TIR 57: How Frank Richard Added Funky Flavor to Chocolate Milk


Frank Richard pictured back right.


Brought to you by FUNKNSTUFF.NET and hosted by Scott Goldfine — musicologist and author of “Everything Is on THE ONE: The First Guide of Funk” ― “TRUTH IN RHYTHM” is the interview show that gets DEEP into the pocket with contemporary music’s foremost masters of the groove.

Featured in TIR Episode 57 (three segments): Frank Richard (pronounced Ree-shard), the original and only lead singer and a primary composer for New Orleans funk masters Chocolate Milk. The eight-piece group got its start in the early 1970s succeeding another famous funk band from the Big Easy — The Meters — as producer-songwriter Allen Toussaint’s backing band.

Signed to RCA Records, the only recording home Chocolate Milk would ever have, the group released the first of its eight albums with 1975’s fantastic Action Speaks Louder Than Words. Other notable albums included Chocolate Milk’s self-titled release in 1976, We’re All in This Together in 1977 and Blue Jeans in 1981. The latter two had superior title tracks, and their entire catalog included hits and deep funk cuts like “”My Mind Is Hazy,” “Pretty Pimpin’ Willie,” “Let the Music Take Your Mind,” “I Refuse,” “Grand Theft,” “Girl Callin’,” “Say Won’tcha,” “Hey Lover,” “Running on Empty,” “Honey Bun,” “Take It Off,” “Who’s Getting It Now,” “Sweet Heat,” the ballads “Keep It Coming,” “Over the Rainbow” and “How About Love,” the mid-tempo “Groove City” and the instrumental “Pluck It.”

A classically trained and college-educated music major, Richard’s versatile singing voice allowed the band to blend elements of dozens of other popular groups’ styles into their own funk gumbo. In that sense, Chocolate Milk was similar to the chameleon-like Bar-Kays, who ironically the group would end up replicating when Bar-Kays producer Allen A. Jones produced Chocolate Milk’s final two albums. During that period Bar-Kays and Chocolate Milk band members worked on each other’s albums too. Those would be the band’s final works as by 1983 they parted ways with RCA and never produced another studio LP. Alas, while Chocolate Milk did notch three top 15 R&B chart hits and another three in the top 40, and also toured with a who’s who of funk, the group never rose to the success and notoriety level of its leading contemporaries.

Given Richard’s great talent and that of the rest of the band, and how amazing they sounded with all cylinders firing, a lot of the blame must be laid at their record label, management, promotion, or lack thereof, and other extenuating circumstances. Fortunately, Chocolate Milk never stopped performing and continues to do so to this day.

Here, Richard gets into all the fascinating Chocolate Milk history; the high points, low points, turning points and everything in between. He gets into what made the band so special, the creative process, the albums and tracks, the shoulda-beens and coulda-beens, and other fascinating aspects of his life. As you will see, he is a bit of a livewire and a highly detailed storyteller.

Recorded June 2018