I would like to start out by saying that I have been in or apart of the music business for over 20 years and I can say that it has never been just about the money. Music is my passion and I know that the money will come as long as we continue to do the best that we can do each and everyday. Because I know what I want now!
I am not an artist and I do not create music, I am that guy who likes to read, learn and find solutions to problems. Helping others, bringing people together and bringing the best out of an artist is what I do best.
Let me give you a little background on me. I can still see me when I was about 8 or 9 years old looking up watching my cousin Kitty and my sisters Undrall and Roberta standing on the corner of 42nd and McKinley in South Central Los Angeles singing Earth Wind and Fire’s song Reasons. I can remember they would talk about making it in the Music Industry and who was going to make it first and who was going to come back and help who. The picture is so clear on the screen of my mind.
When I got older, about 17, I accompanied my sister Roberta to her first show as her manager. It was an amazing experience. She opened up for the group called New Birth (One of their most famous songs was Wildflower) in the Fabulous Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles California. I say that it was amazing, because I got a chance to meet Smokey Robinson and Aretha Franklin. She did one more show at Ganesha Park in Pomona California before I joined the Army.
About a year or two after I went into the Army I heard my homie Mario (Mista Choc) Johnson from Pomona was in the business as a Producer and Artist. He was kicking it with NWA and Dr. Dre and he had also produced that Ice Ice Baby song by Vanilla Ice. He dropped a CD and was shooting music video’s. I really wanted to
be apart of the music business after he told me how much people were getting for just a finders fee. That was my mission in the beginning, find an artist and get that finders fee.
In 1984 the Army shipped me and my family to Germany where I started managing the Army’s NCO Clubs. It was here that I got a chance to meet the real Ne
w York DJs and MCs when Hip Hop was just taking off. It was my job to book the talent in the clubs which there were three clubs at the time so I was booking Hip Hop, Country and Rock Roll and Metal DJs. A couple of the DJs and I made agreements for me to receive a commission from whatever gigs I got for them. I was not only managing the clubs but I stepped into Booking and Promotion as well. I would get these DJs gigs not only in the NCO clubs that I managed in the area of Stuttgart, but I also got them gigs at other NCO clubs throughout Germany as well as gigs in German clubs.
In 1987 I was sent to Fort Lewis Washington where I continued to managed Army NCO clubs. Here we booked older talent. I had the opportunity to assist in bringing in the Drifter’s. This included picking them up from the Airport to accommodating them to ensuring that they were entertained.
The big part of the entertainment in the Fort Lewis Washington area then was Lip Sync Battles. These entertainers and that’s what I will call them, because they were not your average lip sync battles. These contestants for the most part looked like the people that they chose to portray. I remember seeing a guy in one of the major clubs in Tacoma Washington that was once in the Army with me that lied a lot. He said that he was there to participate in the contest. I said yeah right, he said seriously we are doing Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean, again I said yeah right, then he took me to meet Mike and I will be damn if dude didn’t look just like him. His clothes, hair, everything except he was a little thicker than Mike and they killed it.
It wasn’t long, in fact, less than a year before I was sent to Hawaii where I went to work for Roger Mosley (Magnum PI). I worked at his club in Honolulu doing security. That’s where I got the idea about the Gorilla that has been rolling with me in every car that I have owned in the last 20 years. He had one that sat in his seat at the bar when he wasn’t there and no one dare not move it. I don’t know what would have happened because no one ever moved it.
This was a club that everybody that was supposed to be somebody came to when they came to Hawaii. I met a lot of celebrities there. Now this is not to make fun of or be funny but it was funny to me. One night while I’m working the door, Limos pull up, people get out and we do what we are suppose to do. We let them in. Now to me celebrities are just people and I don’t get excited when I see them. The only time I got excited was when I heard that Hammer was coming through because I knew that B, Angie B was coming too. I had a crush on that girl and tried to talk to her every time they came through.
