From the recording OG's Hang Out with Eugene Smiley & Groovy Grant
The History of R&B in Kansas City, MO from two R&B and Blues Legends Eugene Smiley and Groovy Grant, discussed on "OG's Hang Out" Radio Show presented by KKFI 90.1 FM.
The Music Scene in Kansas City
The Beginning of R&B
During the late 50's in Kansas City a new music style began to develop and soon became a hot item among music musicians. This music style started in the ghettos and quickly became very popular. In a short period of time, R&B became the missing link that would expound upon the Jazz and Blues heritage that Kansas City was known for. Some of the very first R&B groups were ‘The Orchids’, ‘The Chandeliers’, ‘The Persians’, ‘The Sinceres’ and ‘The Carpets’. The new R&B trend caught on like wildfire. This was the time of the Doo Wop groups. There were singing groups in every neighborhood. These groups would practice their talents at night on street corners, in the parks, on front porches and even in their kitchens. Most of these groups’ musical talents began in church. Gospel churches were known for cultivating remarkable singers. And, this is where the R&B Music Scene was birthed in Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas.
During the early 60's this new style music became even more popular and stronger. Two young brothers, James and Thomas (Tooty) Gadson changed their group name from ‘The Carpets’ to ‘The Derbys’. This group became an extremely popular band, which helped to open a pathway to the stars for countless other talented musicians, vocal groups and solo artists. ‘The Derbys’ were the opening band for all of the professional shows coming to Kansas City at that time. They also doubled as the backup band for many of the groups that performed in Kansas City.
During the middle 60's ‘The Derbys’ started a talent contest called ‘The Battle Of The Groups’. Just to name a few, ‘The Sinceres’, ‘The Rayons’, ‘The Carviers’, ‘The Delmonties’, ‘The Deltones’ and ‘The Sensations’ were some of the groups that participated in the contest. Several of these groups went on and made it big, but they had to leave Kansas City to become a success. ‘The Sinceres’ became ‘The Bloodstones’, ‘The Delmonties’ became ‘The Visitors’, James Gadson of ‘The Derbys’ went on to a higher level by joining ‘The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band’ and from there he joined Bill Withers with Motown as well as managed ‘The Pointer Sisters’. He also became a top notch session drummer in the LA Scene. Eugene Smiley left ‘The Visitors’ and struck out on his own to become a professional songwriter and lead singer for a group he arranged called ‘The Essence Of Love’. This group recorded on the record label known as K-City Records, which was founded by Eugene Smiley and Keith Montgomery in 1977. This music is still being played and sold worldwide. ‘The Derbys’ also opened the door for the great Marva Whitney. Marva went on to join ‘The James Brown Revue’ and later became a great solo artist. The Hip Hop community continues to sample and mirror her style music today. Some of the biggest Hip Hop/Rap records recorded were based on her style music.
Since the late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s a lot of good R&B music has been produced in Kansas City, yet they have never really been exposed nationally, because the money was not available to promote this style music the way other cities were able to do. Nowadays, this music is being exploited by some ‘Collectors’ and ‘DJs’. Sadly, some of the people who recorded this music are no longer living and the history behind the music has died with them.
Today Kansas City has taken on a new style of music. It's called ‘Hip Hop/Rap’. So now we have ‘Jazz’, ‘Blues’, ‘R&B’and ‘Hip Hop/Rap’.