Ray Munnings

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funkynassau

funkynassau

January 15, 2010
The year was 1969, and Nassau was in for the wave of this energetic young band called Beginning Of The End. The band, according to lead singer Raphael, was quite a unique group inasmuch as it was heavily influenced by the pop culture that was very vibrant in the United States.

The flower power movement and the hippie generation gravitated towards artists like Marvin Gaye, Impressions, Jerry Butler, and Jimmy Hendrix. Hard rock, rhythm 'n' blues, funk, jazz, and of course the Latin music that was heard over the airwaves from Cuba went into one big melting pot that helped in creating Nassau's newest sound. The members made a decision to quit their jobs and rehearse for six months in order to make this band a success.

With the influence of Freddie Munnings Sr. who ran an extremely successful nightclub, " The Cat and Fiddle", the Munnings brothers along with Fred Henfield had ample opportunity to perform with and hear the many foreign acts that appeared at the club. Among them were Nat King Cole, Count Basie, Flip Wilson and just about any major star of the 50's and 60's entertainment era. These young musicians took full advantage and learnt the many styles that graced the stage of "The Cat and Fiddle".

The members of the band were Fred Henfield on bass guitar, Leroy Munnings - lead guitar, Frank Munnings - drums, and the youngest member Raphael Munnings - vocals and keyboards. Together they came up with the music of "Funky Nassau" which sold over a million copies worldwide. Assisting with the lyrics was Tyrone Fitzgerald, "Dr. Offfff", who died in 2003. Tyrone was to become a leading innovative junkanoo icon in the Bahamas. After months of experimenting with various fusions, the band was ready to present their brand of Bahamian music. In addition to the rhythm section, the band used a few horn players that contributed to the sound of the group. Those musicians were: Neville Sampson, Vernon Mueller, Kenneth Lane and two other relatives, Ralph Munnings and Freddie Munnings.

The New Year brought in the urge to record this new sound, and in 1970 Percy Munnings, the uncle of the young Munnings brothers, after relentlessly being hounded, yielded and provided a $2,000 advance to the group to assist them in cutting the record. With cash in hand, these fine musicians were joined by Neville Sampson on trumpet and Ralph Munnings (cousin) on sax in a recording session in Miami, recording "Funky Nassau" and "Gee Whiz It's Christmas" on the B-side of the record. The Criteria Recording Studio at the time only had 8 tracks, and did a wonderful job in capturing this new sound.

With no sophisticated editing machines in those days, the live performance was done eight times in total before being satisfied with the end product. Upon their return to Nassau a few days later, the 5,000 copies of the 45rpm record were sold out in less than two weeks. It is worthy of mention that Jeff Scavella who was the first to play the song and Charles Carter another influential radio DJ contributed to the success of this record on the local scene. As anticipated, the song "Funky Nassau" took a back seat to "Gee Whiz It's Christmas" which was done in a junkanoo style.

When the New Year rolled in, it brought in "Funky Nassau" which was supported by tourists and locals alike. Percy Munnings was no doubt quite pleased to collect on the loan that started the ball rolling for this project. Sometime in 1971, one of the 5,000 copies sold during the holiday season in 1970 ended up in the jukebox at an Elks lodge in Miami, Florida. As fortune would have it, a disc jockey by the name of Fred Hanna who also happened to be the program director of a local Miami station WMBM heard this new sound for the first time. Mr. Hanna convinced the owner of the lodge to loan him the record that he used to quiz his radio audience as to the name of the artist. Well, no one could guess who the artists were and this in itself sparked great interest in the Miami area.

With the overwhelming response and request for "Funky Nassau" the DJ sent out a message to the band back in Nassau telling them "You Guys Have Got A Hit"! The band immediately flew into Miami where they were introduced to Henry Stone, who happened to be one of the largest record distributors in the South Florida area at that time. Henry Stone struck a distribution deal with the band on his label, Alston Records that was also affiliated with Atlantic Records. Soon after, WEDR, WQAM, and just about any station on the FM dial was tuning in to "Funky Nassau".

Fortunately, the writers Raphael Munnings and Tyrone Fitzgerald had the insight to get their work registered with BMI, unlike many Bahamian song compositions, which were and continue to be lost to foreign entities due to the innocent ignorance or naiveté of our musicians. However, the band was caught by surprise with the success of this record and never really got a firm understanding of what was going on. Cash advances from the record company and record sales royalties shot these young Bahamians into unbelievable stardom.

The only live appearance outside the Bahamas was at the University of Miami in 1971 at the invitation of Bahamian students studying there at the time. Dressed in junkanoo costumes and adding lots of Bahamian music to the repertoire, they entertained a crowd of approximately 5,000 enthusiastic fans. It was not until1974 that the band finally recorded another album entitled "Beginning of The End" which never really took off as "Funky Nassau" had. Despite being managed by Don Taylor (manager for Bob Marley and T-Connection), the group never really re-captured the missed opportunities of the early 70's. The band played the local club scene up until 1975, and did several promotional trips for the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, but never made it to the international touring circuit.

