Saturday, 31 January 2009

Earth Disciples - Update



Listen to 'Spirit Of The Bells', via the above Youtube clip.

UPDATE to the UPDATE! Since originally posting, EMI have made this album available for download via iTunes. I don't think the band will benefit from any sales, which is sad, and I'm still keen to unearth their follow up album and put the lot out, remastered etc, so anyone with leads, please get in touch.

I recently had an article published about the Earth Disciples album Getaway Train in the UK mag Drummer. During my research for the article I got in touch with drummer Reggie Harris. Here's a short quote from Reggie that didn't make it into the article:

“The story of The Earth Disciples is a long one, starting in Chicago, Illinois. The bass player (Reggie Austin), guitar player (Jimmy Holloway), and myself, met in high school, and played in Reggie Austin's brother's band (Johnny Robinson, piano). We played high school dances and local events. Oscar Brown Jr., a well-known jazz artist from Chicago, came to our school to do a show, including local talent from school and [the] surrounding area. The show was called Opportunity Knocks. At the end of the show Oscar took us on the road to New York, and on to Los Angeles. After the tour, some band members returned home. I stayed in Los Angeles. Oscar was looking for a pianist, and that’s when I met Rudy Reid. I moved in with Rudy and called Jimmy to come and play. After Jimmy moved in, we wanted to be reunited with Reggie Austin. We sent for him in Chicago; The Earth Disciples were formed.”

Guitarist Jimmy Holloway was the son of famous jazz saxophonist Red Holloway. Sadly, Jimmy passed away quite some time ago. I've speculated as to whether Reggie Austin's piano playing brother, Johnny Robinson (brothers with different surnames?), is the same Johnny Robinson who did Memphis High, but I don't know. Since my piece was published I've also tracked down bassist Reggie Austin. The two Reggie's are pleased to find there's still interest in their music after all these years.

My wish is to have the album remixed and re-mastered for re-issue, and, get this: there's another album in the can somewhere... At least there should be, as the Earth Disciples certainly recorded a follow up. The prospect of a de-luxe 'Complete Earth Disciples' package is quite exciting to me. If you dig these righteous soul brothers, leave me some feed back and comments, as I'm trying to gauge the level of interest in them and the viability of a reissue.

The pic of the single above is from my copy of the 7", and the image below is from my copy of the album. Left to right they are: Reggie Austin, Reggie Harris, Rudy Reid, and Jimmy Holloway. My thanks to Reggie Austin for this inside info. He also has some good stuff to tell about the shots on the loco, but that'll have to wait for another time!


ps - If anyone knows the whereabouts of Rudy Reid, please get in touch!


And just to reiterate: if you want to hear the Earth Disciples, message me in the comments section. I'm exploring possible reissue options with the band and trying to find the masters and who has licensing rights etc. I cottoned onto the band thanks to the excellent Four Brothers Beats blog, which seems to have gone 'invite only' at some point, meaning that if you're not one of the select invited few you'll not be able to download via that route. Throwback Music have also listed Getaway Train before, but again, it's invite only (as of my last visit), so currently there are no active download options I know of. As I'm looking into helping the remaining Disciples find a way to make the music available again commercially I don't feel it'd be right to just give it away here, much as I'd like to share the goodness!

21 comments:

cheeba said...

Great piece, funky goat! Wondering if your other journalism finds it way online...love your writing, it has "zazz" and a distinct voice so always happy to read more.

shelger said...

I just stumbled on your blog about the Earth Disciples purely by chance. My name is Jim Shelger and I go back to the very beginning of the formation of the group. When I was in Los Angeles I was working part time as a lighting operator for the great jazz singer Oscar Brown Jr. His musicians were four talented young men (Rudy was actually in his mid 30's at the time). Differences developed between Oscar and the group which led to a parting. The group took an apartment near USCin Los Angeles (where I was attending the business school). I maintained my contact with them as well as Oscar and eventually became the groups manager! It was really a thrill. I loved their music and also cherished their friendship. My single goal became securing a recording contract for the group. It was the most difficult thing I ever did in my life. Virtually every agent and A&R exec said they had to do vocals. "Not gonna happen" said the group. Eventually we provoked the interest of Dave Pell at Liberty Records and e arranged to have studio time at a facility in Los Angeles and the record was released on Solid State Records which was a part of Blue Note Records. I remember all of this as if it were yesterday rather than 40 years ago. The album was released with very little support of any type by the record company. No tour. No PR. No airplay. It was as if the album never happened. This was and still is a huge disappointment to me. Later, I discontinued my work for Oscar, graduated fro USC and moved to San Diego to attend law school. I lost contact with the group and practiced law since graduating from law school. I have tried several times to reach the group. Last year I sent Red Holloway an email and he responded and informed me of Jimmy's passing years prior. What a loss! Oscar also passed away A giant talent by any measure. If you would e so kind, please pass on my name and email to Reggie, Reggie, and Rudy. I would LOVE to hear from them. Thanks,

Jim Shelger

shelger@comcast.net

thefunkygoat said...

