1967 Bar-Kays – Soul Finger
Stax/Volt Records hired a group of studio musicians to play on recordings for some of their artists. While in the studio rehearsing with one of the Stax artists to record a cover of But It’s Alright by J. J. Jackson, they started playing around with Mary Had A Little Lamb. Trumpet player Ben Cauley added a trumpet riff at the end, and the band expanded the tune from there.
Songwriters David Porter of Sam and Dave and Isaac Hayes suggested came up with the title. They gathered up some locals who were hanging outside of the studio and gave them Coca-Colas to come in the studio and shout “Soul Finger” to add to a recording of the song. The record company released the resulting song as a single, and the band got credited as the Bar-Kays. The record reached #3 on the R&B chart and #17 on the Hot 100 in 1967.
Otis Redding was so impressed by the group that he hired them to tour with him as his back-up band. The band made one last television appearance before the plane Otis had chartered crashed.
The crash killed everybody on the plane except for Ben. The group’s bass player, James Alexander, flew on a second plane since the plane could only handle seven people. Ben and James recruited some new members, and the group returned to playing as studio musicians for Stax/Volt.
Ben left the group in 1971. The reformed group continued to record new albums that tended more towards funk, but the band hit a dry spell with their singles after Son Of Shaft missed the Hot 100 but reached #10 on the R&B chart in 1974.
In 1976, the band moved to Mercury Records and recorded a new album that included their first hit record in several years. Shake Your Rump To The Funk peaked at #5 on the R&B chart and reached #23 on the Hot 100.
The group had hit records on the R&B chart through 1989 but never again returned to the top forty on the Hot 100. The band’s last new recordings went on sale in 2012.
James still plays with the current formation of the group while on tour.
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