Looking back, Raphael remembers the impact of the song "Funky Nassau", and recalls that some politicians went so far as to call for a ban on local radio stations, claiming the title painted negative connotations. In fact, "Funky Nassau" spoke of what was going on in the Bahamas. "Mini skirts, maxi shirts, and afro-headed dudes, people doin' their own thing they don't care 'bout me or you" is a line of lyrics reflecting the social climate in the City at the time. The charm and friendliness of the people of Nassau started to be substituted with a disinterest.

Additionally, rock 'n' roll, funk, with all the trimmings were the order of the day. It was a new music, loud music, and these young Bahamian rockers shook the room with sheer volume. Totally contrary from the softer goombay sounds of their time, this band, although they didn't last very long, made a lasting impression on the sound of Bahamian music.

But the world hadn’t heard the last from this revolutionary hit yet. In the year 2000, the song made a grand appearance in the movie, "Blues Brothers 2000". Among the stars performing the track in the movie were Erykah Badu, Joe Morton, Dan Aykroyd, and The Blues Brothers Band. The music continues to be fused with disco and house mixes all over America, Europe, and the rest of the world. The artistic freedom embraced by these young innovators in the late sixties would appear to be testimony that uniqueness will stand up against all time
funkynassau

funkynassau

October 29, 2009
Reviews
Alain_Patrick, Aug 27, 2007
referencing Funky Nassau, 7", Single, 45-4595
A feel of a deep Soul-Funk aura, some caribbean-horn flavors, rhythmic guitars, and of course the break drums make "Funky Nassau" from the Nassau brothers project entitled The Beginning Of The End one of the major classics of Funk-Soul genre and a standard for the Breakbeat era.
The opening lyrics "Nassau's gone Funky... Nassau's gone Soul!" works like a trademark for the era it represents. "We've gotta jugg'on beat now! We gonna call our very own!
Nassau Rock... and Nassau Roll... Nassau got... a whole lot of Soul!" brings lot of rhythmic elements embraced by a deep feeling.
The most sampled parts are indicated on the solo parts: "Listen to the drummer... playin' this beat!" is followed by Frank 'Bud' Munnings' hot drum solo (which is back on the openning of "Funky Nassau Part 2"); "Listen to the bass man... go get the same groovery!" announces Fred Henfield's bass solo (whose quote was sampled years later by Steinski & The Mass Media on "Let's Play It Cool", 1988); "Listen to the guitar, give that Soul some too!" adds Liroy 'Roy' Munnings' guitars on it.
The well-known passage "New York, you know? Has got a whole lot of Soul!" is an evidence of the Big Apple's Music influence on the rest of the World since the sixties & seventies for all the related genres. Since then, several Breakbeat style bands and artists, from Hip Hop to Jungle, Drum n' Bass, some Electro among other Breakbeat made use of instrumental solos from American Funk-Soul bands, many of them from New York.
Drum n' Bass producer Paradox used fragments of "Funky Nassau" on his "Kool Is Back"; also did DJ Mink on the WARP classic "Hey, Hey - Can You Relate?" for all the drum solo; Breakbeat act Renegade Soundwave on "Ozone Breakdown" too, just like did Cuba on the downtempo piece "White Shadow".
"Nassau's got sunshine... and this you all know! But we've gone Funky... And we've got some Soul too! Funky Nassau!" is just one more evidence of the hottest Soul-Funk combination that is at the core of "Funky Nassau". The timeless classic was included on countless compilation since them, from Kenny Dope's 'Choice: A Colection Of Classics' to Liam Howlett's 'The Dirtchamber Sessions Volume One', the 'Funk 45's' selection, just to mention some.

funkynassau

funkynassau

October 28, 2009
Funky Nassau (Parts 1 and 2)
The Beginning of the End
Alston

Full of everything we need in funk, a guitar riff that's born from some of that Nassau sunshine which leads you into a horn chorus that'll knock you over. So goddamn soulful and so funky. Ray Munnings' vocals are in total sync for the 3 min 10 second roll of pure groove. A definite daily basis tune. However there are two sides to this super funk band, we have since found other titles by the band and they just don't cut it. 'Monkey Tamarind' has been really the only other tune we can say follows 'Funky Nassau' and is perhaps too similar but never the less still funky. There is also recent re-issues of their self-titled second album and 'Funky Nassau' LP

There is an ocean of music, and for all the great records that we hear and love we still stand upon the beach.

3.Ray Munnings 'It Could Happen To You'
Bahamian singer and keyboard player, Ray Munnings, recorded two LPs with The Beginning Of The End (a group which included two other Munnings brothers) in the 1970s. They will always be best remembered for their 1971 hit, 'Funky Nassau', which brought them international recognition. Munnings would remake 'Funky Nassau' in 1979, at which time he also recorded some new material under the auspices of Dwight Brewster, Stan Lucas and Kenny Lehman. Of the sides he cut that year, the first to hit the streets was the classy, mid-tempo disco-soul of 'It Could Happen To You'. The singles were on limited release on both sides of the Atlantic and have consequently been collectors' items since the '80s

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