Hi Jim,

wow! Glad you found me. And thanks for sharing that very interesting information. I'm working on an in depth piece on the band, and also looking for their master tapes etc, as mentioned elsewhere.

I haven't been able to contact Rudy, but I'll email you and put you in touch with Reggie A & Reggie H. I've also tried to find Dave Pell (found a website & email, but email doesn't work), the photographer who took the cover shots (Herb Kravitz, no joy there either!). If you're still in touch with anyone else who could shed more light on the band's story, please put them in touch with me.

Your input would be fantastic in developing my article. Thanks for your comment, and let's keep in touch,

regards, the goat

thefunkygoat said...

Hey Cheeba,

thanks for your flattering comments... I blush!

Most of my writing has been for a UK drumming publication, and there are only two I know of, so you'd easily have a good chance of guessing and getting it right! At the moment I keep that and my blogging separate, but I may link them up at some point.

Cheers, ze goat

bobhowe said...

I found this album years ago very cheaply and was really surprised to find it was an instrumental jazz album rather than funky soul a la BT Express which is what I expected from the cover. It's sad that the guitarist is no longer with us as both his lead and rhythm playing was very stylish and dynamic. I would certainly be interested in buying this on CD if you ever manage to track down the tapes and if there is bonus material so much the better. If you speak to the surviving members again be sure to tell them that their LP is still regularly played and appreciated in this house too, despite it being 40 years old. Timeless music.

Baby Grandpa said...

Hello Funky Goat, excellent article on the Earth Disciples and I sure hope you manage to locate the mastertapes with these guys.

If you need any help, don't hesitate to holla:

babygrandpa[at]gmail[dot]com

I'm still considering a repost of this album, 'cause we the bloggers know that the real lovers of this good stuff will eventually buy a reissue once it's available.

Peace,

Baby Grandpa

Baby Grandpa said...

Oh, and I almost forgot: I added you to my blogroll as "The Funky Goat" in the other vaults section on the right side of my blog.

Just so you know ;-)

Peace,

BG

cheeba said...

Hey FG, just checkin' in. Miss your fine way with the language and hope to read more soon.

I'd have to side with BG on this one. Studies have pretty much conclusively shown that heavy downloaders buy the most product.

4BB is back but in a new format, still no availability but lo9oks like the great guys at MFS put it up just a few months ago:

http://myfavouritesound.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/the-earth-disciples-getaway-train/

Look forward to hearing more FG and good luck on your hunt for the master tapes and licensing!!!

Dean said...

I am an old friend of the Earth Disciples, going back to my USC days. I was quite close with Reggie Harris in particular and would like to get in touch. If you can, please ask him to look up Dean Benjamin in Ventura, CA

Andy said...

I heard the album in 1969 when it came out, as WMAS in Springfield, MA played it regularly. WMAS also played authentic blues albums during this period. I didn't buy it at the time but eventually scored a second hand copy in NYC for a few bucks. Please get it reissued! Jimmy Holloway was a wizard; one of the best unknown guitarists of the era. It's hard to believe he didn't record more. And the writing and playing are wonderful; a real band in that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

Harold said...

I use to live across the street from the groups apartment on 29th and orchard in LA. Reggie Harris personally gave me a copy of this album. I held on to my until I lost it in a house fire in 2005. I would definitely be interested in a new release. I ran into Red Holloway in the airport and was devastated to hear about the passing of Jimmy.

thefunkygoat said...

Hi, a few responses:

Cor... yes, please let me know where I can get 'Welcome To The Dance'! I'd love it. Wish I'd spotted your comment when you made it!

Dean Andy and Harold, thanks for the comments, and please check back on my latest ED update, as their lost 2nd album has been found!

larrykulesza said...

Greetings All

Great to see the renewed interest in the Earth Disciples. We found your site last night when the subject of the album Universal Man came up. (All praise the Google!) I was part of the USC anti-war movement and lived at a counter-culture house (commune, in the day) called Ellis Island.The Earth Disciples lived in the same neighborhood and we were friends with the band. The Ellis Island alumni have a group page on Yahoo and are in current communication. I have posted a link to this conversation on that site. I am sure there are a wealth of memories to be mined. Let Big Reggie and Little Reggie know their friends still cherish them across the years. What a great band, what great guys! I am trying to find out if my memories of a photo shoot in connection with the album cover for Universal Man are accurate. Will let you know. Jim Shelger, thanks for the great post. Let Reggie & Reggie know that their friends Larry & Joni and Marc and Jaymi say hi. Would definitely like to get in touch. Again, thanks for the great energy.

