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Wednesday, 1 July 2015

ERIC BURDON: Making WAR has meant beautiful music

WAR, led by singer Lonnie Jordan, with be at the jazz festival. In the beginning, there were The Creators.
The Creators was a band playing in the Los Angeles area, starting in the very early 1960s.
In 1961, a young man named Lonnie Jordan joined the group as a singer.
Jordan was from Compton, one of the many poor communities that make up what is called South Central Los Angeles. Today he is the last original member of one of the most famous funk bands ever — WAR, a version of which, featuring Jordan, will play the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival on June 22.
WAR produced hits such as Low RiderSpill the WineWhy Can’t We Be Friends? The Cisco Kid and Slippin’ Into Darkness. How The Creators became WAR — now that’s a story.
“I came in, in 1961,” Jordan said in an interview. “We were pretty much a school talent-show band then. We had to get that green slip of paper, with our parents’ signatures on it, in order to play clubs. You’d play five sets in the clubs and on breaks you’d have to go into the kitchen because we couldn’t be near the bar.”
When those high-school kids graduated, they moved from South Central over to the west side of L.A. and then on to clubs in Hollywood.
That’s where the record producer Jerry Goldstein found them.
“He knew some of the girl singers who were with us, playing behind Deacon Jones (the legendary Los Angeles Rams’ defensive end).
“He was still playing football then. Deacon and Dick Butkus and Rosey Grier (two other legendary football players) had invested in this club (the Rag Doll) in North Hollywood that we were playing in. Deacon did a record called Play That Game and, on the other side, was a song called Lovin’ A Pro. We were the back-up band on all that stuff.”
The back-up singers were the original Ikettes (from the Ike and Tina Turner Revue).
“They were fun to be around,” Jordan said. “They were older than me. It was through them that we met Jerry Goldstein. He came down to hear us at the bar with his entourage.”

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Goldstein, who worked with Blood, Sweat and Tears and Jimi Hendrix among others, was in pursuit of a back-up band for another client, Eric Burdon. When they saw the band play, Jordan says, “it was love at first sight.”
Next thing they knew, WAR was declared. After about a year, though, Burdon was moving in a different direction and WAR was making its own way, but not before producing an album called Eric Burdon Declares WAR and a massive hit called Spill The Wine.
The track had started at a massive L.A. party where things got a bit rowdy and work on the song stopped. Eventually the music was finished, but then they couldn’t come up with any lyrics.
“Eric was going to try to create some lyrics for the track. He couldn’t come up with anything and (while waiting for inspiration perhaps) he was in there in the vocal booth with a young lady.
“I had come into the studio with this big bottle of Gallo wine and I took it out of the bag and set it down on the board like a dummy. I was watching the (dark) vocal booth and wondering ‘What’s going on in there?’
“I was pouring the wine into a Styrofoam cup and it gave out and everything went into the board and fried the board.
“Eric saw that and started laughing. Everybody was high of course. Eric said ‘You spilled the wine’ and Jerry went ‘bingo’. But we couldn’t record it, so we turned on a tape to keep the idea. We took that, rewrote it, and came up with the hit.”
The deck cost him $25,000. “That was expensive.”
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Beat Beat Beat - Eric Burdon
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