Throwback Thursday: Ginger Baker, Jonas Hellborg, & Jens Johansson @ SOBs – December 15, 1991

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein shares with us about our December 1991 show with Ginger Baker, Jonas Hellborg, and Jens Johansson at SOBs. What do you remember about this night? Any crazy Ginger Baker stories of your own?

Jonas Hellborg is a very talented Swedish bass guitar player who came to prominence in the early 80s. At that time, he was the bassist in the reformed Mahavishnu led by guitar player John McLaughlin. He settled in New York, and I was a big fan of him.

I believe the initial connection came in the form of a call where he called to say he wanted to work with us, which was a big surprise and a thrill for me, me being a fan. I think he noticed the work we were doing at Giant Step with the club and had heard about us from others. Around then, he was working with producer and bass player Bill Laswell who had the Axiom label on Island Records. Laswell would produce records with people like Bootsy Collins, Bernie Morell, Ginger Baker, etc.

Jonas decided that he wanted to do a show with Ginger Baker and Jens Johansson, who was the keyboard player in Yngwie Malmsteen’s band.

I was super excited about working with Ginger Baker who is a music legend; he was the drummer in Cream with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, and was the drummer in Blind Faith. Ginger was also famous for his albums with Fela Kuti in the 1970s, and a notorious drug addict as well. He didn’t appear very often.

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Throwback Thursday: Bootsy Collins @ SOBs – Sep 26 & 27, 1990

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein tells us about Bootsy Collins’ fall 1990 shows at SOBs.

We started the Groove Academy shows in June of 1990 with Leon Thomas and The JBs. The JBs featured Maceo Parker, Pee wee Ellis, and Fred Wesley. And after meeting those guys, I was able to meet Bobby Byrd – also a James Brown alumni.

By continuing to put on shows with these artists and building their trust, we came to a place where we were able to ask Bobby’s wife Vicky Anderson if she could give us Bootsy Collins’ number. Bootsy was also an alumni of James Brown plus a member of Funkadelic.

We wanted to bring Bootsy to New York for a show – he hadn’t played New York in 5 years. I didn’t realize that Bootsy was living at home with his mother at the time. So when I called, his mother answered and I said, “Excuse me, is Bootsy there, please?” And she said, “Hold on a second.” She shouted up the stairs, “William! There’s some guy with a strange accent on the phone.”

Bootsy came to the phone and in the trademark Bootsy voice started talking to me. I explained who I was, that Vicky Anderson and Bobby Byrd had given me his number, and that I wanted to know if he’d be interested to coming to New York and doing some shows for us. He said, “Yeah, I need to you speak to my brother, he takes care of all the arrangements.” Bootsy’s brother was Catfish Collins, another James Brown alumni.

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Throwback Thursday: George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars @ Palladium – June 25, 1991

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein takes it back to the Groove Academy first year anniversary at Palladium in 1991. Featuring George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars, the Brand New Heavies, and Blowfly, it was nothing short of an incredibly memorable night. Were you there? Tell us what you remember!

This was our first anniversary concert for the Groove Academy. Groove Academy was the concert division we set up pre-Giant Step where we presented artists from the funk and soul era. Over the course of our run as Groove Academy, we put on shows with acts like the JB’s, Bobby Byrd, and Bootsy Collins, so to have George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars for our first anniversary was kind of like reaching the motherland – or should I say, Mothership.

We decided to go big and chose the iconic Palladium in New York as our venue, which is now a PC Richards and an NYU dorm. The venue held about 3000 people.

The line up also included Brand New Heavies, who we’d recently done a debut show with a couple months earlier. As a special guest, we had Blowfly. Blowfly is Clarence Reid from Florida who would dress up in a mask and cape and perform X-rated versions of well-known songs. To note, he is also a well-respected writer of tracks for Betty Wright, Sam & Dave, and Gwen McCrae, amongst others.

Blowfly was the opening act. We didn’t really have the budget to bring his band out, so we asked the Brand New Heavies if they’d be the backing band; they said “yes,” but to be honest they didn’t know much about his act. They all had a quick chat pre-show where Blowfly explained he would be doing his version of certain soul classics like Otis Redding’s “Sitting on The Dock Of The Bay” and KC & The Sunshine Band’s “That’s The Way I Like It.” I think the only member of the Heavies who actually knew about Blowfly, his unique XXX rated lyrics, and that he was a respected songwriter in his own right was N’Dea Davenport, the singer. 


We started off the show, and Blowfly came out with the Brand New Heavies as the backing band. Blowfly started a monologue, which of course was extremely X-rated with talk about people’s private parts and all sorts of rude stuff. It was part of his show, but I don’t think the Brand New Heavies really understood that. So, as he was talking, telling everyone to go eff themselves and speaking in a misogynistic way about women, the Brand New Heavies were getting more and more embarrassed by being on stage with this guy who they didn’t really even know. And as he’s talking, the band one by one leave the stage out of embarrassment.

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Maurice Talks the Birth of the Iconic Giant Step Brand

 

The Standard Culture recently conducted a wonderfully thoughtful interview with Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein about the start of Giant Step.

Maurice discusses his early affections for soul and jazz music growing up as a Manchester native, his entry into the NYC music scene and the first Giant Step show as Groove Academy, the launch of Giant Step records and how it relates to the company’s venture into marketing, as well as a couple funny tidbits about a call to Bootsy Collins and a miscalculated road trip.

Read the entire interview on The Standard Culture.

Catfish Collins RIP

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We were sad to hear about the death of Phelps “Catfish” Collins, guitarist and brother of “Bootsy.” I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Catfish in the very early days of Giant Step / Groove Academy back in 1990. I managed to track down Bootsy at his mother’s house in Cincinnati, my goal was to persuade him to come to NY and do a rare show. After speaking to Bootsy on the phone (or William as his mother called him) I was forwarded to Catfish to make all the arrangements. He was a true gentlemen and we quickly got down to the logistics of bringing “Rubber Band” to NY literally. They drove down with full sound system and Horny Horns too! It should also be remembered that Catfish was an integral part of one of James Brown’s funkiest bands responsible for “Sex Machine” and “Soul Power”. The young band that included a teenage Bootsy on bass was drafted in when the old band went on strike on the eve of a major tour. James Brown (not one to negotiate) called the bands bluff and had Bobby Byrd go to Cincinnati rehearse the young funkateers and have then ready in 48 hours! The rest is history and funk and soul music is a better place thanks to Phelps “Catfish” Collins.
- Maurice Bernstein, Co-Founder / CEO & President of Giant Step