TIR 41: Dodson Details How Bar-Kays Moved Boogie Bodies for 50 Years

Larry Dodson (left) with longtime Bar-Kays collaborator and bassist James Alexander.


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 this 2-part series: Larry Dodson, who up until hanging up the microphone and retiring this past December had since 1971 served as the lead singer of the Bar-Kays. For almost a half-century his gritty and gutsy vocals were one of the most distinctive elements of this fiercely funky band, which enjoyed uncommon longevity with a string of 16 U.S. Top 20 R&B singles with Mercury Records between 1976 and 1989.

The Memphis, Tenn.-based group also had two prior U.S. Top 10 R&B hits with Stax Records dating back to 1967. Dodson was among those brought in to help the Bar-Kays carry onward after all but two members of the group perished in the December 1967 plane crash that also claimed the life of soul singer Otis Redding.

The Bar-Kays’ mid-1970s to late-1980s run included seven U.S. Top 10 R&B albums, plus another five that made the Top 40. Among the dancefloor gems contained on those records were: “Shake Your Rump to the Funk,” “Too Hot to Stop”; “Let’s Have Some Fun”; “Holy Ghost,” “I’ll Dance”; “Move Your Boogie Body”; “Hit and Run”; “Traffic Jammer”; “Freakshow on the Dancefloor”; “Sex O Matic”; “Your Place or Mine”; and “Certified True.” Although it was mostly the uptempo material that charted, they also delivered many memorable mid-tempo numbers and ballads, including “Attitudes,” “Anticipation,” “Running in and Out of My Life” and “You Can’t Run Away.”

Even years later the Bar-Kays unleashed one of the strongest funk albums of the 1990s called 48 hours, which contained the compelling closing track, “Master.” As recent as 2012, the Bar-Kays notched yet another hit with “Grown Folks.” Along the journey the band gained new fans and renewed momentum by having songs prominently placed in hit movies such as “Spies Like Us” in the 1980s with “Soul Finger,” and “Superbad” in 2007 with “Too Hot to Stop.”

Heavily influenced through the years by contemporaries like the Ohio Players, Earth, Wind and Fire, Rick James and Prince, the group was not always the most original or groundbreaking recording act, but they were the model of consistency with just enough of their own flavor to make it unmistakably the Bar-Kays. And exceedingly importantly, they never ceased bringing the real, down-and-dirty, authentic funk.

Dodson has spent the better part of the past year on a retirement tour with the band as they searched for and named his successor. Throughout his career, there have been two critical constants, his wife of all 47 of those years, and bandmate, bass player and brother in funk James Alexander. This interview finds Dodson hanging out at his Memphis home on his birthday. He shares stories of his colorful career, including how he was mentored by producer Allen Jones, how George Clinton helped the group get ahead and what went into many of those unforgettable hit songs.

Recorded January 2018


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.