Fire, smoke, vibrant costuming, and even a live, 12-foot Python snake are all just part of what’s in store for audiences these days at a typical stage performance by the Bar-kays. Spontaneity and excitement have been a trademark of the group ever since their inception in the late 60’s. Today’s Bar-kays have boosted their high-energy act into an even higher gear for the new millennium crowd, an energy that’s equally present on their newest record.
While the musical tastes of the fans have evolved many times since the band’s origination, the Bar-kays have proven to be no strangers to evolution.
Beginning as a house band with Stax Records in Memphis in 1966, their potent, dynamic sound carried them to a chart-topping perch the very next year with their first smash single, “SOUL FINGER.” It was that dynamism that landed them the spot as the backup group for the legendary soul singer, “Otis Redding,” on his final worldwide tour. That tour, however, had a disastrous finale, as Otis Redding and four members of the band passed away in a tragic plane accident.
The young surviving members, James Alexander and Ben Cauley, then reformed the band with the help of Allen Jones who later became their producer and manager. In the rebuilding process, there were no diminishing of the standards of showmanship and professionalism. Among those recruited was Larry Dodson, who evolved into not only another pillar of the band (as well as lead singer), but the corner stone of their future. Soon the new Bar-kays were the premier house band for Stax Records playing on millions of records behind artists such as Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, The Emotions, The Dramatics, Albert King, and Isaac Hayes which includes “Hot Buttered Soul” “Black Moses” and the Grammy Award winning album “Shaft.”
Throughout the 70’s, they backed some of the most distinguished names in R&B music. However, The Bar-kays ran a string of their own hits, pioneering a trail in the ‘Funk’ music genre including, “SHAKE YOUR RUMP TO THE FUNK,” “ATTITUDE,” “MOVE YOUR BOOGIE BODY,” “SEX-O-MATIC,” “ANTICIPATION,” “FREAKSHOW ON THE DANCE FLOOR,” “HIT AND RUN,” “SHE TALKS TO ME WITH HER BODY,” “TOO HOT TO STOP,” and many other hit singles.
In the late 80’s, after over twenty years of grueling demands, James Alexander left The Bar-kays to form his own promotion company. Shortly thereafter, producer/manager Allen Jones passed away. The Bar-kays then decided to take a hiatus from radio, and decided just to travel and perform abroad.
It was in 1991 that Alexander and Dodson would join forces to record again. They went to great lengths to insure that it retained the freshness and vitality of the original Bar-kays’ recordings while adapting the flair and persona of the 90’s.
“James and I are old pros,” says Dodson, “But our band is very youthful. You have to bridge the gap between the old and the new, if you want to reach the people who buy the product.”
Soon they were back in the studio for another album-48 HOURS on BASIX Music. They broke new ground with the single “The Slide” which was widely accepted by enthusiastic dance fans and resulted in strong chart action.
The Bar-kays later signed with Curb Records and put together one of their tastiest and most zestful albums. Produced in Memphis by James Alexander, Larry Dodson, Brian Smith and Kurt Clayton, the CD included the first single, “EVERYBODY WANTS THAT LOVE”. The song was loaded with intriguing production, subliminal voices and, of course, “Funk” flavor made world famous by the group.
With a career total of 27 albums including 5 gold and 1 platinum, 40 single releases and 20 top ten singles and albums, the Bar-kays expect to add to those figures, and expand on their legendary status. The Bar-kay’s music has also been sampled by other artists, which ensures that the name of the Bar-kays will live on forever. Such artists include Teddy Riley, and Hip-Hop rappers like COOLIO, WILL SMITH’S “GET JIGGY WITH IT” and old school artists like CAMEO just to name a few.
The BAR-KAYS are now producing other acts for their own record label, JEA RIGHTNOW I.M. RECORDS in their hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. Their first full length release on their label was entitled “THE REAL THING”. This was a CD that the radio embraced and some called it some of their best work. The CD produced three singles: “YOU’RE MY JOY” featuring Archie Love who is now signed to their label, “GLAD YOU’RE MY LADY” which not only went to #1 in their hometown of Memphis, but also went top 10 in many markets. The third single was entitled “HOLLA IF YOU LIKE THAT” which also made its mark on the R&B charts.