Larry

thefunkygoat said...

Hi Larry, great to hear from you. Do you have any pictures of the band from this time? And do give me an email if you can, and I'll add it to the list of the people interested in further developments. I'm trying to configure soundcloud, so I can start sharing tracks without going the download route. Once I've learned how to do that, if the Reggies are agreed, I'll post a couple of tracks from both their albums, in an update soon.

shelger said...

Hi Larry:

I remember that apartment building and their apartment in particular (downstairs corner unit). Those were very different and more joyous times for many of us. I don't remember you but I am sure we met during that period.

Does anyone know anyting current about Rudy Reid. I would really enjoy making contact with him again.

Jim Shelger

larrykulesza said...

Jim and Funky

Thanks for the replies. I don't think anyone will mind if I post these.

The following is a posting from our group conversation:

Big Reggie and Little Reggie were at 1204 (Ellis Island) for the 40th(reunion, May 1,2009). On that occasion they gave me a CD of Getaway Train. No one has seen Rudy in many years. One day back in the late 60's, I saw an ad for musicians. Rudy was living in the area, and wanted to start up a group of musicians. I had responded, and that was the beginning of a long relationship. A few years later, Rudy joined a group just out from Chicago that backed up Oscar Brown Jr. At that time, he was working with Jean Pace. I had done a number of rehearsals with them in Rudy's old appartment. The rest though is history.--Bry


And so is this:

Both big Reggie Austin and lil Reggie Harris are in touch with me. Big Reggie is Santa every year, much to my embarassment. Lil Reggie retired from bus driving and is studying classical piano. Big Reggie works at JPL and used to teach hip hop aerobics at Bally's. Both have great ladies in their lives. Lil Reggie has two daughters, Sophie and Feather. One gave him a grandchild, and the other went to Harvard. I haven't seen them in so long I mix up which is which.

On a sadder note, Rudy Reed died in Florida some years ago. Not much is known.

Jimmy Holloway is also desceased, more recently, from natural causes. (He never again took acid for a tooth ache.)

Reggie and Reggie have been great friends to me over the years. I'll try to get them to get on this chat room.--Rush

FYI. Rush still lives at Ellis Island. He never left. EI is still a cooperative housing venture.

I'll see what I can do about pictures. I'm sure there are many more people with more stories.

Again, thanks for the energy.

Larry

larrykulesza said...

Here is a link to an LA Times article about the 40th Anniversary celebration at Ellis Island, May 1, 2009:

http://articles.latimes.com/2009/may/03/local/me-hippies3

This will give some background perspective on the times. I would propose that Funky, Jim and those who were (and still are) friends of the band have a backstage conversation in a different forum to get the history, cast of characters, and details of the story down so that Funky can then have access to source material for his "history".

Like I said, the house called Ellis Island still exists. Rush, who is a friend of Reggie and Reggie still lives there. There are 40+ people from "the day" still in contact with each other.

Let me know what you think.

Larry

fishbone said...

I'm an old friend of the group and I recently found out about the renewed interest in the Earth Disciples. Although I had a copy of the "Getaway Train" album and even the one we didn't get to hear I am so glad to see this renewed interest in the music. I have never stopped listening to it! It's such a sweet blending of jazz, rock and classical. No matter what your mood this music transports you to emotional places ranging from smiles to samadhi. And it's timeless. On 8-string bass Reggie was amazing and blended so well with Jimmy on the guitar that together it often sounded like their instruments were singing to each other. Bitter End is one song that comes to mind, but to me they all satisfied in a delectable way. No lyrics were necessary. Then there's Reggie on the drums as smooth and strong as a steady heartbeat. He could speed your heart up or slow it down in the course of the song. Sweeten this mix with the classical touch that Rudy brought to the group on keyboards and you had a spring mix...the Earth Disciples. Timeless and timely....it's about time! And thank you so much.

thefunkygoat said...

Hi Larry, not read the article you linked to yet, but I will do, sounds fascinating. Sorry for tardy response! Just way to busy most of the time to check ye olde blog.

thefunkygoat said...

As you'll note... I'm not really doing this blog anymore, but I'm still digging the Earth Disciples. And in fact I've been commissioned to write a fuller history of the band. My Drummer mag article was just 1,000 words, and focussed mostly on Reggie Harris. This new one (for Shindig!) will be 3,000 words, and on the whole story: the band, the scene, the times, the lost second album, and even, sadly but inevitably... the end. If anyone comes back here in connection with this band and their story, please leave some kind of contact info., so's I can reach you. Cheers, FG

larrykulesza said...

sumHere's my contact info:

larrykulesza@gmail.com

Please keep me in the loop.