Legendary drummer Harold Brown talks about WAR, Hendrix, New Orleans, Turbulent 1960's & Devil's music

"I learned from the early Pioneers of the Devil's Music, I had to be True to Myself and Others. They know when you are Faking It!"

Harold Brown: The Beat of Spirit

Harold Ray Brown was born (1946) in Long Beach, California is a founding member of War, an American funk band in the 1970s and 2000s. Harold had a number of roles over the years, acting as drummer, percussion, vocalist and band leader. Brown is the oldest of six children, and the only one in his family to pursue music. Beginning with the congas, Brown progressed to violin while in elementary school, and took up drums in junior high. He turned down a full scholarship to Valparaiso University in 1964 in order to pursue music. Brown was rooted in the very beginnings of War. In 1962, he met Howard E. Scott at the Cozy Lounge in Long Beach, California. They were fifteen years old at the time, and were hired to play in a band for a casual gig.

Brown started a band called the Creators in 1963 in Long Beach, while going to Long Beach Polytechnic High School, to play for High School sock hops and car shows. Then in 1967, toward the end of the Vietnam war, he and Howard Scott restarted the band with a new name, Night Shift. Brown had been working as a machinist on the Night Shift. In February 1969 while playing a show at the Rag Doll Night Club in North Hollywood, California Eric Burdon and Lee Oskar jammed with the Night Shift. The band changed its name to War. Brown left the band to attend college in 1983, majoring in computer science, with a minor in music. He then moved to New Orleans in 1986. In 2001, Brown went back to school to pursue his lifelong hobby; he is now a historian and professional tour guide in New Orleans, and has recently formed a new band called the “Lowrider Band” with three of the other original members of War: Howard E. Scott, Morris “BB” Dickerson, and Lee Oskar. Brown also works with inner city youth during the summer, to promote good citizenship through the art of fine drumming.

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photos by Harold Brown Archive / All rights reserved

How do you describe Harold Brown sound and what characterize your music philosophy?

When I was seven years old I would lay in bed at night listening to KFOX AM Radio in Long Beach California early mid-1950s ... fantasizing that I was the drummer behind Fats Domino, Johnny Cash, Bobby Blue Bland, Harry Bellefonte, Ray Charles, Johnny Otis, T-Bone Walker, Big Mama Thornton and many more known and un-known Artist. Then one night the spirit came to me and said, "Why don't you just do it"? Well from that night forward everything I did was to live my dream to be a professional Drummer. 

I was told by Foxy John Bennett, "Harold when you start creating your technique it's very important you have to have a sound and style different from all the other Drummers out there". So I started with a snare drum to get the feel and sensitivity of using the Drum Sticks to relay my inner spirit. So whenever you hear my drumming it's not just a bunch of Rudiments; it's ME talking to YOU. I try to keep the grooves simple, funky, danceable, Chunky and Loose. I have heard and read that a lot of the Hip Hop Producers like to sample my beats/drums. I know for a fact that Tupac Shakur wanted to have me do the groove from "Slipping into Darkness" on his last Album.

"New Orleans is Like the Uterus of a Woman ... It all is given Birth There and Flows Up River...! New Orleans is where the World comes to exchange and share the American Culture and Art."

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

HUGH MASEKELA: South African Musician. He taught me Diplomacy. Bob Marley told me that, "Yho Band like My Band ... You Street Band. I do Song for you ... "Stand Up, Stand Up, Stand Up For Your Rights" ... Taken from the main Motif from "Slipping into Darkness".

Steve Gold our (War) first real manager. He was a real Record Man. Among some of his first achievements was that he discovered Ritchie Valens at a fruit stand in the San Fernando Valley California while taking a cruise in his 1956 Candy Apple Red Convertible Cadillac with red and white tuft and roll sets. Ritchie was playing his guitar singing La Bamba. Steve got him into the studio and recorded it. The song La Bamba was a great hit.

Into those days the record labels would pay the money to the big Boys and the little guys would have to go fight for the money due them. So one day they flipped the 45 over and started playing Donna. Donna became a giant success and the company that owed them the money gave them a call and said, "Steve you got a great hit 45. We sure would like to get more orders" ... Steve replied, "Pay me the money you owe me and I will ship some more COD = Cash On Delivery. So the moral to the story is, "It's not enough to have one hit. You need two Hits to get paid".

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio which you’d like to share with us?

