The band's original lineup included Anthony "Wolf" Hawkins, VC L. "The Mighty V" Veasey, and Tyrone Hite; they were later joined by Anthony's brother, Charles. They were first popular as a local and national backup band under various names: Impact, The Fabulous Impacs and the Soul Agents. The group provided backup for Motown recording artists Edwin Starr and The Spinners as well as for Brunswick recording artists Gene Chandler, The Artistics, Billy Butler and The Chilites.
Veasey and Hawkins first met in the spring of 1960; both were budding blues guitarists. Hawkins later met Hite at Western High School in Detroit, introducing him to Veasey, and the three became friends. The band became locally well-known as a talented rhythm section, and were called on for recording sessions by local producers and record companies such as Don Davis, Fortune Records, and Bob and Chico Hamilton, producers for Golden World Studios. Veasey played bass and Hawkins played guitar for Edwin Starr's hit "Agent Double O Soul" in 1965. They later toured with Starr to support his record and his later hits "Twenty Five Miles" and "War".
Veasey, who was stationed in Fort Lewis, Washington in early 1966, noticed a picture of Jimi Hendrix in a Seattle newspaper story. Although his first response was to laugh at Hendrix's appearance, Veasey remembered the name and face well enough to recognize Hendrix on the album cover of Are You Experienced in a record store in 1967. He pointed the album out to his bandmates, and the three decided to buy the record, mostly intending to play it for laughs. However, their actual response to Hendrix's music was quite different. All three band members were fascinated with Hendrix's screaming rock guitar sound, which was very new at the time, and they played the album over and over again.
Up to the point of discovering Hendrix, Veasey, Hawkins, and Hite had performed soul jazz with rhythm and horns, but they decided to jettison the brass section and become a three-piece psychedelic rock band. At the same time they changed their visual appearance, growing their hair in Afros and wearing psychedelic-inspired clothing.
For a year or so the three emulated the three-piece lineup of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, but soon decided they needed an additional instrument in the band to give them a fuller sound. After a short search, they hit upon Hawkins' younger brother, Charles, as another guitarist. Charles, nicknamed "Charlie Hawk," was more than willing to join, although his older brother wasn't entirely comfortable with having him in the band.
Hawkins and Veasey had been writing songs since they first met at age 14. They turned their hands to writing songs about the turbulent, unjust social and racial issues of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Black Merda recently performed at the Detroit Motown Winter Blast Festival in 2005 and 2006, The Beachland Ballroom Cleveland 2006 , The Ottawa Blues Festival in Ottawa, Ontario 2006, the Central Park Summer Stage Series in New York 2006 and other venues.
The four band members were on their way to a gig in 1968 when Veasey suggested they come up with a new name for the band, as their then-current name, The Soul Agents, didn't fit them any more. Charles Hawkins suggested the name "Murder Incorporated", but this was rejected as being identical to the notorious criminal organization. Considering that many young black people were at that time being killed by the police and the Klan in Detroit and in the south, Veasey wanted to choose a name that would be a shocking reminder to the public of how bad the situation was. Veasey suggested "Black Murder" and the others agreed. Anthony suggested spelling "murder" "merda", So the spelling was changed to "Black Merda" as a way of retaining the original name without having to deal with the negative impact of the word "murder".
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