Surviving Member of Original Bar-Kays Channels Redding at Cabazon Show

Memphis-based soul, funk, rhythm-and-blues bassist James Alexander leads the Bar-Kays through a set firmly grounded in 1960s-70s Stax Records sound at Vibe Night Club.

A key figure in funk's early Memphis roots and a surviving member of Otis Redding's backup band performed Saturday night at Vibe Night Club in Morongo Casino Resort & Spa.

Bassist James Alexander, 63, flew Saturday into Ontario International Airport and he enjoyed the drive to the San Gorgonio Pass, he said in a brief interview outside Vibe after the show.

Alexander is an original and founding member of the Bar-Kays. Before Saturday night's show he said he was 16 years old when he started playing music professionally.

The six-member Bar-Kays began as a studio session band in 1966 with Stax Records in Memphis, and their first single "Soul Finger" was a hit on pop and R&B charts in the spring of 1967.

It was the same year Stax-based Redding performed for the first time in front of a large, predominantly white audience at the Monterey Pop Festival, and later that year Redding asked the Bar-Kays to tour with him.

On Dec. 10, 1967, Redding, his manager, four members of the Bar-Kays, and a pilot were killed when Redding's Beechcraft crashed in Lake Monona en route to a gig in Madison, Wisconsin.

Alexander was on a different plane, and trumpeter Ben Cauley was the only survivor of the plane crash.

Alexander and Cauley rebuilt the Bar-Kays and continued backing Stax artists, including Isaac Hayes. The new band's tight, blues-funk rhythms featured on Hayes' ground-breaking 1969 platinum-selling LP "Hot Buttered Soul."

Alexander played bass on Hayes' Oscar-winning theme for the 1971 film "Shaft," and the Bar-Kays scored a later R&B hit with "Son of Shaft."

Cauley left the Bar-Kays in the early 1970s, but Alexander and the Bar-Kays continued cutting new ground in the funk era, scoring with singles and albums on the pop and R&B charts over the past four decades. The band took a break in the late 1980s, and Alexander rebuilt the group again in the early 1990s.

To this day, the Bar-Kays are considered part of a distinct Memphis tradition of soul, funk and rhthym-and-blues. In addition to Redding and Hayes, among the Bar-Kays' peers and mentors at Stax Records in the 1960s and 1970s were Booker T. and the MGs, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, the Staple Singers and Albert King.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »