The Loafer’s Exclusive Interview – Part 1 with Jeffrey Alan Payne
Bud Light and Mellow Mushroom present Tri Cities Classic Rock 101.5 FM – WQUT’s “QStock Musical Festival” with The Loafer. The show features headliners “Mothers Finest”. The Loafer sat down for an exclusive interview with the venerable band’s founders: Glenn “Doc” Murdock and Joyce “Baby Jean” Kennedy. Here’s part one of that conversation. Pick up The Loafer for part two, “Reaping the Rewards”, next week.
The Loafer: Back in 1970, when you first formed the band, was that the typical “starving band story”…slogging your own equipment around in the back of a van, playing infinite bar gigs?
Glenn “Doc” Murdock: Yep. It was almost worse than that. I keep telling people the story. We were homeless.
Joyce “Baby Jean” Kennedy: I ain’t been homeless a day in my life.
Murdock: Well, the definition of homeless in that we had no permanent residence, and living in hotels basically, traveling around in a van. We did a bunch of gigs where the drums would move across the floor every time we hit the foot pedal.
Kennedy: Because they weren’t nailed down. Those kinds of gigs.
The Loafer: Well, this is a sensitive topic, but do you think being a band primarily featuring people of color, in 1970 America, did that make it harder? You weren’t Motown and you weren’t playing typical guitar rock roll either.
Kennedy: We always had a philosophy where we had to show the energy and build respect from the audience, over the last 47 years.
The Loafer: You think Sly and the Family Stone helped open some doors?
Kennedy: I think any people of color that crossed the barrier and touched people did that, if you mean something to your audience and gained acceptance from them. We were barrier crushers, because at the time, there was a movement in this country. We did a lot of work all across the country in front of audiences that were racially mixed.
The Loafer: In 1976, when you released “Ni**izz Can’t Sang Rock ‘n’ Roll”, was that meant as a joke, or were you expressing anger?
Murdock: At that time we had come to the conclusion that…because of the makeup of the band and type of music we were playing, it wasn’t fully acceptable to a lot of people. The temperament of America from 1970 to ’76…everything was changing, especially musically. Music was into everything, the politics, the spirituality…It was like “no holds barred”. Just that one little aggravating fact of racism, we could not fully get past that. If you were a black man, playing rock and roll, there was a problem. The record companies didn’t know where to put you. Radio was a little bit braver though, than the record companies.
Kennedy: If you were a person of color, you were expected to play a certain type of music. You can’t tell whether the music is black or white, once you get it goin’, because if it’s good, it’s good. It’s going to touch you. It’s subject to interpretation.
Murdock: We were trying to push buttons; we were trying to create controversy, awareness. That’s what the song was all about. They called Chuck Berry “a blues singer”, and he was anything but. He was the epitome of rock and roll. Yeah, we were a little upset, because questions like these should have been asked back then.
The Loafer: When did the epiphany happen, and you realized Mothers Finest meant something to other people besides you?
Murdock: It was slowly. We were being heard, and people were coming to the concerts. So, as far as we were concerned, we did mean something. The audience wasn’t as big as we wanted it to be. Europe was an exception, because they kind of “got it”. The racism wasn’t the same kind of racism we were experiencing here in America.
Kennedy: I think when we did “One Mother to Another” (1983 album), that’s when it was starting to happen.
The Loafer: The question has been posed, “Why would anyone hire Mothers Finest to open for them, because they generally blow the headliner right off the stage?”
Kennedy: We got that all the time, especially the bands would tell other bands.
Murdock: We got kicked off a tour with “Earth, Wind and Fire”, a bunch of tours. Now, The Who was cool. They weren’t intimidated at all. Let’s break it down this way; the only acts that would accept us were…ACDC was up to the challenge, and ironically Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Mothers Finest performs on Saturday, May 27th, at Kingsport Speedway, with special guests Ali Randolph and the Outta Luck Band, Rock and Roll Freak Show, and Asylum Suite. Tickets are $30, including service charge and tax.
Order yours online at www.wqut.com.
Read Part 2 in next week’s issue of The Loafer.