THE FATBACK BAND makes funky, orchestral soul music built for the live party circuit. Piloted by legendary bandleader Bill “Fatback” Curtis (percussion) and reinforced by Ledjerick Todd Woods (trumpet), Robert Locke (saxophone), Zachary (Zach) Guinn (bass, vocals), Darryl McAllister (guitar) and Desmond Humphrey (drums, vocals) James Forbe Keyboards Isabela Gordon (vocals), the group’s high-energy songs and live performances are raw, earthy and explosive, showcasing members’ improvisational skills and musicianship. Poetic lyrics are bolstered by an infectious groove that pumps blood through the heart of the Fatback Band and brings fans their feet. Throughout four decades, Curtis and his crew have revolutionized the foundations of dance, funk, soul, rap and R&B.
The band’s early hit ‘King Tim III (Personality Jock)’ is widely regarded as one of the first ever commercial rap singles and cuts of theirs like ‘(Are You Ready) Do the Bus Stop’ are believed to have played a part in the furthering of line dancing. Other big hits include, ‘I Found Lovin’, ‘Spanish Hustle’, ‘Is This The Future’, ‘Back Strokin’, ‘Wicky Wacky’, ‘Yum Yum’, ‘Keep On Steppin’ and ‘I Like Girls’. Of course, the Fatback Band are also disco pioneers who have had many dance floor smashes and merge jazz and beats with a touch of West Indies & Caribbean style, and were awarded the Soul Survivors Magazine “Best Soul Concert” for 2013 and is still in high demand, performing in London, New York City, Tokyo, Baltimore, New Orleans, San Francisco, Berlin and beyond. Often referred to as “The Last of the Great Dance Bands,” the group releases a fresh collection of music annually. .
Rooted in his decades of experience and re-energized by the modern artistry of Bruno Mars, John Legend, Busta Rhymes, Rihanna, Drake and other young stars, leader Bill Curtis is still dreaming up music that reinvents his band and transcends artistic boundaries to further expand the Fatback legacy.
The Fatback Band embodies the imaginative spirit of street music and free expression and was first formed in 1970 by veteran drummer Bill Curtis in New York City. At that time, he had already been playing for 20 years, both as an in-demand session musician and as a drummer touring the country with celebrated acts such as Sil Austin, Red Prysock, Big Maybelle, Bill Doggett, Paul Williams, Clyde McPhatter and the 33rd Army Band and 7th Army Special Services. The “Fatback” concept emerged from Curtis’ quest to invent a new groove by merging the “fatback” jazz beat of New Orleans with vivid West Indie and Caribbean rhythms, a novel sound that became the basis for the first disco beat. The Fatback Band started with Curtis, guitarist Johnny King, bassist Johnny Flippin, trumpet player George Williams, saxophonist Earl Shelton and conga player Wayne Woolford, who combined to become masters of the “street funk” genre. Curtis soon added extra layers with skilled instrumentalists George Adams and Fred Demerey (saxophone), Gerry Thomas (keyboards) and George Victory (guitar).
Curtis later started a production company with Thomas, his keyboardist, who had also been working with The Jimmy Castor Bunch and others in the funk scene. The duo put out many of Fatback’s records and produced two albums with Wild Sugar, a group best known for the tune “Bring It Here,” co-written by Curtis and Thomas and sampled in the Beastie Boys hit “Brass Monkey.” The women of Wild Sugar were also Fatback’s backup singers and dancers and collaborated with the band throughout the 1980s.
Fatback’s tight-knit camaraderie is the result of Curtis’ strong leadership, passion for exploring many styles of music and tireless drive to maintain a diligent performance and recording schedule for 40 years.
The band has released more than 35 albums of original material infused with every imaginable style, from jazz, funk, R&B, disco, rap, to all colors and eras of soul.
The Fatback Band has played gigs at weddings, bar mitzvahs and at venues of every shape and size, from large concert halls like New York City’s Lincoln Center, to small clubs like London’s Jazz Café and some of the world’s most famous theaters and stages. The band has also taken part in festivals such as the Southport Weekender, WOMAD in Reading and Spain, The Glastonbury Festival, The Italy Funk Fest and the O2 Indigno. The Fatback Band’s music has been featured in films and on television shows such as The Sopranos and on Sky TV UK’s Revista de la Liga.
Curtis and Thomas’ love of incorporating elements of dance and other art forms into Fatback’s stage shows and recorded music was also responsible for launching major movements. “(Are You Ready) Do the Bus Stop” and “Double Dutch” helped spark the development of line dancing. And the song “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” is considered to be the first-ever commercially-released rap single. The distinctive Fatback flavor has paved the way for other gifted entertainers like B.T. Express, Slave and Cameo and inspired record labels to sign street bands and put them in the studio for the first time. Curtis has embraced the “DIY” approach to making music from the beginning, taking charge of everything from recording, songwriting, arranging, producing and publishing, to business management and booking.