 1971 rivaled any tragedy that Shakespeare could have envisioned. At around 2 in the afternoon, he was waiting around in a particularly bad area, in front of a bar one street over from Broadway. Evidently the credit had run out with his dealer, and to further cop some snow, he would have to come up with the almost half a grand. One story is that Dyke thought he was an informant; or just perhaps full of pride and fury, and wanting a fix, is the reason he grabbed the pusher, also called a "deranged man" named Clarence Daniels while he sat in his 1963 Ford Falcon. Grabbing a .22 caliber gun on the seat, Dyke was fatally shot four times, in the head and body; and in a little over sixty minutes was declared dead. Ironically, though "using" scars were seen, the autopsy showed neither alcohol nor drugs in him. Daniels' murder case was dismissed on the first of December of that same sad year. After a service in Phoenix, he was was given his final funeral, where Jacobs helped carry the casket, at St. John Baptist Church on Michigan Avenue back home in Buffalo. He now rest at Forest Lawn.

He is survived by his mother, Bernard Williams, Al Jacobs, Alvin Battle, Otis Tolliver and Willie Earl. Wayne Peterson succumbed to liver disease in 1989. Art LaBoe is going to re-release some of their material. They were delightfully part of something that could never be thought of as overly sophisticated. Their pretense was only to funk.

1 The O'Jays were formed in 1963 from McKinley High School vocalists, The Triumphs Eddie LeVert, Walter Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey and Bill Isles, who renamed themselves The Mascots. This Pop, or Philly, or Urban or Rhythm and Blues or just plain Soul group has continued, albeit with personnel changes, for four decades putting out more than fifty hit singles.

2 Eddie O'Jay is founder of the O'Jays. Not even performing with them, he renamed The Mascots, while was a Buffalo disc jockey for WUFO (AM). He got the group recorded on Imperial Records with their first hit, "Lonely Drifter" in 1963.

3 Not only did they play at the colleges in Buffalo, and the clubs, the Padlock Social Club, Dellwood Ballroom, and the local Apollo Theater --they recorded "Please Don't Drive Me Away" with the Monkey Hips and Oyster Stew on KKC Records.

4 Thomas Terrell, a former disc jockey, now with Mango records describes the song and dance:

We didn't even understand what he was saying. There was something about that record, it was like a call. You had to dance. It had a bump and grind sound like a strip club. It had a real dirty sound.

We used to do a dance, I found out later it was very African. It was called the Funky Broadway, and people only dance it to that song.

At the end of side one, where they fade out with just the drums and voice, people would stand in the middle of the floor and bend over and rotate their heads around and around and around, if they had the necks to do it-- almost like your head was on a string. Women and men would do it. It was a very nasty song. People would get up against each other, rub against each other. It was a rite of passage song.

He even gave the amazing Godfather of Soul's confession, that led to his hit song, from his interview with James Brown:

Before I'd let them get ahead of me, I'd make them break out In a Cold Sweat.
                              (emphasis and caps mine)

www.wnywebshop.com/ploetz/dyke.html (Elmer Ploetz, The Buffalo News; Buffalo Magazine, August 11, 1991.
http://members.cox.net/jjp62/dyke.htm (liner notes, Preston Adams)
CST Approved

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