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Funk Carves Out A Groove At The Funk Music Hall Of Fame In Ohio

Jan 10, 2018
Originally published on January 12, 2018 2:49 pm

James Brown once said, "I've only got seventh grade education, but I have a doctorate in funk, and I like to put that to good use."

While artists like Brown, George Clinton and Morris Day have schooled generations about funk for years, a brand new music hall commemorating the genre as a whole is preparing for its big ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Funk Music Hall of Fame and Exhibition Center, located in Dayton, Ohio, will officially open this spring.

"Dayton is the funkiest place on Earth," David Webb, president and CEO of the Funk Hall, tells NPR. Webb was born and raised in Dayton, but it's not just his civic pride talking. In 1974, the Ohio Players had a Billboard No. 1 hit with "Fire," followed by another No. 1, "Love Rollercoaster," in '75. The success of the Ohio Players encouraged other Dayton kids to try their hands at making funk music. That led to a community filled with friendly competition and an explosion of hitmakers.

"Dayton has so many groups out of here," Webb says. "Like Slave, Lakeside, Sun, Zapp, Roger, Dayton, Platypus. I could go on and on."

When guests enter the hall, they are greeted by a large mural of famous funk faces — a painting the staff calls "Mount Funkmore." The mural features Isaac Hayes, James Brown, Prince and more. The hall itself is filled with outrageous, shiny band member outfits, memorabilia and vintage instruments like Roger Troutman's lit-up guitar.

As Webb puts it, Dayton is the city that sparked "one nation under a groove." The city granted Webb permission to open the hall on Third Street late last year.

"As the great Marshall Jones of the Ohio Players says, 'God stepped his foot in the Miami Valley, and the sweat off of God's feet, that's what made it funky,' " Webb says.

The Funk Music Hall of Fame is open now by appointment only. The grand opening is scheduled for spring 2018.

Click the audio link to hear the full Morning Edition story and enjoy a Spotify playlist of essential funk songs curated by David Webb below.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PAPA'S GOT A BRAND NEW BAG (PART 1)")

JAMES BROWN: (Singing) Come here, sister.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

James Brown once said, I've only got a seventh-grade education, but I have a doctorate in funk, and I like to put that to good use.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PAPA'S GOT A BRAND NEW BAG (PART 1)")

BROWN: (Singing) He ain't no drag. Papa's got a brand-new bag.

MARTIN: James Brown taught the funk, and his students flourished - George Clinton in the '70s, Morris Day in the '80s.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BIRD")

MORRIS DAY AND THE TIME: (Vocalizing) Hallelujah. (Singing) Oh...

MARTIN: Now a brand-new Funk Music Hall of Fame is preparing for its big ribbon-cutting this spring. And where would that be? Why, Dayton, Ohio, of course.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BIRD")

MORRIS DAY AND THE TIME: (Yelling) Squawk (ph).

MARTIN: OK, that took us by surprise, too.

DAVID WEBB: Dayton is the funkiest place on earth.

MARTIN: So says David Webb - he's the president and CEO of The Funk Music Hall of Fame. He was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio's sixth largest city. And it turns out that's not just civic pride talking. He's actually right. But before we make the case for Dayton, we asked him to walk us through an audio tour of the Hall of Fame, and it starts at a giant mural, a wall of famous faces peering back at us. David Webb calls it "Mount Funkmore."

WEBB: Isaac Hayes, Sly Stone, James Brown, from Prince to Roger Troutman - and they're in the clouds in heaven.

MARTIN: Walk past that and you see one glass display case after another filled with outrageous shiny outfits and vintage instruments.

WEBB: And Sly and the Family Stone's guitars, Roger Troutman's lit-up guitar - it's so much memorabilia here. It's tremendous, tremendous.

MARTIN: David Webb has been working on this for more than 10 years. It is a labor of love, and like many Dayton kids before him, that love affair started with one local band, the Ohio Players.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIRE")

OHIO PLAYERS: (Singing) Fire. What I said, child - ow.

MARTIN: In the mid-'70s, the Ohio Players had a nationwide No. 1 hit with "Fire," followed by another one, "Love Rollercoaster."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE ROLLERCOASTER")

OHIO PLAYERS: (Singing) Roller coaster of love. Loving you is really crazy. Oohoo-hoo-hoo (ph).

MARTIN: The success of the Ohio Players encouraged other Dayton kids to try their hands at making funk music, and that set off an explosion of hit-makers.

WEBB: Dayton has so many groups out of here, like Slave.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SLIDE")

SLAVE: (Singing) Slide, slide. Why don't you slide?

WEBB: ...Lakeside...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FANTASTIC VOYAGE")

LAKESIDE: (Singing) Come along and ride on a fantastic voyage.

WEBB: ...Sun, Zapp, Roger, Dayton, Platypus. I could go on and go on.

MARTIN: Wait a minute, Platypus?

WEBB: Platypus was with - we can walk over this way a little bit. Platypus is with Casablanca Records back in the day. They were on the label with Kiss - remember the group Kiss? - Donna Summers (ph). Yeah, Platypus - they did a song, "Dancing In The Moonlight." We have their outfits right here. We're standing in front of their outfits.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DANCING IN THE MOONLIGHT")

PLATYPUS: (Singing) Is it any wonder? Dance and dance and groove (ph). I like dancing in the moonlight.

MARTIN: So who knew Dayton is the city that made us one nation under a groove?

WEBB: As the great Marshall Jones of the Ohio Players says, God stepped his foot in the Miami Valley, and the sweat off of God's feet - that's what made it funky.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MORE BOUNCE TO THE OUNCE")

ZAPP: More bounce.

MARTIN: That's David Webb, the president and CEO of the new Funk Music Hall of Fame and Exhibition Center in Dayton, Ohio. It's open by appointment now. The grand opening's coming once it warms up a little bit. We asked David Webb what the 20 most essential funk songs of all time are, and he curated a playlist for us. You can check that out at our website, NPRmusic.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MORE BOUNCE TO THE OUNCE")

ZAPP: More bounce to the ounce - much more bounce. More bounce to the ounce. Yeah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.