In 1973, Bill Stokes set out to produce a film about the rise of Atlanta, Ga after it was burned in 1864. This film was supposed to highlight the contributions made by the Atlanta underworld during the rebuilding of the city from 1864 until 1973. The Burning of Atlanta album was recorded to be the soundtrack for this film. This lens gives the details of who and how the Burning of Atlanta album was created. The album is a 70s funk music classic!
In the words of Bill Stokes:
In March of 1973, Mr. Ed Waller dropped by Lance-Arnold Recording Studios to see me. At the time I was producing and arranging for several R&B and funk artists. A partial list of these artists were as follows: Billy Byrd, Southside Coalition, Thomasina Walker, Calvin Arnold, Videlore Jordan, Prophecy, and Liz Lands. Also, we recorded the rhythm tracks to "Let It Flow" and "Boy You're Growing on me" for Tamiko Jones.
The 4-track studio was owned by Herb Lance and Calvin Arnold and was built from the ground up! The recording engineer was the very talented Barney Conway.
When Ed arrived at the studio he had a gentlemen with him by the name of Bill Stokes. Bill was carrying a hand-sketched script of a proposed movie. A meeting was called and Stokes proposed that I write the music score for "The Burning of Atlanta Movie".
While working part-time at Johnson's Music Store (owned by Cleopus Johnson) on Hunter Street (now called Martin Luther King, Jr Drive), I was also writing marching band arrangements for Booker T. High School under the direction of Bobby Jordan. Booker T. Washington was located next door to the music store.
Cleopus Johnson was also the manager of T.C. Jasons group which consisted of: Jason (Keyboards) who later became keyboard player for S.O.S., J.D. Morris (Guitar), "Stevo Milner" (Drums),and Charles Terrell (Bass). The band was performing at the Mine Shaft in Underground Atlanta. The Mine Shaft was owned by the McMillian Brothers.
Being in Atlanta for over three years (1969) gave me the opportunity to develop a very good relationship with Cleopus and members of his band. I asked Jason if his group would be willing to work on the Burning of Atlanta sound track with me and he agreed.
We began rehearsing in the back room of Johnson's Music Store with the blessings of Mr. Johnson. Jason's group helped co-write five of the songs: Peachtree Street, Auburn Ave, Fredie's Alive and Well, Hunter Street, and Messin Around. Jason added sound effects and J.D. Morris (Guitar), provided some of the greatest music ever recorded. Charles and Stevo played solid rhythm and stabilized all phases of the creative juices. From the very beginning I knew this was going to be a great recording!
Mr. Ed told me that that Johnny Lloyd, a great promotion man for Neil Bogart at Buddah Records, had a office in the Lowe's Building in Downtown Atlanta. We decided to have a meeting with Johnny and invited him to the first recording.
On April 15th, 1973, I went home and wrote the string and horn parts in one night with my daughter Franita at the table.
Jason's group recorded all but three of the tunes on the album. For reasons unknown, Mr. Stokes and Jason's group had a disagreement and could not complete the project. I was forced to write two more tunes and assemble other musicians to help us out. One of those musicians was a drummer by the name of G.C. Coleman, the man behind the "Amen Break", the most sampled drum break in Hip-Hop history! We recorded Vine City and Down Underground. Vine City featured Jimmy Brown (Trombone) who later played with Brick, and Skip Lane (Tenor Sax)who was also a great arranger.
I called Clarence Carter and went to his house with my sons (Ben and Rod) to solicit his tastes and talents. Clarence decided to drop by the studio (Sound Pit Studio) to cut Buttermilk Bottom. I called in G.C. Coleman's band in to record the track. Clarence did not want anyone in the studio but me, the engineer, and the musicians. He asked me for my input on the tune and I told him how I would do it. Clarence and I were used to working together because we started and finished Alabama State University together. While in college he performed at the Tyjauna Club with Calvin Scott in a group called the Mellow Men. Donald Sutton played trumpet in the group. Buttermilk Bottom has Clarence's signature all over it. We worked all through the night. It was a head arrrangement all the way!
I arranged Vine City and Down Underground for six horns and a rhythm section. We recorded everything "Heads Up"! This means that we did not over dub anything but the strings. G.C. Coleman's rhythm section played on these tunes also.
I was determined to name the group "The Spirit of Atlanta". Everyone soon agreed.
In May of 1973, we premiered the musical score at the new Atlanta International Hotel on Capital Ave. It should be noted that the great group "Blue Majic" made their debut in Atlanta at the premier.
The entire album was recorded and mixed at Sound Pit and the engineer was Ken Laxton.The album was released on Buddah Records, Neil Bogart was the president at the time.
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