We use to jam in the late evenings after the local clubs such as (Whisky A Go Go, Roxy, Pandora's Box and Gazzarri's) would close, in a town house just behind the Chateau Marmont located at 8221 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood California. Howard Scott (Acoustic Guitar), Lee Oskar (Harmonica), Charles Miller (Sax & Flute), Lonnie Jordan (Piano), Morris BB Dickerson (Vocals & Bass), Papa Dee Allen and myself Harold Brown. Dee and I would go get pots and pans using them as percussion instruments. Jimi Hendrix would set in this chair with a couple of his female friends and watch us, along with Steve Gold and Jerry Goldstein. We would have plenty of Pizza and fun.

The Last meal that Jimi Hendrix and I had was on Wednesday September 16, 1970. Jimi and I were walking through an alley in SoHo District in London (SoHo is an area of the City of Westminster and part of London's West End) and he said to me, "Harold come with me. I am going to show you how to eat when you come to Europe." We had Chicken Tandoori. You don't make up this unless you were really there! 

Little did we know that we would be jamming with Jimi for the last time? That evening, Wednesday September 16 into the morning of September 17, 1970 at Ronnie Scott's Jazz located at Club 47 Frith Street, SoHo London. I remember this as if it happened a year ago. He was standing just behind me (The Drummer) I could see his Right hand fingers moving up and down the strings and him whispering in my Left ear ... Yes Brown Right there (4/4 bpm 90 to 100 = Bumpa, bumpa, bumpa, bumpa) ... He Loved the Slow Double Shuffle that I had learned from all the Blues Drummers in South Los Angeles during the Early 1960's... Yes right there Brown... You can hear the last Jams on the YouTube. I got a call from my partner Eric Burdon telling me that Jimi had made his Transition on Friday morning September 18, 1970.

"During the Spanish and French Crusades: In 1492 not only did Columbus bring disease, gunpowder and a new culture. In 1539; Estevan if not the first African he was one of the first the native Indians encountered. He brought with him new herbs and an African culture that came from Yoruba." (Photo: Harold Ray Brown with Eric Burdon and War, ca. 1969)

What were the reasons that made your generation to be the center of Psychedelic Funk/Rock experiments?

It was the "Turbulent 1960's" African Americans were considered Second Class Citizens in the United States Of America, but my Parents Clyde R Brown from Mississippi and Icelo C Brown from Alabama moved to Southern California just after World War ll. They wanted to give me, my brothers and sister a shot of growing up without the Old Jim Crow South. I had the honor of growing up with all nationalities. So I was hearing all types of music that formed my "Musical Lexicon"... Not just Black American Music.

In 1960's we (USA) started escalating into the Vietnam War, a lot of Anti and Pro War sentiments classing with idea(s). President John F Kennedy had been assassinated on November 22, 1963. We (The Creators) were coming home from North Hollywood, Bob Eubanks Club "The Cinnamon Cinder"...  down the Harbor Freeway exiting off Imperial Highway in South Los Angeles on Wednesday August 11, 1965 about 4:00 PM and found ourselves Smack Dab in the middle of the Infamous Watts Riots.

It was a New Generation of Americans not wanting to just go with just the Old School Okey-Doke, but a New School of Ideas Mixing and matching all Types of music. Not afraid to bring together the Old and the New: Ray Charles, Miles Davis, Curtis Mayfield, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Rufus Thomas, Sonny Stitt, Gil Scott ... ON and on... Middle Eastern Music, Latin Music, Indian Music ... Jazz which is a Fusion of Notes, Rhythms and Creations from the energies surroundings Us during the "Turbulent 1960's"

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

When I was young growing up in Long Beach California I could always hear a musician(s) somewhere in the neighborhood practicing his or her instrument. The flowing music from local churches, local clubs and Live music, the same music that you would be hearing on the Radio or Juke Box.

What I fear is the Lack of the Arts in today Schools. Socrates and Plato always encouraged the Arts and Math, without art and math humans lack the creative encouragement that allows Society to Grown in a Positive manner. Exchange Art and Math for instruments of Destruction ... War Is Not the Answer!

"It was a New Generation of Americans not wanting to just go with just the Old School Okey-Doke, but a New School of Ideas Mixing and matching all Types of music." (Photo: Harold with kids)

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

All of Mankind should learn at least one musical instrument; whether it is a drum, tambourine, flute, guitar, piano or harmonica... just take your pick. Music is a Universal Language. I remember when we did our first concert in Japan without Eric Burdon. All of our Japanese fans stayed seated till we played our First note and then all of sudden... Our Fans were at the front of the stage Like we were the Beatles or Somebody.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Soul with Blues/Rock and continue to Funk/Reggae and Latin/Jazz?

