Reuniting a funk fixture

Years after their heyday, Twin Cities funk and soul bands are getting their due.

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Maurice Young (right) and Sonny Knight (background) are two of the musicians featured on the 2012 Twin Cities Funk and Soul compilation by Secret Stash Records. Both men were fixtures on the Minneapolis music scene in the late 1960s.

MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel

Twin Cities Funk and Soul: Lost R&B Groves from Minneapolis / St. Paul 1964 to 1979, compiles old area songs, including the music of the Valdons, a Twin Cities quartet that was a funk fixture in the 1960s. As MPR’s Nikki Tundel reports, many of the featured artists will participate in an R&B revue at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis on Saturday.

The reunited Valdons are rehearsing for that gig, which will be the musicians’ first time performing together in decades. Each song seems to spark a story, like the one Sonny Knight shares about band mate Maurice Young.

“Maurice taught me how to get ugly,” said Knight. “So when we be singing and stuff like that, Maurice be over there and he be making all these faces. So I started doing it too and I started noticing I can get it out easier.”

Then there are the stories they don’t share — at least not so freely — like the ones about white club owners refusing to book black bands like theirs. Such discrimination, said Secret Stash’s Danny Sigelman, were commonplace for Twin Cities R&B artists in the late 1960s.

“Segregation was gone, but it didn’t mean it didn’t exist in a lot of forms,” Sigelman said. “A lot of these guys couldn’t get gigs in town as a black band or a mixed band, so they’d actually have to rent out a hotel ballroom or something to play to an audience.”

Read or listen to the rest of Nikki Tundel’s story here, and listen to Twin Cities funk and soul on The Local Show on 89.3 The Current here.

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