Wheedle’s Groove

Big Smash! and Aqua Books present
Jennifer Maas’ Wheedle’s Groove
Saturday, March 26 at 4pm
Aqua Books – 274 Garry St
$5

Wheedle’s Groove is the story of Seattle’s forgotten soul and funk scene of the 1960s and 1970s, as heard on the Light in the Attic label’s smokin’ compilation of the same name!

Thirty years before grunge music put Seattle on the map, late 1960s groups like Black on White Affair, The Soul Swingers, and Cold, Bold and Together filled airwaves and packed clubs every night of the week. Many groups started to receive widespread attention with invitations to perform on national television and collaborate with mainstream acts. Just as many of the groups were on the verge of breaking out, the fickle public turned its ear to disco, and Seattle’s soul scene slipped into obscurity.

In 2001, local collector DJ Mr. Supreme started uncovering Seattle’s soulful past after finding a dusty Black on White Affair 45 called ‘Bold Soul Sister’ in a 99 cent bin at a Seattle Center record show. By 2003 he had a rough impression of a once-thriving scene and a hefty collection of Seattle soul and funk 45s, some of which were fetching upwards of $5,000 on the collector circuit. Supreme approached local record label Light In The Attic with the idea of releasing a Seattle soul and funk compilation. Light In The Attic spent twelve months tracking down artists and fleshing out the story of Seattle’s funky past, and the result was a CD compilation entitled Wheedle’s Groove. At the CD release party in August of 2004, a line of nostalgic 60-somethings and funk-hungry 20-somethings wrapped around the building as the musicians inside, now janitors, graphic designers, and truck drivers, look back at careers derailed and prepare to perform together for the first time in 30 years.

When the soul of Seattle sang loudWheedle’s Groove is a revelatory documentary about the long-neglected soul, funk and R&B riot that was 1970s SeattleMovie Title: Wheedle’s Groove (March 26, 4 p.m., Aqua Books)
Our Rating:
By: Kenton Smith 23/03/2011 5:11 PM | Comments (0)
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Wheedle’s Groove (SUPPLIED)
“This was the scene. Seattle was the scene.”

Yes it was – even before the early ’90s, according to the documentary Wheedle’s Groove. And not just for rock bands, for which Seattle remains a good place to be; the city had a thriving overall musical culture, with a reputation among musicians as a town where amazing things happened.

Of course, says Mark Arm of Mudhoney, there’s cool music happening everywhere: it just doesn’t always reach the wider public consciousness. That was the case with the soul, funk and R&B scene of Seattle, which until how has been totally overlooked within 20th-century American musical history.

Why did these great musicians languish in obscurity? Probably because of the geography: labels didn’t come looking up in the then-isolated U.S. Pacific Northwest. Local talents like Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrix thus had to move away to make it.

Hence the story is a familiar one, and more commonplace than tales of showbiz success. Wheedle’s Groove is an informative, fascinating patchwork of anecdotes and memories about musicians who might have been big, but due to circumstances, weren’t. Had these artists been in Chicago, San Francisco or Motown, the story might have been different.

The film might thus have additional resonance for Winnipeg audiences: watching it, it’s impossible not to think of our city’s own fantastic music scene — glittering, but too far away from everything and everyone to be seen. Although that’s changing a little, finally.

As one interview subject in the film says, there was no reason to be home a Friday night in Seattle: there weren’t just one or two good acts in town, he emphasizes, but a lot. Jazz was on fire, but so were other musical genres closely associated with the African-American population. Many of these musicians had big hits on local radio, right above or only directly below stars like Diana Ross.

What made this little world unto itself so musically rich? Perhaps, also like Winnipeg, the city’s bubble existence had something to do with it: everyone just did their own thing. The gorgeous natural environment, and the closeness to it the city’s denizens so enjoyed, might have been a factor as well. (Also, as one musician dryly observes, it rained so often that it drove people indoors to practice.)

Perhaps it’s that spirit of innovation, coupled with high-calibre musicianship, which appeals to fans today. One collector says he likes the way the music was recorded: it was kind of raw. (On the other hand, some artists used up to 16 tracks to cut their records.)

