Category Archives: Jive Culture

Early Warning: David Boykin Expanse, DJ Ayana, and the Photography of Wilbur Holmes

Surplus of Options presents another night of sounds and sights.

HEAR:

David Boykin’s Expanse
David Boykin (reeds, v)
Jim Baker (p)
Josh Abrams (b)
Marcus Evans (d)

&
DJ Ayana Contreras
laying down solid tracks throughout the night.

SEE:

The found photography of Wilbur P. Holmes. These are the personal works of an artist who freelanced for Jet Magazine. Photos are circa 1960’s-70’s.

$10 suggested donation
20% off all antiques & art
free snacks & drinks

Saturday April 21st, 8pm til 1am

Surplus of Options

3644 North Lincoln Ave.

Chicago

for more on Wilbur Holmes, click here.


La Cade: The little hair care company that made some big waves.

La Cade Products was another of many Chicago-based black hair care firms (that I detail here) during the late 60s through the 1970s. Though not as well-known as Supreme Products (who created Duke and Raveen) or Johnson Products (who created Soft Sheen, Afro Sheen, and Ultra Sheen), La Cade left behind scant but fascinating evidence of its existence.

First off, it left some pretty great advertisements starting around 1972 (my favorite is above, from a 1974 issue of Ebony Magazine). How’s that for swagger? There’s a sort of street romantic and cinematic appeal to the image used. They also came up with some clever product names: one of which got them in legal trouble… but we’ll dig into that later in this post.

Most notably, to me (and probably, many Darkjive readers, as well) is that sometime around 1974 La Cade decided to put together a small recording division, based at their Corporate Headquarters (2411 South Michigan in Chicago). They recorded no less than two artists on two singles: both of which are as gritty and charismatic as the ad above.

The first is “Beginning of the Void” backed by “Love Me Too” by Danny Hunt (who sounds to me very much like a young Stevie Wonder on his records). I actually love this record. Very soulful, with a stone cold groove, the lyrics are remarkably socially aware and include:

Just another ghetto child

never see his Daddy smile

He’s in the beginning of his void

The following year, Hunt released a beast of a cut arranged by the iconic Tom Tom Washington and released on Dynamite Records (another tiny Chicago-based imprint). Last time I checked, Danny Hunt was alive and well in the Chicago-area singing Gospel music.

The other record I have found is by Walter “Butterball” Davis, titled “Baby (Wacha Doin to me)” backed by “Girl Stop Begging”. He had also put out a record called “Nobody Cares for a Junkie” on Butterball Records… it’s deep. Really deep. But, Back to “Girl Stop Begging”: the cut is a bluesy-funky little gem penned by Davis himself.

Both records suffered from lack of promotion and distribution and stalled out. It was about this time that La Cade trademarked a product name that I think is very seventies and cool: “The Last Tangle”, presumably inspired by the controversial 1972 film “Last Tango in Paris”. In the film (which was Rated X at the time), Marlon Brando’s middle-aged character has a torrid affair with a soon to be married young Parisian woman with scandalous results. Oh yes, these folks had some swagger.

Not long after La Cade’s foray into the Record Business, they were embroiled in a legal battle with one Roux Laboratories over a product name. The Laboratories were initially contesting La Cade’s claim to copyright the term “Mink” as in La Cade’s product “Ultra Mink”. Roux Laboratories apparently had a hair product called “White Minx” and stated that the product names were too close for comfort. The case took a turn when Roux Laboratories’ counsel stated:

MR. SULLIVAN: I would like to renew my running objection that the only question involved here is the applicant’s right to use the descriptive term “ultra.”
We do not object to its use of the term “Mink,” which has been disclaimed by applicant. Neither have we objected to the use of others using the term “Mink,” but we are objecting to the use of the descriptive term “ultra” which we had adopted and used as part of the “ultra White Minx” trademark but using “ultra” merely in its descriptive connotation, and that is the whole substance of this opposition.
ROUX LABORATORIES, INC. v. LA CADE PRODUCTS CO. 558 F.2d 33 (1977)

Ultimately, Roux Laboratories’ counsel dropped the complaint, but not without costing La Cade a lot of money in legal fees. By 1977, the firm had stopped advertising in Ebony Magazine, had stopped releasing records, and the trail goes otherwise cold. But, in a few short years, La Cade surely left behind some waves: both soundwaves and hair waves. Jive on!


The Listening Room: at Seattle Art Museum, the artists’ medium is wax.

click here to hear the original radio piece.