During the Spanish and French Crusades: In 1492 not only did Columbus bring disease, gunpowder and a new culture. In 1539; Estevan if not the first African he was one of the first the native Indians encountered. He brought with him new herbs and an African culture that came from Yoruba. In fact during my research I found out that Sister Sade, born: Helen Folasade Adu is from Yoruba. Now I just realized why her music connects all over the world and in My Heart. New Rhythms and Art came along too.  

When you really listen to Soul, Blues, Rock, Funk, Reggae, Latin and Jazz you can hear the common denominator Clave... The Key 2-3 or 3-2... It fits all of the Above!

What do you learn about yourself from the Soul & Blues people and what does the blues mean to you?

I learned from the early Pioneers of the Devil's Music, I had to be True to Myself and Others. They know when you are Faking It! "It Don't Mean a Thang Unless It's Got That Swang". I have had young Artist come to me and tell me if they had this Bad Ass Instrument they could make a Hit! I learned from all of the Greats Sam Cooke, Big Mama Thornton, James Brown, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers... If the Music doesn't make you Think, Love or Cry It Ani't Got It!  Think how Johnny Cash brings it home to " A Long Black Vail", Otis Redding  "Setting On The Dock Of The Bay"... "Why Can't We Be Friends"... That's me on Drums and "I can remember you when you drank my Wine"... That's my line; Hello!

"What I fear is the Lack of the Arts in today Schools. Socrates and Plato always encouraged the Arts and Math, without art and math humans lack the creative encouragement that allows Society to Grown in a Positive manner. Exchange Art and Math for instruments of Destruction ... War Is Not the Answer!" (Photo: drummer, percussion, vocalist & band leader, Harold  jammin' on stage, 60s) 

Why did you think that the New Orleans music and culture continues to generate such a devoted following?

The first Jazz piece that was created was by Louis Moreau Gottschalk: born in New Orleans 1829 transitioned 1869. His father was German descent and his mother was African descent. Gottschalk was raised in "Treme... New Orleans on the West Side of Rampart Street. He was influenced by the African Rituals at Congo Square. Congo Square is where all the Africans were allowed to congregate on Sundays. It was a part of Code Nior = Black Codes. It specified that Africans could meet at Congo Square and sell their wares and practice their Rituals as well as Dances.

The Bamboula "Danse des Negros" was created by Gottschalk and he Heard the African Drum Rhythm ...  He mixed European Music to the Ritual Sounds of Africa he heard in Congo Square ... It's Still There...! New Orleans is Like the Uterus of a Woman ... It all is given Birth There and Flows Up River...! New Orleans is where the World comes to exchange and share the American Culture and Art.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the music circuits?

What has made me laugh lately? While in Canada I overheard a couple of men talking one said to the other, "I just seen you walking across the street I was a little worried that the little old man behind you would not make the light" and his Buddy responded, "That Was not a little old man that was my Wife".

What has touched me the most is Just after Katrina hit us August 28, 2005 we all had to deal with the Big One! A few days later I was watching TV from Houston Texas and seen one of our Kids on news station that had attended the "Crescent City Drumming Camp", Stranded and his Father placing him on a mailing station to keep him above Water. Going into a diner and hearing one of our Kids saying that's the man that teaches us drumming ... "It is far Greater to Have Your Name Written on Young People's Hearts than to Have It Written on Stone"

How has the Afro-American music and culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

First off, The Music we created together as the Band War was and Still is a Melting Pot of many Cultures; here in Southern California (Long Beach, San Pedro, Compton and South Los Angeles), Which influenced our Creativity in Music, Food and Life Style. “Our Music Is Like A Buffet”. Take Your Pick!

Growing up here in Southern California, I/we would be hearing Blues, Gospel, Latin, Folk Music, Middle Eastern and Native Indians. We would be hearing Big Mama Thornton, Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke, Doris Day, Elvis Presley, Fats Domino, Nat King Cole, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Tony Curtis, James Brown, Bobby Blue Bland, Booker “T” and the MG’s and so many more.

