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.