Anyway on this particular night I am told that Jackie from the TV series 227 is coming through, and to let them know when she arrives. I’m like cool, Jackie, all man I can’t wait to see her fine ass, so later the manager comes up to me saying he thought he told me that when Jackie came in to let him know. I said Jackie ain’t in there because if she was I would know because me knowing that she was coming through I didn’t want to leave the door. He turned around and pointed saying there she is right there. All I could say was uhhhhh, Jackie did not look like the Jackie on 227. I didn’t even remember her coming in. But from doing security there and meeting other people I started doing security for the major artist that had a show on the Island. I would have to say that the most memorable would be doing security for Yo-Yo. From there I run across these Sailors that wanted me to manage them. I excepted and we worked on recording a few songs and I got them a few gigs but they sailed out too much and usually at different times so it didn’t work.
Now it’s 1993 and I am shipped to Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg Pennsylvania, the smallest place that I have ever lived in my life. After being here for about year or so I started meeting a few Masonic Brothers from Hagerstown, Maryland. I started getting involved in the communities in Maryland but after a while I felt that I should be doing what I was doing in Maryland in Pennsylvania so, I joined the Elks here in Chambersburg and became Chairman of the Youth Committee.
We started giving free Cookouts in the Chambersburg Projects for kids every Saturday in the month of June. We would buy all sorts of games, and other toys for the children to play with. People are so funny. They used to come and bring their kids, ask what time it was over and be gone until the very end. Community leaders took notice of me and enrolled me in a Political course at Wilson College. I became a part of a group that organized a Caribbean Fest and Parade here in Chambersburg every year. I wish that I could remember their names, It was a West Indian couple that had a book store on the Square.
I brought all the Black Reverends and Pastors in Chambersburg together to organize a Men’s Group. Seeing that I was good at organizing people I was asked to help implement a new program called Communities that Care.
Then I messed around and got caught up in that East Coast West Coast bullshit in 1995 and did something that I should not have done and was Involuntarily Separated from the Army after 16 and ½ years. Then all those people that I helped turned their backs on me. I became the bad guy in the Burg, all in which were Rumors.
I was lost. I was scared, shit I was a soldier for the last 16 years. Who or what would I be now? I’m stuck here in Chambersburg. I still have to go to court. I did’t know how much time I may have to do, or how much I was going to have to pay for restitution and fines, and on top of that probation.
I had to find myself because I saw myself becoming more and more rebellious against the Government and the system period. I swore to never work for another organization that required me to wear a uniform. I vowed to never cut my hair again . And those that turned their backs on me became my opposition so to speak. When I was working with them their total focus was on prevention, so they focused on kids from Junior High and below, but there was this group of kids that all of the organizations (there were so many of them) seem to ignore, and that was the want to be gangsters and thugs. I watched so many times when these organizations would have the “Taking Back Our Street” walks, and they would walk right pass the people that they should have been talking to.
The fact that I was born and raised in the drug and gang infested neighborhoods of South Central LA and it’s Counties (Pomona),I saw some things that was getting ready to happen that most in the community couldn’t see. When I first witnessed what I saw, me being from the West, it was funny to me, but the North and South didn’t get along.
You see, Chambersburg is a transitional town, meaning it’s a seasonal town where it’s population changes with the picking seasons. Most of the people that come to Chambersburg came from the South and since it’s really peaceful a lot of them stay and their families follow.
I was into that West Coast, East Coast, Tupac v. Biggie mess and being the only one around here from the West, I held my W up proudly. The burg started bringing that banger back out of me at a time when the East Coast Bloods seemed as if they were taking over. Still that North and South thing I had only seen with the Hatfields and McCoy’s, then I thought about it. We are only 26 miles from the Mason-Dixon and 18 from the infamous Gettysburg Battle Field, but I had acquaintances from the North and th e South.
In the late part of the Nineties it started to get really bad in Chambersburg. I even remember when the local bar would be filled with Red, shit the owner of the local bar Rob, even changed the felt on the pool tables from green to red.