Opportunity Please Knock Chorus: oscar brown, jr.’s collaboration with the blackstone rangers

In 1967, members of the Blackstone Rangers, a notorious Gang in Chicago, collaborated with singer/composer/playwright/activist Oscar Brown Jr. to create a Musical Revue called “Opportunity Please Knock”. About eight thousand people went to the show during the first weeks of performance (at Chicago’s First Presbyterian Church). Photos in this post are from that first run. The show gave exposure to various teens that had ample talent, but little opportunity.

Oscar Brown Jr., said in a 1996 interview with Rick Wojcik:

I made contact with the Blackstone Rangers, and we began talkin’ to them about some alternative activity to what they were doin’, which was basically gang-bangin’ and terrorizing the neighborhood… The fact that there was this gang presence was bad for business and that’s one of the reasons that I contacted gangs- could we do something for them that would stop them from steppin’ on my hustle! I said we’d do a show for ’em, but they said, “well, we got some talent, can we be in the show?” We wound up doin’ a show called Opportunity, Please Knock, which really changed my life, basically, because it let me see that there was this enormous talent in the black community. This is where all the dances came from; this is where all the popular music comes from; so I began to really concentrate on that. Opportunity Please Knock ran for a little while, with those kids being on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

The gang’s involvement seems to counter the completely negative impact that most people assume gangs have on communities. The contradiction was  fleshed out in a 1969 article published in “The Alantic”:

Since the emergence of the Ranger Nation, individual members have been charged with murder, robbery, rape, knifings, extortion of South Side merchants, traffic in narcotics, extortion and intimidation of young children, forced gang membership, and a general history of outright violence, especially against the Disciples who never joined the Rangers. On the other hand, the Ranger Nation has been credited with keeping the South Side of Chicago “cool” during the summer of 1967 and the spring of 1968, following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. It has been said that they have kept drugs, alcoholics, prostitutes, and whites hunting for prostitutes out of their neighborhoods. They have also been credited with making genuine attempts to form lasting peace treaties between themselves and the Disciples in order to decrease the level of gang fighting on the South Side. They have been alternately praised and condemned by the national press, their community, the United States Senate, the local police, and Chicago youth organizations to such an extent that, if one depends on the news media for information, it is almost impossible to maintain a consistent opinion of the Blackstone Rangers.

James Alan McPherson, from “The Atlantic”, 1969

According to an August 1967 Ebony Magazine article about the Revue, Oscar Brown Jr. further stated:

These kids are angry because they’re being shot through the same grease their parents were shot through, and they understand that it’s impossible for a bootless man to pull himself up by his bootstraps. But they’re not too disillusioned to work hard-if they ever had and illusions at all. It is up to us to give them a better picture of reality.

Below is a record I found, released on Ramsey Lewis’ record label, called “All this Talk About Freedom” by the Opportunity Please Knock Chorus. It’s what led me to this story in the first place. It’s also the only audio documentation of this slice of Chicago History. It’s also pretty groovin’. Image below is of the Opportunity Please Knock Chorus.


Wilbur Holmes: images of the West Side with Grit and Grace

photo by wilbur holmes, circa mid 1970s

Carlos of Surplus of Options (a smokin’ hot Antique/Resale shop full of curiosities here in Chicago) found these pictures… in fact, he picked up dozens of them… at a West Side Junk shop for almost nothing. I was immediately struck by the photos, both for their composition and tone. I bought the pictures from him with the promise that I’d share them with Darkjive readers.

All of the photos came from the same lot and are presumed to have been taken by one Wilbur Holmes (who apparently had a way with the ladies, based on the subject matter of many of his shots). A good number of his photos had West Side subject matter, such as the Garfield Conservatory and Malcolm X College. At first, the photographer was a mystery. Only one shot (not pictured here) had his name embossed in the corner.

A bit of research turned up that Mr. Holmes worked for the post office for 40 years (as well as being a self-employed photographer).

I found some of his shots published in Jet Magazine, during the 1970s (image below from the March 4, 1971 issue).

He was a First Lieutenant in the Army in World War II, and he died in 1991. If you know/knew Mr. Holmes and have more info, please share it here in the comments section. I’m so grateful that Darkjivers are so good at sharing…

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Theaster Gates’ Rebuild Foundation Approved to Develop at 70th and Dante

Artist, Urban Planner, and Friend of Darkjive Theaster Gates is at it again. His plan (through the Rebuild Foundation) is to rebuild a CHA residence into a Collaborative Artists/Mixed Income community of 32 units. The preexisting structure is located at 70th Street between Dante and Harper on the South Side of Chicago. That plan the rehab the structure has recently been approved by the CHA, and groundbreaking begins in 2012. Righteous.

