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Biography

  • Years Active

    1966 – present (55 years)

  • Founded In

    Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, United States

  • Members

    • Ben Cauley
    • Carl Cunningham (1966 – 1967)
    • Charles Allen
    • Frank Thompson
    • Harvey Henderson (1968 – 1993)
    • James Edward Alexander
    • Jimmy King (1966 – 1967)
    • Larry Dodson
    • Lloyd Smith
    • Michael Beard
    • Phalon Jones (1966 – 1967)
    • Ronnie Caldwell (1966 – 1967)
    • Winston Stewart (1970 – present)

The Bar-Kays were a popular Memphis, Tennessee, soul, R&B, and funk group performing from 1966 that continues in some form to perform today, although with only one original member. They began as a favorite soul studio sessions group backing major artists at Stax Records, chosen in 1967 by Otis Redding to play as his touring backup band.

On December 10, 1967, Redding, his manager, and band members Jimmy King (b.1949; guitar), Ronnie Caldwell (b. 1948; organ), Phalon Jones (b. 1949; saxophone), and Carl Cunningham (b. 1949; drums) died in a plane crash in Lake Monona while on their way to a performance in Madison, Wisconsin.

Trumpeter Ben Cauley survived the crash and bassist James Alexander (who missed the flight due to returning a rental car) rebuilt the group.

The reformed band consisted of Cauley; Alexander; Harvey Henderson, saxophone; Michael Toles, guitar; Ronnie Gorden, organ; Willie Hall, drums and later Larry Dodson, lead vocals.

The group backed dozens of major Stax artists on recordings afterwards, including on Isaac Hayes' Hot Buttered Soul album, and changed direction in the 1970s to have a successful funk music career. Lloyd Smith joined the Bar-Kays in 1973. They continued to score hits on R&B charts well into the 1980s and lately have incorporated contemporary rap & remix elements into their continuing career and have performed all over the world.

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