Also raw, and with perhaps more bite than today’s music, was the social commentary, so infused with the protest spirit of the late ’60s. And then there are just the names of some groups, such as Cookin’ Bag, which endear themselves immediately.

Finally, there’s also just a love for music that shines through. There wasn’t a lot of money to be made on the scene for black acts (surprise, surprise), but that didn’t stop them from playing.

(Besides, some of them found other incentives: as one musician from the period explains, if you got the good-looking men in the group, the good-looking women would follow you. Then rest of the men will follow them — which helped maximize earning power at the same time.)

As a documentary, Wheedle’s Groove might have benefited from more imaginative presentation, some sharper editing, and definitely more music: it’s great to hear these musicians talk, but it would have been nice to let their gifts speak for them more often.

Nonetheless, this is an eye-opening film that will hopefully help bust its featured scene loose, even if long after the fact. The music, after all, endures.

———————————–

From Uptown Magazine March 24, 2011

When the soul of Seattle sang loud
Wheedle’s Groove is a revelatory documentary about the long-neglected soul, funk and R&B riot that was 1970s Seattle

“This was the scene. Seattle was the scene.”

Yes it was – even before the early ’90s, according to the documentary Wheedle’s Groove. And not just for rock bands, for which Seattle remains a good place to be; the city had a thriving overall musical culture, with a reputation among musicians as a town where amazing things happened.

Of course, says Mark Arm of Mudhoney, there’s cool music happening everywhere: it just doesn’t always reach the wider public consciousness. That was the case with the soul, funk and R&B scene of Seattle, which until how has been totally overlooked within 20th-century American musical history.

Why did these great musicians languish in obscurity? Probably because of the geography: labels didn’t come looking up in the then-isolated U.S. Pacific Northwest. Local talents like Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrix thus had to move away to make it.

Hence the story is a familiar one, and more commonplace than tales of showbiz success. Wheedle’s Groove is an informative, fascinating patchwork of anecdotes and memories about musicians who might have been big, but due to circumstances, weren’t. Had these artists been in Chicago, San Francisco or Motown, the story might have been different.

The film might thus have additional resonance for Winnipeg audiences: watching it, it’s impossible not to think of our city’s own fantastic music scene — glittering, but too far away from everything and everyone to be seen. Although that’s changing a little, finally.

As one interview subject in the film says, there was no reason to be home a Friday night in Seattle: there weren’t just one or two good acts in town, he emphasizes, but a lot. Jazz was on fire, but so were other musical genres closely associated with the African-American population. Many of these musicians had big hits on local radio, right above or only directly below stars like Diana Ross.

What made this little world unto itself so musically rich? Perhaps, also like Winnipeg, the city’s bubble existence had something to do with it: everyone just did their own thing. The gorgeous natural environment, and the closeness to it the city’s denizens so enjoyed, might have been a factor as well. (Also, as one musician dryly observes, it rained so often that it drove people indoors to practice.)

Perhaps it’s that spirit of innovation, coupled with high-calibre musicianship, which appeals to fans today. One collector says he likes the way the music was recorded: it was kind of raw. (On the other hand, some artists used up to 16 tracks to cut their records.)

Also raw, and with perhaps more bite than today’s music, was the social commentary, so infused with the protest spirit of the late ’60s. And then there are just the names of some groups, such as Cookin’ Bag, which endear themselves immediately.

Finally, there’s also just a love for music that shines through. There wasn’t a lot of money to be made on the scene for black acts (surprise, surprise), but that didn’t stop them from playing.

(Besides, some of them found other incentives: as one musician from the period explains, if you got the good-looking men in the group, the good-looking women would follow you. Then rest of the men will follow them — which helped maximize earning power at the same time.)

As a documentary, Wheedle’s Groove might have benefited from more imaginative presentation, some sharper editing, and definitely more music: it’s great to hear these musicians talk, but it would have been nice to let their gifts speak for them more often.

Nonetheless, this is an eye-opening film that will hopefully help bust its featured scene loose, even if long after the fact. The music, after all, endures.

– Kenton Smith

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~ by cineflyer on March 16, 2011.

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