TIR 64: How Ricky Williams Lit Mass Production’s Firecracker Fuse

Ricky Williams pictured far left.


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 64 (three segments): Ricardo (Ricky) Williams — a founding member and drummer, singer and composer for the 1970s and 1980s funk, dance and R&B band Mass Production. Based in Norfolk, Va., together with his brother Tyrone Williams, close friend LeCoy Bryant, female vocalist Agnes Kelly and six other band members, Mass Production released eight albums and 11 singles on the Cotillion label between 1976 and 1983. Their best-known and noteworthy songs included “Welcome to Our World,” “I Believe in Music,” “Just Wanna Make a Dream Come True,” “Watch Me Do It,” “Sky High,” “Groove Me,” “Can’t You See I’m Fired Up,” “Eyeballin’,” “Forever,” “Nature Lover,” “Shante,” “Turn Up the Music,” “Bopp,” “Saucey,” “Inner City” and “Rock.”

However, the track they are most famous for is their smash 1979 hit “Firecracker.” Although the large ensemble to a large extent lurked within the shadow of labelmate funk giant Slave and was sometimes confused with similar bands like Brass Construction, Mass Production definitely had its own unique thang as well. Its propulsive rhythms that Ricky Williams drove were boosted by some powerful guitar and bass playing, punctuated and further propelled by robust horns and raised to a whole other level with lush vocals and rich harmonies. Influences abound from Norman Whitfield and the Temptations to Earth, Wind and Fire to Bohannon to the Bar-Kays and, yes, even to Slave and Brass Construction — and later on even Prince. It is fantastic news that the group has been ramping back up again with plans to release new music and take it to the stage.

Here, Williams leaves no Mass Production stone unturned, including the influence of marching bands on his approach and style, how he named the band, wrote classics like “Firecracker,” his reluctance to be a lead singer, rising to prominence and meeting other famous musicians, how his younger brother Sam Williams took over drumming duties after he took more than a year to recover from a car accident in the early 1980s, how the record industry ultimately chewed up and spat out the band, what happened subsequently, and how he and several original members are primed and pumped to be turning up the music once again.

A special thanks to Larry Raichelson, who has been working with and handling some affairs for Mass Production, for helping make this interview happen.

Recorded August 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.