THEIR BIOGRAPHY calls them a “funky renaissance band” and I guess that does just about sum up the ADC Band, Detroit’s own band who have just come off of their first nationwide monster single, ‘Long Stroke’. Right now, their album is still perched on the higher echelons of the chart and, from it, comes the new single, ‘Fire Up’.
“It’s just as funky as ‘Long Stroke’ and even better for the discos”, is how Kaiya, the lady of the group, explains it and I believe her when she says she feels ‘Fire Up’ could be even bigger than ‘Long Stroke’.
To trace the history of this seven piece, self-contained band, one has to go back a half decade to when Johnnie Mae Matthews first had the concept for a band. Affectionately known as Mother Funker or Queen Of The Blues, Ms. Matthews is something of a legend in the Motor City area. She has been involved in the music business for more than a quarter of a century and has been instrumental in helping such people as Mary Wells, the Temptations (when they were the Distants, that is), Betty Lavette and Richard Popcorn Wylie.
Ms. Matthews son, Artwell, became a Jimi Hendrix fanatic in his teens and decided that he would like to start a little group of his own – which he did, with his mother’s assistance and guidance. They started out as Raw Integrated Funk, a name that conjures up all kinds of nasty things in your mind, right? Did I say nasty – I mean nazty…because soon after their formation, they became Black Nazty. As such, they signed with and recorded an album for Stax and they remained with the company until its demise.
Shortening their name simply to Nazty, they cut an album then for Nashboro Records, called Nazty’s Got To Move, which was actually released on the Mankind label, if I remember correctly.
From these earlier exploits, only three members remain. Naturally, there is Artwell (who now travels under the stage name guise of Koobla Khan). He plays drums. Mark Patterson (Mark Anthony) plays bass and he was there at the very beginning. Audry Matthews (Kaiya, and daughter of Johnnie Mae Matthews) completes the originating trio and she sings lead vocals and doubles, when required, on drums.
When the Nashboro/Mankind album didn’t succeed, they felt that another name change was called for – and became General Assistance & the ADC Band. The “ADC” stands for “Aid to Dependent Children”.
“That’s because we all depend on someone,” Kaiya explains, before I even get the chance to pose the question. “Whether it be God, your boss or foreman at work or your parents, you have to depend on someone. Right now, we depend on our public because they can either make us or break us.”
To put it mildly, the three names that they have chosen have all shown great imagination. “Well, we chose Raw Integrated Funk at a time when everybody was into those hard rock type names,” Kaiya tries to explain. “I guess that spread over to Black Nazty, too. The ADC Band took a bit more thinking out and we are happy with the name because it means something.
“We dropped the General Assistance bit at the beginning when we had our one record between Nashboro and Atlantic/Cotillion. That was called “Looking For My Roots” and we did it when we were inspired by the TV showing of Roots. We released it on my mother’s label, Northern Records, but only in the Detroit area. The DJs all felt that General Assistance & the ADC Band was just too much of a mouthful!”
The success of ‘Long Stroke’ has caused a lot of reviewers (me included) to make natural comparisons between the ADC Band and Parliament – simply because there is an undoubted affinity in the styles. However, if you get into the Long Stroke album, you’ll soon realise that the rest of the album is very different and completely varied in its direction.
“It’s always been our style to play funk,” Kaiya says, defending the ‘accusation’. “But we take our hats off to George Clinton because he will go down in history. But we are under the Johnnie Mae Matthews umbrella and nobody else’s. In fact, like I said, ‘Fire Up’ is even funkier but it is nothing like the things that George Clinton is doing.
“People used to say that when Natalie Cole first arrived – that she sounded too much like Aretha. Our music, though, is aimed at the discos because we are party people. Our aim is simply to become the No.1 group in the world.”
Has the success of ‘Long Stroke’ surprised the group? “Well, yes, it has really – it was a thrill and a surprise! But we were always praying for that break and I guess the record lived up to its title because it was a ‘long stroke’. It just took off like wildfire.
“But we have been out there trying for a long time so we have paid our dues – though there’ll be a lot more to pay, I know. We would like to thank everybody who bought ‘Long Stroke’, though, because without them, we would be nothing.”
The immediate future for the ADC Band is exciting. They have just completed their second album, set for early summer release – “it’s the bomb!” laughs Kaiya! And they are currently midway through a nationwide tour – their first, too.
Incidentally, the line-up of the ADC band is Artwell, Audrey Matthews; Mark Patterson; Mike Judkins, keyboards; Curtin Hobson, lead guitar; James Maddox, vocals and percussion, and Sam Burns, trombone. Sam replaced Debra Smith just recently and is not in our picture.
© John Abbey, Blues & Soul, March 1979