TIR 54: Thomas McClary Zooms In for Commodores Close-Up

Thomas McClary is 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 54 (three segments): Guitarist-singer-composer-producer Thomas McClary, a founder and leading creative force behind the Commodores, which was not just one of the best and most successful funk-R&B bands of the 1970s but by the end of that decade one of the biggest pop groups in the world. While it was lead singer Lionel Richie who would become the best known Commodore and a solo superstar, it was McClary who first recruited Richie during their college days at Alabama’s Tuskegee University and helped transform him into a frontman.

The pair joined with the other four principal members and signed to Motown Records in 1972, the self-contained band marking a departure for the Berry Gordy-founded Detroit label so famous for its assembly line-like factory approach of using lots of specialists to generate hits songs. Although it would not be until two years later when their debut album Machine Gun would drop, under the guidance of producer James Carmichael they hit the ground running as the album contained a pair of R&B hits in “I Feel Sanctified” and the title instrumental that continued to be in demand for television and film soundtracks.

The album was the first of five in a row that saw the Commodores progressing higher up the quality and stardom ladder with each successive release. Those next four LPs were 1975’s Caught in the Act, Movin’ On, Hot on the Tracks and the Commodores or Blue Album as many called it. Hits and timeless classics on those works included “Slippery When Wet,” “This Is Your Life,” “Sweet Love,” “Gimme My Mule,” “Fancy Dancer,” “Just to Be Close to You,” “High on Sunshine,” “Brick House,” “Easy,” “Zoom” and “Funky Situation.”

At this point the Commodores were a superstar act and they continued to score on the singles charts with songs like “Too Hot to Trot,” “Three Times a Lady,” “Just to Be Close to You,” “Sail On,” “Still,” “Old-Fashion Love,” “Lady (You Bring Me Up” and “Oh No.” By the time internal friction splintered the group in the early 1980s causing first Richie to go his separate way and shortly followed by McClary, the Commodores had amassed 16 top 40 pop hits, six top 20 pop albums and during one stretch notched four straight No. 1 R&B albums.

The Commodores created some of the 20th Century’s greatest and most enduring funk, soul and pop. McClary, who has billed himself as “The First Commodore” and released his autobiography called “Rock and Soul,” lays claim to being the architect of what he calls the group’s “signature sound.” Here, in an in depth and candid discussion, he talks about that sound as well as how the group was formed, rose to the height of fame, how the wheels came off and how despite some bitter infighting he continues to hold out hope of a reunion.

Plus, aside from the music, McClary is a fascinating figure and family man who recounts his experiences as a child being one of the first African-American students to integrate the Florida school system. He’s a smart, funny and highly engaging gentleman loaded with incredible stories. You have tuned in for an exceptional TRUTH IN RHYTHM.

Recorded April 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.