Friday, February 5, 2016

Maurice White

Earth Wind & Fire was marketed very successfully as an album band by Clive Davis of Columbia from 1972, but almost everyone I know will have a favourite EWF song. They were led by Maurice White, who's died age 74, but were very much a family band.

Maurice was born on 3rd Street and E H Crump Boulevard, South Memphis, and would be one of nine children; father Verdine was a doctor and amateur saxophonist, Grandfather had been a honky-tonk piano player in New Orleans. Booker T Jones was a young schoolfriend. The family moved to Chicago when Maurice was in his early teens, and Maurice studied at the Chicago Conservatory. Younger bro Verdine was encouraged to take up the double bass, and soon moved electric. Maurice took up session drumming for Chess Records, and played with Muddy Waters and the Impressions, and recorded with Fontella Bass ("Rescue Me") and Billy Stewart ("Summertime"). He became the second drummer in the Ramsey Lewis Trio, after "Red" Holt left, and played on Wade in the Water and many others.

In the late 60s he formed the Salty Peppers, with Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, and you can seen an emerging EWF look, if not quite the formed musical style.

In 1970, Maurice decided to move to Los Angeles, and brothers Verdine and Fred (drums) and Philip Bailey joined Earth Wind and Fire. At the height of their success, nine members of the band had homes in Los Angeles and in the Carmel Valley. Monte White was road manager; sister Geraldine was secretary.

I saw EWF at Wembley in 1979. The show featured levitation, spaceships, and funk. Philip Bailey held a note for what seemed like and hour, gradually taking the mike away  - but we could all still hear him.  Apologies for the picture quality, but if you fail to boogie to this, from the 1979 world tour, you're officially broken.

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