Batiste Brothers Band, circa 1982
"Funky Soul, Parts 1 & 2" (D. Batiste et al)
David Batiste and the Gladiators, Instant, 1970
If I’ve got the story pieced together right, the Gladiators were a band David Batiste and several of his brothers formed while they were in high school in New Orleans back in the 1960’s; and they became part of the fertile hometown funk scene that was beginning to blossom near the end of the decade. “Funky Soul, Parts 1 & 2” was released around 1970 on the Soulin’ label and re-issued soon thereafter on Instant. Although the single wasn’t commercially successful, it is now considered collectable by a succeeding generation of beat hounds and “sorry I missed it the first time” cats like me.
The version I’ve posted connects both parts – apologies to purists. Part 1 moves along on a mildly funky drum pattern with David Batiste’s organ churning, layered horns, and percussive guitar riffs; but, then, in Part 2, as the band starts calling out and doing their soul clapping, suddenly the drums kick into overdrive: a patented HOTG syncopated parade beat that distinctly ups the funk quotient until the fade. Though somewhat obscured by the band chatter, that shift of the groove, to me, makes the tune. I don’t know who that drummer is; but I’m hoping Dwight Richards (my go-to guy for the inside story) can tell us. I posted this track because of a recent conversation we had. Dwight brought up the Gladiators and a drummer of theirs that he says was very hot but never got to perform much due to incarceration. DR promises to listen to “Funky Soul” and tell us what he can. *
Over time, the Gladiators became the Batiste Brothers Band, which released several other singles, at least one LP, Freeze, and a CD or two. They are still performing. For many years, their drummer was David’s son, David Russell Batiste, Jr., who has gone on to play with such notable bands as George Porter, Jr.’s Runnin’ Pardners, Vida Blue, Papa Grows Funk, the Orkestra From Da Hood (his own band), and the Funky Meters (a truly redundant name), which he helped co-found with two former members of the original Meters, George Porter and Art Neville, plus guitarist Brian Stoltz. So, on “Funky Soul”, you hear an early New Orleans funk band whose fruit didn’t fall far from the family tree.
*March 22nd: Right on time, Dwight (drummer for Chocolate Milk) has stopped by to shed some light on the drummer in question: "Dwight here, WOW! what a great old school track. That was true New Orleans music back in the day. The Gladiators were one of the the hottest bands around during the mid 60s. They rocked all the talent shows back then! This is when talent shows were premier events. I believe the drummer on that track was non other than a drummer I only knew as Ratty! Back then, ratty meant funky, and to have the name Ratty one had better be Dam funky. And he definetly was. I had the good fortune to be one of his friends or proteges more likely. The reason Russell Batiste is so good today is because he got to see and hear and watch Ratty on a daily basis. Ask him! It is good to see that today the Batiste Brothers are just as funky as ever. N.O. was just full of too many good drummers. The first trap drums I ever got to play on were owned by Smokey Johnson! I was friends with his nephew and we used to bang the hell out of those drums. I was about 13 yrs old. I feel fortunate to have known and been close to so many of these influential drummers." Yeah, you rite, Dwight! Thanks!