According to a recent interview for WBEZ’s Natalie Moore:

“The creative class that Richard Florida talks about [he says their role is to revitalize cities], I don’t think he’s actually talking about some of the folk that we have identified as creative or that live in this space,” Gates said. “It’s true that creatives and people who are interested in creativity and design and architecture have substantial impacts on neighborhoods. But I don’t think they’d necessarily be attracted to living on Dorchester”.

“…Part of what I’m excited about is that there’s a whole segment of the creative class that’s not been asked to be players in city. I’m talking about black artists, artists of color”.

He touches on some issues of inclusion and expansion of what the so-called Creative Class looks and feels like (as well how to harness creative energy for the greater good). Let’s crack the art world wide open… and build up our communities in the process. Word up and jive on!

UPDATE: for more details on the plan, click here.


Sophia Tareen’s Chicago Soul Food Sign-of-the-Times

photo by Southern Foodways Alliance.

Sophia Tareen’s article published in the Huffington Post this month, entitled “Chicago Soul Food Disappearing as Blacks Leave, (excerpted below) brings up a number of over-arching issues as to why these community institutions have had some hard times, but leaves out any solutions, leaving us with sort of a hollow ‘sign-of-the-times’ .

“The sweet aroma of fresh waffles and salty fried chicken – family recipes passed down through the generations – hang in the air. No soda is served, only sweet tea.

But places like [Hard Times] Josephine’s – located in a sagging building off a busy commercial stretch [79th Street] may number only a half dozen now, having gradually given way to fast food, healthy food and imports like Cajun cuisine, along with the pressures of a bad economy. Also, more middle-class residents are moving to the suburbs, some retirees are heading “home” to the South and others are pursuing the economic lures of the Sunbelt, reversing the historic wave that brought southern blacks pouring into Chicago for jobs in industry.

The Chatham neighborhood on the South Side shows the change. The rows of once-classy homes in the black middle-class neighborhood, including a brick cottage that was home to gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, are now pocked with boarded-up windows and vacant properties. Other traditionally black neighborhoods have suffered even more as the population loss and foreclosure crisis have left behind weed-filled lots.

One of the most popular soul food restaurants in town, Army & Lou’s, closed this year.

“When you lose your base, your foundation, the next generation isn’t there to keep it going,” said former owner Harry Fleming. “It’s losing a real strong sense of heritage.”

Earlier this year, the South Side lost Izola’s, known for its seafood. The year before it was Edna’s, a West Side establishment patronized by King. Also gone are the longtime Gladys’ Luncheonette, a popular musicians’ hangout with great banana pie, and Soul Queen.”

The article wraps up by stating (among other things):

“Increasing health consciousness has also played a role. Soul food, often fried and made with full-fat ingredients, has gotten a bad rap in recent years.”

Of course… it’s the yams and greens that have made us plump. It COULDN’T be the Fast Food spots on every corner….

These restaurant represent an indelible part of Chicago’s heritage, just like the music discussed on this blog. To me, the younger generation is charged with taking the mantle of this food that came with our ancestors and not letting it die.

The original food that became soul food was as “green” as green could be: fully organic, locally grown, and fresh. Urban transplants did what they could to recreate peach cobbler with canned peaches, but there’s nothing in the world like “Soul Food” the way it’s supposed to be. I, for one, want to see a “Real Food” restaurant, without greyish green beans, but rather the kind Grandma trimmed at the kitchen table.


Garland M. Taylor: Chicago’s otherworldly metalsmith

When I met Garland Taylor recently, it was at a Jazz concert held on the lawn of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. I commented on his sandals (brown leather that appeared to be custom), and he proceeded to tell me about how he blew all of his money on them some years back while interning with a metalworking artist in Italy. So far, they were still holding up, he said. The investment had not been in vain. Shoes do, in fact, tell stories.

Speaking of stories, Taylor says of his work:

“[It is] informed by characteristics of people, and designs in nature. My sculptures are short stories that illuminate the evidence of my labor, that is, my struggle to create logic, balance, and harmony with welding electrodes and tiny pieces of steel discards from railroad maintenance crews, the construction trades, and the manufacturing industry.”

According to his website, his works “deal with improving that which has fallen into decline.”

Unassuming and friendly, Taylor has a studio not too far from Bronzeville on the South Side, and he creates otherworldly metal sculptures utilizing reclaimed materials, slick finishes suited for an automobile, and organic yet mechanical forms. Jive on!

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Yesterday and Tomorrow (it’s a chicago thing): David Boykin Trio at Danny’s featuring DJ Ayana

Below, one of the great Chicago recordings that I’ll feature.

check out a bit of David’s work below.


Melodic Expansions: David Boykin Expanse with DJ Ayana… pass it on.

Psssst… David Boykin Expanse with DJ Ayana. It’s a righteous situation at a secret location. RSVP info@perpetualrebel.com for more info.