A newly-published mini-documentary from Craft Recordings tells the potted history of funk pioneers Dyke & the Blazers. The clip sets up the June 25 release, digitally and on vinyl, of the new compilations celebrating the R&B combo, Down on Funky Broadway: Phoenix (1966–1967) and I Got a Message: Hollywood (1968–1970).
“We geek out on tracing the music we love back to its sonic origins,” writes the label in a social media post, “so we put together this mini-doc on the groundbreaking, too-often-overlooked funk band.” The film traces the coming together of the collective fronted by Buffalo, NY native Arlester “Dyke” Christian, and how their discovery in a Phoenix club led to the release of their signature “Funky Broadway” on the Original Sound label.
That hit, subsequently covered and turned into an R&B chart No.1 by Wilson Pickett, established the group’s “gut-bucket funk” sound, featuring scratchy guitars, jazzy horns and distinctively gruff lead vocals. The mini-documentary goes on to explain the success of the group and how Christian kept the group name even after the original line-up split.
Tragically, he was fatally shot in 1971 when he was a mere 27, but the influence of Dyke & the Blazers has lived on, not only in their own recordings but in their sampling by such artists as Tupac Shakur, Stetsasonic, and The Heavy. “Funky Broadway” also attracted covers, soon after its initial release, by Jackie Wilson and Count Basie (on their 1968 Manufacturers of Soul album) and by Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Temptations, on their collaborative LP the same year.
The new collections have also been previewed by the appearance of, among other tracks, “Funky Broadway (Part 1)” and another of the group’s R&B hits, “Let a Woman Be a Woman – Let a Man Be a Man.” The albums, remastered by engineer Dave Cooley at Elysian Masters, feature new stereo mixes, unreleased demos, radio spots, and freshly-unearthed songs.