The day I fell in love with Irma Thomas I drunkenly slow danced with the Abbey bar’s jukebox to one of her songs, waiting for the night to fall out of focus. She had a voice that culled drunkards from their cups, and brought them to their feet. Mostly, her songs made you want to get up and dance, drunk or sober.

I fell in love with her sixties songbook.  I fell in love with her voice. Most of all, I fell in love with the simple elegance of each song.

The next day, hung over at work searching to blot out the Quarterflash record Wes, the store manager, was playing, I realized the stunning eloquence of Irma Thomas. In the midst of Quarterflash’s soulless bleating I managed to reconstruct one of Thomas’s soul gems note by note. Quite a feat. I was really hung over. Usually, when Quarter Flash made their appearance- a regular occurrence- I bounded upstairs to the store room where thousands of New Orleans R&B and Jazz records sat in boxes gathering dust, ostensibly to catalog them, but really just to free my ears from the garbage.

When Darrell Banks was fatally shot by an off duty cop in the spring of 1970, the soul singing powerhouse left behind just twenty-seven songs- two albums and a smidgen of singles. Each of them is worth a listen. They buried him in a grave marked by a numbered plaque in the ground. No headstone, no mention of his career, no nod to his gift of voice, nor any placement of his name. Just a number planted in the earth, only to be overgrown a few short years later, leaving his final resting place an afterthought, hidden from view.

Banks was much more than just a number, or a lost gem, or an afterthought. Born Darrell Eubanks, he grew up, like so many of his soul singing brothers and sisters, singing in church, devouring songs in the gospel canon. When he made the leap to secular jams, Banks dropped the E and the U from his last name, and readied himself for a ride on Motown’s comet.

Please explain what just happened.

Just got home from taking pictures at our secret club/rehearsal space in Everett, WA. We call it The Rec Room. If James Bond and Superfly found out they were dating the same chick, hit it off at gun point, and decided to open a speakeasy, this is what it would be like. We’re filming our next music video there for a song called “Callin’” that should be released around the same time third album, Jungle Cat.

 

What is your earliest memory?

My mom’s walkman. She only had one cassette. One side was Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the other was the Chipmunk’s Greatest Hits. I can’t help but wonder if this tape planted the seeds of my obsession with singing in falsetto whenever I can get away with it. Also, I should also mention, proudly, that after long hours of being left alone with Jackson and his creepy old friend Vincent Price, I told my mom something was seriously wrong with the world’s most famous singer. Even in the 80s as an underachieving toddler, I knew MJ was on a trip that wasn’t going to end well.

I first discovered the Reverend Al Green’s rich, tenor voice where many others of my generation did: the Tiki lounge scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Half a lifetime later, the brassy intro to “Let’s Stay Together” brings me to the sparsely populated bar where Marcellus Wallace does business. In the interim years I have used Green’s 1972 classic album Let’s Stay Together to set the right mood at a party, unwind after a night at the bars and separate young women from their clothes. It’s never failed me in any of these endeavors.

Utility aside, Stay Together is a classic of 1970s soul. It seamlessly straddles two subgenres, uniting the ‘60s and the ‘70s. First, Memphis soul: The harder-edged sounds of the ‘60s synonymous with Stax Records.  Memphis was on the wane in 1972, increasingly eclipsed by the funk of soul stalwarts like James Brown and younger upstarts like Parliament. Second, Philly soul: The ascendant smooth sounds that would dominate the ‘70s before morphing into quiet storm and adult urban contemporary.