Our Radio Station here in Southern California at the time were not Race Music/Station meaning they did not just play Blues or Country and Western they played everything! I can remember listening to “TEXAS Tiny” on KFOX locate at Orange/Alamitos at the Corner on 7th Street. I would lie in bed make believing I was the Drummer in the Band. Then one night the Spirit Said, “Go Do It Harold! The Time you spend Fantasizing You could Go Live Your Dream(s).  

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Harold, live your Dream Not Others Dream(s). When I first started playing drums and developing My Style, it was Foxy John Bennett a Graduate of UCLA in early 1960’s. He said, “Harold, when you practice your Instrument of choice make sure that you develop your Own Style, so when Folks hear you, they know it’s You”. That was the best advice I could have received.

"First off, The Music we created together as the Band War was and Still is a Melting Pot of many Cultures; here in Southern California (Long Beach, San Pedro, Compton and South Los Angeles), Which influenced our Creativity in Music, Food and Life Style. “Our Music Is Like A Buffet”. Take Your Pick!"

What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

When I Graduated from Long Beach Poly in 1964 and was offered a Full Scholarship to Valparaiso University, of which I turned Down! I can Remember My/our Mentor Coach Leon Foreman saying, “Oh What A Waste”. I did not realize what he had seen in me until I was in my early 50’s. But we did get to meet up after I/we had a accomplish Our Dream(s) of becoming successful Musicians/Artist and Coach Foreman said to me, “It Looks Like You Made the Right Decisions for You”. You Lived Your Dream!

I can remember getting our first Gold Record, “Spill the Wine” Eric Burdon and War. I took the Gold Record and Laid on The Floor and Stomped It and broke the glass. Those that were there to see what I had done ask me, Why! I told them that I did not want it to go to my Head. Don’t Believe the Hype!

A One of highlights that stick with me the most is the last Dinner I had with Jimi Hendrix. Him and I were walking down and alley in the Soho District of London, behind Ronnie Scott’s Night Club September 14, 1970. I ask, “Jimi, where are you taking me? Jimi says to me, “I am going to show you how to eat when you come to London”. We went into an Indian restaurant, which was located down stairs in Soho. We had Chicken Tandoori, Rice and Chutney … Yummy to The Tummy.    

So, We (Eric Burdon & War) were doing an engagement at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. We had been told that Jimi was planning on coming by to Jam with us. The first night September 15, 1970 Jimi came by, but did not get on stage with us. Then Jimi returned the next night September 16, 1970 and came on stage with Us Eric Burdon & War Jammed with us on “  Eric Burdon & War with J.Hendrix "Tobacco Road" 1970 Live at Ronnie`s Scotts. I can remember Jimi standing just over my Left shoulder to this Day saying to me into my Left Ear, “Right There Brown, Right There”. So, that evening we all left Ronnie Scotts not knowing this would have been the last night Mr. Jimi Hendrix would be playing on an Earthly Stage; I/we know that He is On Stage with Us Every Time we Preform. It was early the next morning That I received a call from Eric Burdon that Jimi had Transitioned September 18, 1970 … circa?

Are there any memories which you’d like to share with us?

One more out of a lot of Rememberable Moments would be when, Bob Marley, Morris D. Dickerson aka “BB” and myself, Harold Ray Brown were walking together to a Radio Interview in Atlanta Georgia circa 1972-73.  Bob Marley was walking in between BB and myself. Marley was just to my left shoulder. Bob, used his right elbow and nudged me twice saying these words, “Yoh Band Street Band, Yoh Band Like Ours; I do Song for You; I do Song for You! “Stand Up Stand Up for Your Rights”. It was taken from the Motif of “Slipping into Darkness”, the Horn line that Charles W. Miller and Lee Oskar created … “Bah Dah, Bah Dah” = Stand Up, Stand Up, Stand Up for Your Rights! For True! The last time Bob and I spoke he wanted me to come to Jamaica and spend some time with him and Family. I remember our Manager Steve Gold saying no to me because, He felt that I was too radical Thinking, What Ever That Meant at The Time in the mid 1970’s. Now in 2019 reading and seeing what’s going on in the World I can see that I may have been a little head of Society.

Why do you think that the WAR music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Our Music; Howard Scott, Morris D Dickerson, Charles W. Miller, Sylvester D. Allen, Lee Oskar, Leroy Lonnie Jordan and myself, Harold Brown; came from the Inner-Cities. Our music represents the sounds, culture, life-styles of the every-day classes of the Streets of Long Beach, Compton, San Pedro, South Los Angeles, Hollywood and the Beaches of Southern California. Our Music came from Our Hearts and Souls. It was not Pre-Fabricated and Our True Fans Knew and know That for a Fact.

