Arlester "Dyke" Christian 6/13/43-3/13/71

One of my very favorite bands, Dyke & the Blazers, were founded by Buffalo native Arlester "Dyke" Christian in 1965. One of the only bands that James Brown was worried about as competitors, these guys had a raw, hard, street funk sound.

Dyke played bass in Carl LaRue & His Crew, gigging around the rust belt and releasing a couple of 45s on the Buffalo-based KKC label in the early '60s. The Crew went to Phoenix to back the O'Jays but found the gig to be a dud and three members of the band (Dyke included) were stranded in the Southwest. They hooked up with a group called The Three Blazers and thus they became Dyke & The Blazers.

Dyke and his band wrote and cut the original version of "Funky Broadway" (every town has one!) and in '66 the record hit the streets and became a crossover pop hit. Reputedly the first song with "funky" in the title, the song was banned on some stations for that severe offense alone. The band started touring heavily and burned out. Dyke found himself in L.A., recording joints under the Dyke & the Blazers name, using musicians like Charles Wright and future Earth, Wind & Fire members. The band jammed on long funk improvisations and edited the tunes down to 45 length (longer versions became available in the 2000s). "Let A Woman Be A Woman" (a huge hiphop sample to be) and "We Got More Soul" were big hits.

Stunningly, Dyke was shot to death in a Phoenix street at the age of 27. As JB became the standard-bearer and hundreds of generic funk 45s have started fetching high collector prices and grabbing attention from millennials who no longer have a solid understanding of foundational artists, it could seem easy to forget that Dyke & the Blazers were right there at the start of the revolution, challenging the king right out of the gate and leaving recordings of the NASTIEST funk this side of JB. A true musical revolutionary who's life & career (and violent end) is a story deserving of a biopic or book.

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