Friday, August 19, 2011

War / The Lowrider Band

In 1962 a group was formed in Long Beach, California by guitarist Howard E. Scott and drummer Harold Brown called The Creators. Not long after, percussionist Papa Dee Allen, harmonica player Lee Oskar, bassist Morris "B.B. Dckerson, saxophonist Charles Miller and keyboardist Lonnie Jordan became members of this group. After recording several single on Dore Records with Tjay Contrelli, former saxopnonist with the band Love, The Creators changed their name to Night Shift and in 1968 found themselves working as the backup band for Deacon Jones, whose Hall Of Fame career as one of pro football's premier defensive ends somehow qualified him to be a singer. Producer Jerry Goldstein caught one of Deacon Jones' performances at The Rag Doll in North Hollywood and was impressed, needless to say, by the band. Goldstein, along with ex-Animals singer Eric Burdon came up with the concept of War, and making it the band's name, recorded an LP called Eric Burdon Declares War. The collection's best known track "Spill The Wine" became a hit and off they went.

The band toured extensively in the U.S. and Europe with Eric Burdon getting much  positive feedback from audiences and the press. Burdon left the band in the middle of their European tour, but not before they released a second LP, The Black Man's Burdon in 1970. After finishing the tour without him, they set to work on their self-titled follow-up album. That one tanked, but the next LP, All Day Music, went to #1. This one included the singles "Slipping Into Darkness", which went gold selling a million copies, and the title track which was also a hit.

The following album, The World Is A Ghetto did even better. It went to #1 and was the top selling LP of 1973. The single from that collection, "Cisco Kid" shipped gold. Deliver The Word followed up with another pair of hit singles, "Gypsy Man" (#8) and "Me And Baby Brother" (#15) and moved two million units. Why Can't We Be Friends continued the trend with the singles "Low Rider" and the title track becoming two of their most successful releases. The 1967 greatest hits release included a new track, the stunningly beautiful composition "Summer".

After the release of a one-off jazz album for Blue Note Records and the album Galaxy with its hit title track in 1977, saxophonist Charles Miller was replaced by ex-Sly And The Family Stone member Pat Rizzo in 1979. Tragedy struck when Miller was shockingly  murdered in 1980. Another great loss was suffered when percussionist Papa Dee Allen died of a heart attack onstage in 1988.

You might have noticed the title of this post mentions The Low Rider Band (pictured top right-hand side). There is a good reason for this. It seems in` 1996 the band desired a change in management. In their attempt to separate from Jerry Goldstein they found themselves unable to retain the name War due to the fact it was a trademark owned by Goldstein and Far Out Productions. Consequently, the band adopted the name The Low Rider Band, which of course was a reference to one of their biggest hits. All except keyboardist Lonnie Jordan who opted to remain with Goldstein and put together a whole new band calling itself War. Given that The Low Rider Band contains all the surviving members of the group that made all of the artistic and commercial achievements of War, while the present band named War contains only Lonnie Jordan and a bunch of other guys, I felt that to write about War required that I reference The Low Rider Band because with Scott, Dickerson, Oskar and Brown as members, The Low Rider Band essentially is War. The present band named War is pretty much just Lonnie Jordan's War tribute band.

The musicians of War, Jordan included, left a huge indelible mark on the landscape of popular music. Thankfully, both bands are currently active.

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