The Unique Harmonies of Lee Oskar and Charles W. Miller. The Grooves that the Rhythm Section laid down; “Howard Scott, Morris D Dickerson, Leroy Lonnie Jordan and Harold Brown”; Along, with the percussion licks that Sylvester D. Allen added, not too much, but just enough of that Thang!  Our Music can Excite You, Make You Happy and Mellow You Out.   You Have A Choice of Music to listen to All Day Long.

What do you miss most nowadays from the War era?

Touring in a station wagon with a U-Haul trailer carrying all of our equipment. With all the luggage stacked in the back of the wagon. I can remember Lee Oskar and I had come up with a song Called the “U-Haul Blues”. Lee and I, since we were the leanness band-members, we had the Honor of laying on the luggage. All we could see was the back of the U-Haul and listening to rhythm of the highway as we cruised from “City to Country to City”. The Journey of Sharing Our Culture and Experiencing Others Culture, Art, Music and Food.

Hearing and Visiting the various Big and Small Radio Stations all across the USA. West, East, North and South. Driving out side the city and you can see a Radio Station Tower … Wow, that was like my dreams I had when I was Fantasying as a Child, that I was the drummer on that Song! Now, we are the Band on that Song/Music on the Radio … Show Time!

Also, I have to Send Out a Big Shout Out to Our Very First Road-Manager “Terry McVaye”. He would drive us to each Show, Set-Up the Stage, Mix the Sound, Collect the Money, Break Down, Pay Us and He kept the Books Tight and Right. Thank you Mr. Terry McVaye!

Which is the most interesting period in local NOLA scene?

This question brings me to a very sentimental and Spiritual Awaking.

I had moved back West after Katrina had hit us In New Orleans August 29, 2005. We had devastation as Far as I could see. I tried to get back a couple of times, but as fate would have it, I moved back West out-side of Seattle Washington. I moved in with my Brother from another Mother Lee Oskar. Well, one day when I was practicing on my drums in our Music Room down stairs, as I was playing this Rumba Groove, along with a Clave with my left foot. I Was Becoming All High-Minded Saying to myself, “I Know New Orleans is Missing “ME” This Groove … And the Spirit Came Back at Me and Said, “NO … This Is What NEW ORLEANS GAVE YOU! … I Can’t Lie, I Started Crying Like A Baby, Yes Like A Big Baby!

New Orleans gave Me my Second Life in Music; I Was Born Again, Amen!

New Orleans is the Root of American Funk, Blues, Jazz, Swing, European, Latin and Classical Music. The African Drumming Circles at Congo Square located in Louis Armstrong Park.  

Let’s start with Louis Moreau Gottschalk.  

Yes, Louis Moreau Gottschalk … Not “Louis Daniel Armstrong”, He’s next, but “Louis Moreau Gottschalk”, It is said, that, He composed the first Jazz Piece … “BAMBOULA” Danse De Negres, which He had observed the Africans Dancing In Congo Square in  Below … Hello!                                 

Let’s talk about Drummers, have you ever heard of “Jordan B Noble”?

He was a Born October 14, 1800 his was at the Battle of New Orleans December 23, 1814, Wow, he was only 14 Years Old. The Drums were use to signal the Commanders and Troops during battle. Jordan served in numerous battles including the American Civil War. Please see the “Jordan B. Noble” Notation below.  

New Orleans is Like the Uterus of America. The Birth of Music, Food, Culture and Arts. And I have learned in Recent Years my Birth Place Long Beach California Is A Sister City to New Orleans, My Second Home … I am Blessed for Sho, Sho! As Moses Wheelock, our First Percussionist in “The Creators” Band; would Say.

What touched (emotionally) you from the local circuits?

There was a song we did back in the day on Our “Peace Sign” Album/CD. The song was a song I sung and wrote most of the lyrics to. The song was not pushed, Why? I don’t know. It was called “What If” From what I was told it was the number one song at Harvard University. Well, we were doing a show in a small club in Harvard Square and this Young Lady came up to me and Thanked Me. She told me that She was about to commit Suicide and Heard our song “What If” and the song changed her mind about Killing Herself. At that moment What If was a MAJOR HIT! To Me, It saved Someone’s LIFE. What If She Had Not Heard “What If” at that Moment …?