After experiencing a show stopping performance on the 1997 HBO SINBAD SUMMER JAM special, the Bar-kays started to experience a boost in their touring career that has continued through 2005. Presently on tour performing to sell-out audiences, the Bar-kays continue to amaze all.
To add to their many accolades and achievements, the Barkays were recently requested to join the roster of Rock and Roll legends by adding garments of their stage wardrobe and a select piece of equipment into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Bar-kays’ released their first single from their new full length CD single entitled, “SHO-NUFF.” It was produced by James Alexander’s son, “JAZZE PHA.” JAZZE is now one of the top 5 producers in the country. Their “HOUSE PARTY” was predicted to be one of the biggest records of the Bar-kays’ career. Their second single entitled “SUPERSTAR” produced by J-DAV, a talented new hip hop and r&b producer also a Memphian showed versatility on the part of the BAR-KAYS and especially the vocal capabilities of lead singer Larry Dodson. “WE CANT STAY TOGETHER” (Featuring SHIRLEY BROWN) was the lead song from their new full length cd and it took radio by storm. It is sure to gain a brand new audience for The Bar-kays. Larry and James have also launched their gospel label, Testimony Records, with the signing of the internationally known “Billy Rivers and The Angelic Voices of Faith”, “Perfection”, and “Apostle Bill Adkins.” The Bar-kays’ ‘HOUSE PARTY” CD was released February 27, 2007 and rose to #32 on R&R. Their new album “is Scheduled for a spring 2013 release and their last cd single “RETURN Of The Mack” made huge waves at radio and “GROWN FOLKS” last single, produced by JAZZE PHA released JULY 31, 2013 proved to be a smash at radio and rose to a top 10 single on the urban ac charts and climbed the top 100 pop charts. It was the first release from the group’s 30th career album which features collaborations with iconic artist and producers like JAZZE PHA, GEORGE CLINTON, DOUG E. FRESH, Three 6 MAFIA, EIGHT BALL and MJG and a host of others, yet further proof that the legend continues.
The Bar-kays are well on their way insuring themselves another decade of great music. The new single is released also on their own JEA RIGHT NOW RECORD label. The new single once again features the warm , smooth romantic vocals of Larry Dodson and he shares the spotlight with this duet with Latrese Bush , a fresh new female vocal power house that helps to bring this song home. The BAR-KAYS have seemingly struck a new nerve with their old and new fans with this fresh new style they are bringing to radio with their new releases. Its fresh, it’s happening and most important.. their fans and radio are loving it !!. The Bar-kays have once again help to make history as they were honored to be one of the first African American performing artist to perform in Iraq and Kuwait for the American troops fighting there. They performed four shows in Iraq and one show in Kuwait under high security. They were honored to return to Iraq and Kuwait to perform for the troops for the third and last time before they are pulled out for good.
The Bar-kays also had the distinct honor of having being asked to perform for President Obama’s inaugural gala in DC and again in 2013 as a part of a special Tribute to Stax records and Memphis music which was taped and aired live from the White house. James and Larry said that it was a life changing experience for both of them. The Bar-kays most recent life story TV special on the popular TV ONE show UNSUNG has been deem by the TV ONE network as the most popular story aired to date by the network, acquiring rave revues and ratings for the network since the network first started the series. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Bar-kays musical career and will be celebrated throughout the entire 2014 year ending with a spectacular star studded 50th celebration in Memphis ,Tennessee in early December where The Bar-kays have a musical note on Beale street and have recently been inducted into the Memphis Music Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame with such music icons as Albert King David Porter Carla Thomas Kirk Whalum and a selected few and on June 6, 2015 The Bar-kays were inducted into the R & B Hall Of Fame with legends like Little Richard, Millie Jackson, Stax Records, Al Bell, The Mad Lads,Joe Jackson and many others iconic entertaninersIt is safe to say that the Bar-kays have more say and give the world of music before its over…THE LEGEND CONTINUES…