If the Pharaohs sound like a grittier, funkier version of Earth Wind and Fire, that’s because they were. A Chicago jazz band assembled by Maurice White, who would go on to found EWF, the Pharaohs moved on to funk but never to make it to Soul Train. Instead, they were known for making the background music on early 1970s Afro-Sheen commercials.
The song you’re hearing, “Pharaohs Love Y’all”, comes from In The Basement, which is sadly out of print. If I didn’t already own a copy, I’d gladly shell out the thirty dollars Amazon resellers charge for it, for this and for a stellar cover of Al Green’s “Love and Happiness”.
There are lots of songs about working girls, and I’ve done a number of columns on the subject; I’d like to share a few of them with you while I’m here, and this is my favorite. Here’s Bobbie Gentry performing on The Johnny Cash Show of January 21st, 1970; if you’d like to see the words (and those of the other songs I picked that time) you can visit my column for September 4th, 2010.
The Agitator.com’s favorite kickass blues band releases their first professionally-produced album today. There’s great stuff remastered from their earlier EPs, some terrific new songs, and a couple great covers, including Jimi’s “If 6 Was 9,” and a killer, quick-and-dirty rendition of Peter Green’s (Fleetwood Mac) “Oh Well.”
And “Fire in the Sand” will be your new favorite roll-down-the-windows-and-drive-fast song.
Since I first saw them about a year-and-a-half ago, I’ve been pretty relentless in touting Nashville band the Cold Stares here. I won’t bore you here with yet more breathless tales of their blues-rock badassery. (For breathless fanboyishness, read my Huffington Post write-up of them here.)
I think I’ve seen them about 10 times now. In that time I’ve also become friends with Chris (Tapp, the guitarist and singer) and Brian (Mullins, the drummer). What’s so impressive about these guys is that they know how incredibly good they are, but at the same time, until you’ve actually seen them on stage for the first time, you’d never know that (a) they’re musicians, and (b) they really are that damned good. The guys wear suits on stage. When they’re finished playing a show Nashville, they drive two hours back to their homes in Henderson, Kentucky. When women flirt with Tapp after a show, he tells them about his wife’s casserole. These guys are far more into music than into being musicians.
It’s been fun to watch their rise. I scan crowds when I go to see them play. You can sit at Nashville’s 3rd and Lindsley and watch one by one, as people who haven’t seen them before slowly come around. Earlier this year, they started working with Nashville superlawyer and music kingmaker Kent Marcus. They’re expecting the master of their first full-length, professionally produced album to be finished next week. It comes out in about six weeks. They were planning a national tour to promote it.
I saw them in Evansville, Indiana a few months ago, just across the state line from their hometown. In Nashville, they still open for other bands. They’re still winning converts. Back home, everyone is converted. The place was sold out. There was a label rep at the Evansville show. He told them he wanted to see if their live show was as good as they sounded on tape. After the show, he told them he wanted to make their recordings sound more like their live show. Watching the steady of success of these two genuine guys, playing original no bullshit, straight-on blues rock, well, it was a beautiful thing to witness.
And then. This week. Well, bloody hell: On Monday, Chris Tapp put up a status update on Facebook that he has cancer.
He’s facing some tough odds. As he explains it, he had some spots removed from his back in 2009. Lab tests for melanoma came back clean. He has since discovered that the lab reports were wrong. Someone fucked up. Which means that over the last few years, as Tapp and Mullins have been winning battle of the bands competitions, blowing headline bands off the stage, and rattling bar glasses around Nasvhille, as they’ve inched their way to the brink of breaking through, the entire time, cancer has been growing in Tapp, dropping a smothering shroud on all of this just a few weeks before it was about to blow up.
(A little side note: The outpouring of support for Tapp on the band’s Facebook pages is enough to make you forget about all the company’s negative press in recent weeks. Facebook is perfect for this sort of thing. Tapp’s been posting test results shortly after he gets them, at which point he’s smothered with encouragement and expressions of faith from friends, family, and fans.)
Awful as this is for those of us who know and like Chris, for Cold Stares fans eager to see more from him and Brian, none of that is nearly as important as this: The guy has a wife and two kids. Ages 10 and 5.
I’m a writer. Words are how I make my living. And I guess this is the part where I run out of words.
If you’ve become a fan of the band through this site, you might take a minute to send Chris some encouragement, either on his Facebook page, or via email. That’s the point of this post. Give him some support. Chris is a devout Christian, so if that’s your bag, send some prayer his way.
There’s a bit more, too. Over the last ten years, I’ve built a pretty nice platform with this blog. We have a core community of loyal and regular readers here. I hope y’all don’t mind if I exploit that a bit for a friend who could use some help. As I mentioned, Chris is facing long odds. But not impossible odds. But his treatment will be expensive. The way I see it, the last thing he ought to worry about over the coming months is his family’s financial security and his kids’ future. So we’re working on setting up a fund to help with his medical bills, his day to day bills, and whatever other expenses that may come up. I don’t know what sort of fundraising ability this blog has, but to the extent we can help, I’d like to try.
I’ll let you know how you can help once the fund is up and running. This was my idea, by the way. Chris has signed off (reluctantly, I would guess), but he didn’t suggest it. Nor would he, from what I know of him.
The Nashville music community has a nice history of rallying around musicians in Chris’s situation. So we’re also looking into the possibility of some sort of benefit concert. So if you’re in the music industry, or live here in Nashville and think there’s some way you can help, let me know in the comments, or drop me an email.
Finally, I should add that Chris is pretty adamant about welcoming encouragement, but not pity. In an email, he writes: “I’m going to survive, and when we come back musically it’s going to be an extremely powerful event.”
They committed months ago to play my book release party—which I’m hoping will be next spring. As I wrote in an email to him, that gives him about a year to kick this thing in the ass, and then get back into playing shape.
It is Friday, so it seems right to keep with tradition here, and end this post with some music.