Me being me, I still threw up the C, with mutual respect from the Bloods that were here, because I gave it.
I thought about it and figured out a way to break the ice with some of them, get to know them, and give them a chance to get to know me. What I did was brought this Yamaha Keyboard and believe it or not, my Cadillac got repossessed because that was the car payment. I then ordered these speakers that the UPS man left on the front porch twice so they ended up being free. I then bought a Microphone, a Tascam Drum machine and a Tascam 4 Track recorder.I knew nothing about making or recording music but it was something that I wanted to do so, I put it together and started making these wack ass beats if I find a cord to the 4 Track I will let people hear some of the recording.
What I did was invite the South over one night and the North the next night. Man we had some of the best freestyle sessions ever and you want to know what the good part was? In this area, just about everybody that rap or thought they could rap came by 240 South Fourth Street, at that time if you came to Chambersburg and was a rapper or wanted to be a rapper you stop through 240 so I had people from Florida, South and North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania spitting.
Gotta tell this one, there was one young bull from Alabama, everything was Kick in the DOO with the FOO-FOO, I told him man stop talking about a damn FOO FOO you ain’t got no FOO FOO, he ain’t say nothing. A couple a days go by and I get a knock at the DOO and guest who it was, my man pulling out this long ass FOO FOO he just smiled and left. All I could do is shake my head and remind myself not to underestimate looks nor age.
The Freestyle sessions were cool but it was time to make some real songs and when that time came I found out that no one knew how to count bars and more than half of them couldn’t write songs because they couldn’t count bars.
Each week as songs started coming together and everyone seemed to be serious about what they were doing I got more serious about what I was trying to do and the crowd got smaller until it was about 5 or 6 left.
At this time I get a knock at the door and it’s Andy Buttermore (R.I.P.) a Christian Rapper that was serious and knew what he wanted. So we recorded a couple of songs and had them copy-written and I from or through him I met the producer that he had been working with and we became partners.
My thing was to find out what the artist wanted, then help them understand what they say they wanted so we could be on the same page at the same time I would let them know what I thought was realistic to the best of my knowledge and advise them of the best course of action to take.
With the new Drum Machines and the new producer Tone on board the music was getting better and we had one that was ready, Wu Houser. I asked him what he wanted and he said a 4 song Ep. So we selected the instrumentals from Tone and made an appointment with Line Out Studios in Shippensburg and recorded the tracks.
These guys started to invest a little in themselves and purchased themselves Drum Machines and they would bring through beats that they had already created so when the time came it was about writing and then laying it down.
For a Four Track Recorder some the songs didn’t sound that bad having nothing but majors to compare them against. I thought that we were really doing something. I now have them making beats and recording so now it’s time for me to take care of the business side.
My first thought was people need to hear them so let me contact some booking agents and see if we can get book for some shows. I tell ya’ll, when you think back on things a lot of things happened that was serious that are now funny. I started contacting booking agents and they started asking me questions that I could not answer at that time and soon I would hear “You’re local, get a fans base first” click.
Okay, so I switched hats and organized a Talent Show and the local bar, I then found something that I really like to do because it was a challenge at the same time I was teaching a lesson to my artist showing them they can do whatever they want to do, like Nike, they just have to do it.
I started to get the community business to support my ventures. I would park my car by the library and walk through the in town area of Chambersburg and stop at every business with my Strong Arm Family Letterhead and request donations and I was surprised at how willing they were to help.
I once received everything I needed to host a Talent Show at the Chambersburg Municipal Park and was able to give away free food. They donated Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Chips, Soda, Water, Paper Plates, Cups, Napkins, plus some wrote out checks that I used to give constellation prizes to the participants.
With all the hard work there is no greater feeling than seeing the smiles on the faces of the recipients. I remember the time I won my very first trophy and how it made me feel inside, and I won that trophy when I was about 26 years old for a spades tournament. But that’s what’s it all about, bringing the community together, sharing good food, having fun listening to music while being entertained. (Stay Tune for Part 3)