TIR 99: Drummer Keith Killgo Tells How Blackbyrds Flew So High

The Blackbyrds with Keith Killgo pictured far 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 99 (Parts 1-2): Drummer Keith Killgo of the sensational funk-jazz group The Blackbyrds, which was founded in the early 1970s by renowned trumpeter, and at the time Chairman of Howard University’s Department of Jazz Studies, Donald Byrd. The Blackbyrds seven albums from 1974-1980 (plus a comeback album in 2012) and notched 10 top 40 R&B. Those were “Do It, Fluid,” “Walking in Rhythm, “Happy Music,” “Rock Creek Park,” “City Life,” “Flying High,” “Time Is Movin’,” “Soft and Easy,” “Supernatural Feeling” and “Unfinished Business.” “Walking in Rhythm” and “Happy Music” were also Top 20 Pop hits. Three of their albums reached the Top 35 of Billboard’s album chart, and they placed five albums in the Top 15 of the R&B albums chart — four of those Top 10.

The Blackbyrds only recorded one album after 1977, and it came and went without much fanfare. In 1999, Killgo and several some other original members reunited to begin performing again and that eventually led to a comeback album in 2012. Since their heyday, the band’s influence has grown as many of their beats were sampled and nicked by the hip hop community and their popularity helped fuel the U.K’s acid jazz and jazz-funk movements. Today, they continue to hit the stage both domestically and abroad.

Here, Killgo discusses his musical upbringing; his college years and formation of The Blackbyrds; the band’s albums and tracks that have gone from hits; why the group disbanded; the many sides of mentor Donald Byrd; his current position as a music educator; the qualities that make for a great musician; bringing the group back together; and current and upcoming projects.



Scott Goldfine

As a fervid lifelong music & film enthusiast / student, I grew up in and around the Los Angeles entertainment industry. I have worked and held many positions in various media realms, since 1998 serving as Editor-in-Chief and now Associate Publisher for Security Sales & Integration, a trade publication serving the electronic security industry. I love several genres of music & film. The former includes funk (Parliament-Funkadelic, Prince, Ohio Players, etc.); blues (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Eric Gales, etc.); rock (Jack White, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young, etc.); hard rock (AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, etc.); jazz (Herbie Hancock, Bob James, Crusaders, etc.); R&B (Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Gil Scott-Heron, etc.); and more. I was a club disc jockey and ran a mobile DJ company (Musical Moods) for more than 15 years, which is where the name Dr. GX originates (Doctor Good Times). Fave film genres include horror (Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.); science fiction (Aliens, Terminator, 2001, etc.); action (Warriors, Road Warrior, Die Hard); westerns (Outlaw Josey Wales, Showdown at OK Corral; Wild Bunch, etc.); suspense (Jaws, Inception, Silence of the Lambs, etc.); drama (Apocalypse Now, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, etc.); and comedies (Life of Brian, Superbad, Ruthless People, etc.). I have attended many hundreds of concerts and movies (in theaters or screenings). I may as well also throw in a few favorite TV shows to give an even broader taste of my sensibilities. A handful would be Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Lost, Justified, Fargo, Seinfeld, Sopranos, South Park, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Key & Peele, Monty Python, Inside Amy Schumer, Louie, Modern Family, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Last Man on Earth, Bob Newhart Show, All in the Family and The Office. Fave authors are Stephen King, Clive Barker and Michael Crichton. I am also a big sports fan and lifelong supporter of the Dallas Cowboys (NFL), Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) and Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB). Also enjoy my family of course, electronics/computers/AV gear, and animals, nature and outdoor activities. Graduate of Santa Monica High School, Santa Monica College and California State University Northridge (Radio-TV-Film, Psychology minor). Also studied at UCLA for kinesiology/psychology and earned post-grad Certificate in Accounting from Santa Monica College. Present main occupation is as Associate Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Security Sales & Integration (SSI), which I joined in 1998. I am responsible for overseeing all editorial content in print. online, electronic, in-person and any other media or products for the electronic security industry's leading business-to-business trade publication. SSI is part of Framingham, Mass.-based Emerald Expositions.