It’s time to bring some funk back to Dayton with the Funk Center.
By Jim Bucher
On a recent visit to Carillon Park with my youngest, it was amazing to see all the firsts created in Dayton and our region, some of which I didn’t even know were from Dayton.
Here’s an abbreviated rundown, because if I listed them all it would stretch from this Dayton Magazine issue until the winter edition of 2016: the airplane, self-starter for the automobile, pop-top can, artificial heart, ice cube tray, mood ring (remember those?), step ladder, self-cooled refrigerator, ice cream cone and the yo-yo!
The list literally goes on and on, but one first that’s finally getting its just due is a true one-of-a-kind.
I’m talking about funk. Yes, the “Dayton Funk Sound” which began here, and then was honed and perfected here as well.
David Webb, Sr., and his all-volunteer funk team are on a mission to get Dayton funk on that long list of firsts celebrated here. He is the president and CEO of The Funk Music Hall of Fame & Exhibition Center, aka The Funk Center.
Webb, along with Lakeside’s legendary funk artist, Thomas Shelby, is working with others to make sure Dayton will be the permanent home of the Funk Hall of Fame. According to Webb, the time is now to claim what’s rightfully ours; that Dayton is the funk capital of the world. He is on a funkin’ mission.
“It all started in 1965 at Roosevelt and Dunbar high schools right here. The initial sound can be attributed to James Brown and some of the first groups were The Morrocos, London Fog and the Continentals,” Webb says.
“From there, trailblazers such as The Ohio Players, Lakeside, Roger Troutman & The Human Body (later known as Zapp), Faze-O, Slave, Sun and more all came from here and perfected what James Brown began,” he adds.
Somewhere along the way, Dayton lost its foothold on Funkytown, USA, but Webb says this music style is just as important as a couple of brothers taking to the skies.
“The Wright Brothers are recognized as innovators of flight, just as the groups mentioned earlier were the innovators of funk. Not that we were the first, it’s that we took a sound and expounded on it and made it our own. Just as Motown and Philly have that recognizable sound, so does Dayton,” Webb says.
So, what the funk is the hold up?
“We have been asking ourselves the very same question. The bottom line is it takes money. There have been ideas in the past, but no one had the initiative, or strong enough desire, to actually take on the responsibility to make it happen until now.
“Most of us are in the twilight of our careers and we need to make sure that funk music stays relevant, especially since it’s still being sampled 50 years later,” Webb says.
Webb shares that plans are currently in the works.
“We want to create a tribute to funk music as most other genres have (rock ‘n’ roll, country, jazz, etc.). Collectively, we thought it was time for funk music to have its own place in the annals of time. It is important that we create a space and environment where people can come see, hear and feel what it means to be ‘Funked Up!’”
The group says by creating The Funk Center they can ensure funk music is recognized and appreciated 300 years from now.
“Bach and Beethoven’s music was preserved, and funk artists contributed to that same music timeline. Their art deserves to be respected as well,” Webb adds.
Right now, the biggest hurdle is money, but like the difference in size of an LP record as opposed to a 45 or, do I dare say, eight-track tape (really dating myself here), there is a short-term goal.
“We want to bring awareness to the music and share the history. The long-term goal is to construct a building to house memorabilia.
“We want to display any and everything from the Mothership to Bootsie’s boots, Roger’s guitars, Lakeside’s pirate costumes, and Sugarfoot’s double neck guitar,” Webb says.
Webb says his message is like a broken tape that plays one song and the lyrics are the same—that Dayton and The Funk Music Hall of Fame & Exhibition Center will make beautiful music together again.
“Demographically, all these groups came from this area: the triangle of Funk, Indy-Cincy-Dayton. Looking back, one could breach the argument that Dayton produced more groups to the phenomenon. Just as Dayton is considered the birthplace of flight, so, too, should it be considered the birthplace of funk,” Webb says.
And eventually The Funk Center could be an economic driver for the region, which will have us all singing in unison.
Other plans include a Funky Walk of Stars, a beautification project in downtown Dayton that will pay tribute to funk artists and any significant contributors to funk music; On the One – The Funk Chronicles, a music magazine; and an annual Funk Awards ceremony, a red carpet event, plus a “funky” themed restaurant.
Bottom line, this is gonna be funkin’ great!
“We want everyone to walk away knowing the people and groups who made funk music and to understand the historical aspect of the music. Our goal is to educate, as much as possible, on another truly unique American art form,” he says.
That’s right David; Dayton, Ohio: The Funkiest Place on Earth. It’s time to get our groove on.
Just think on the list of Dayton firsts and inventions, we’ll soon see the Dayton ‘Funk’ sound between the frost proof freezer and fuzzbuster.
Think I’m going to celebrate with an ice cream cone.