Friday, 24 May 2024

CyberSoulMan: The Original Lowrider Band declares war

T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.




people can be so cold...
Carole King, circa 1971

The music business can be so funky and strange. Kind of a microcosm of the world at large.

I guess it's not so strange that in the dark corridors of the history of humankind the spike-heeled boot of the rich and powerful is often poised at the tender jugular of the underpaid, underprivileged, overduped and much-maligned underclass. Even in the music biz. Especially in the music biz. The bloodthirsty boot takes a crooked path to the top.

A CyberSouMan mouthful, to be sure on this Sunday morning, but breaking it down for your ultimate understanding is my intent.

Friday night I journeyed again to the city of my birth, San Francisco. I drove down to catch the nucleus of the phenomenal Los Angeles South Central Septet that used to be called War. They are appearing as the Original Lowriders as a result of the courts stripping them of the right to use the name War.

The group had its genesis in the decade of the '70s, when British invader Eric Burdon, formerly of Animals fame, swooped into L.A. and observed the funky, Latin-tinged chops of the band who, at the time was backing former NFL great Deacon Jones. They were then calling themselves Deacon Jones & The Nite Shift.

Partnering with Jerry Goldstein's and Steve Gold's Far Out Productions, the group morphed into Eric Burdon & War. The hits started coming: “Spill The Wine,” “Love Is All Around,” “Black Man's Burdon.”

The band went on tour with Eric Burdon. Indeed, Eric Burdon & War was the house band at the last jam that Jimi Hendrix played in public at Ronnie Scott's club in London. A day later, Hendrix left this life. Shortly thereafter, a burnt out Eric Burden abandoned the tour with the group. War was on its own.

The hits kept coming: “Cisco Kid,” “The World Is a Ghetto,” “Slipping Into Darkness,” “Why Can't We Be Friends,” “Lowrider” and the inimitable summer love groove, “All Day Music.” There were of course, many more.

Sometime during Jerry Goldstein's tenure with War, he secretly had the band's name trademarked. So he gets to decide who can use it. The original seven members of the group War were Howard Scott, Harold Brown, B. B. Dickerson, Charles Miller, Lonnie Jordan, Papa Dee Allen and Lee Oskar.

By the time Jerry Goldstein's fuzzy legal maneuvering became law, the face of the band had changed. Charles Miller and Papa Dee Allen were deceased. The courts forbade Scott, Brown, Dickerson and Oskar from using the name – or “even formerly known as.”

Howard Scott told me years ago that Goldstein made his case so tight the fellows couldn't even appear as “Raw,” which is War spelled backwards!

In a strange musicos-make-strange-bedfellows backdoor move, Goldstein allows keyboardist Lonnie Jordan to use the name with six other guys who perform as War. That, my CyberSoulChildren, is why my fellows The Original Lowrider band, despite being four of the original seven members of War, cannot appear as War.

At the height of his court-induced “powers” Mr. Goldstein has pulled the plug on a gig of The Original Lowrider Band when the promoters invariably used “formerly known as War” in a radio spot.

A little more on Goldstein. He's been in the business a long time and has made considerable dollars doing so. No question there. For many of the past 25 years, in conjunction with suppressing the creative talents of the entity formerly known as War, Goldstein had been the manager of another funk master, Sly Stone.

What possible creative positive function could Goldstein have performed with Sly in all those years? Let's see. Did Sly release any new music under Goldstein's watch? Not much. Concert appearances? Even less. Let's see, I wonder if Jerry Goldstein had a hand in the selling of Sly Stone' s publishing to Michael Jackson? Apparently. Who benefited from that?

Sly didn't really do much of anything lately until he joined his youngest sibling Vet “Little Sister” Stone in 2007 for a tour of Europe. On the subject of brother Sly's then-manager Goldstein, Vet is quoted in her soon-to-be published memoir as saying, “How on earth can an artist have a manager for 25 years who generates no work?”

Brings to mind another real life soul music funk opera: the great Sam Cooke.

Cooke had a record label before Motown founder Berry Gordy. The future looked incredibly bright for Cooke when he was shot to death in December of 1964 under dubious circumstances.

His last will and testament disappeared overnight. When the smoking gun cleared, all of Sam Cooke's publishing magically belonged to his bookkeeper Allan Klein. To this day ABCKO Records receives all Sam Cooke's royalties. His family gets nothing.

If you follow the history of the fight for recording artists rights and royalties, there have been many pioneers who have made it better for artists in the business. Little Richard, Ruth Brown, Peggy Lee, Prince and others have overturned many plantation/sharecropper master-slave policies of major record labels, management, contractual and otherwise.

Much more needs to be done. All that glitters is not gold in the record business – even if you have a gold record. Depends on how you connect your dots and who's watching your back.

Oh, back to The Original Low riders at Yoshi's. They turned it out. Hadn't played San Francisco since 1996. It seems nobody knew who they really were. That seems to be changing now. It was a packed house. Saturday night is sold out.

The original group War was on the ballot for nominees to the 2009 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They didn't make it this time. Perhaps they will in the near future. Perhaps a little healing and reconciliation will replace the greed of Big Business. You know, just rewards for the artist. A little easing back on the beat down tactics of the greed machine would not only be nice but is desirable as well.

For a cool Web site visit

Keep prayin', keep thinkin' those kind thoughts!

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at


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