What were the reasons that made the 60s to be the center of social, artistic, activist, spiritual researches?

The 1960’s Us Baby Boomers were emerging from Our Homes and Neighborhoods that we were raised in. Our Parents had experienced World War II, Korean War, Marin Luther King JR., John F Kennedy and the Growth of the Middle-Class Workers. Not just the European Americans, but the Asians, Latinos and African Americans.

For our family, five boys and one girl; Me being the Oldest, Our Parents (Clyde R. Brown & Icelo C. Brown) sent us to a Lutheran School. First Lutheran in Long Beach in 1957. We were the first African Americans to become members of First Lutheran Long Beach California, of which was mainly consisted of 2nd & 3rd Generation German families.

“The Butter Fly Effect” AKA Chaos Theory! If My/our Parents had not sent Me/Us to First Lutheran School in 1957, I would not gotten That Five Minutes that Set the Course that Changed my Life For “The Future” That I/we are Living Today. It was Our Principle Alvin J. Hahn, that demonstrating various instruments and came to the SNARE Drum and Ask, “Who Wants to Learn to Play Drums” and Shouted Out from the Back, “Me! I Want to Learn to Play Drums … Me!” Our Principle Mr. Alvin J. Hahn called me up and Gave Me that “Five Minutes That Changed My Life”. He showed me how to hold the drum sticks and how to read a Quarter. I get tears in my eyes when I tell this story even, though it happened 62 Years ago, 62 Years ago. Who would have thought that Five Minutes Was the Beginning of My/Our Future?  To this Day I like taking the Time to Give That Person or Stanger That “Five Minutes” Mr. Alvin J. Hahn Gave Me.  Pay It Forward!

In 1961 I can remember the first time I REBELLED, against my Parents. My father wanted me to take a Buss from Long Beach California all the way to Los Angeles for High School Five Days a week. It met, I would have to get up every morning around 5:00 AM or earlier to get to school, but one of the Best High Schools in Southern California at the time was Long Beach Poly High and I could walk to school. 

Well, that was one of my first experiences of Learning How to Think for Myself. There were a lot of my neighborhood friends going to school there at Long beach Poly High. I also had time to not just do my homework; I took metal shop, wood shop, along with all the other required curriculums. I wound up being one of the top Distance & Cross-Country Runners. I was elected to be President of our Teen-Tavern, which was a After School Program for us to meet, Play Pool, Make Music and Socialize with fellow Class-Mates. So, when I graduated June of 1964, I started my own business an Auto Detail, Body and Fender Shop at 333 East Broadway Street here in Long Beach; just down the street from where I am typing this Inter-view, I was only 18 years of age. I wanted to continue chasing my dream of becoming a successful Musician/Artist. I knew I had to be independent, but being able to earn a living by not just depending on music, playing Bars, Sock Hops and Casuals. Also, not having to Deal with the “Big Boss Man” watching you Punch-In & Out on the TIME-CLOCK.

So, I suggested that We the Creators Band go Join Local 47 the Musicians Union on Vine in Hollywood. Vince Devari handle the Casuals at the time and he liked us in that we took being Musicians as a Business! We started playing the Whiskey A Go Go, Cazares Night Club, Palladium and the Cinnamon Cinder Night Clubs. We found ourselves opening for Ike & Tina Turner, The Coasters, Drifters and more. I have to say this, The Union and SAG-AFTRA has been paying me my retirement funds each month. Remember It’s Called the Music Business. So, take care of Business!

"We will see and experience a Larger Population Growth on Planet Earth. This will cause more Wars, due to various countries needing more Land and Resources for Their Citizens. The Governments of Planet Earth, will be out on the PROWL for more resources’, Water, Food, Wood, Metals, and Waterways to connect to various Continents. Not to mention Space Exploration the New Frontier!"

What is the impact of Blues, Soul and Jazz on the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

During the early 1960’s Music was taking on A Folksy Touch. Folks were trying to get back in contact with their Roots. We were having the British Invasion. There were a lot of American Blues Artist Traveling all Parts of Europe. In fact, Southern Bluesmen were treated better in Europe than In America, Truth Be Told.  

This Brings up a very interesting time for me. I was with Big Mama Thornton around the time Johnny Ace was supposed to have shot his self in the head playing Russian Roulette. My Father Clyde R. Brown took me up to her Club, “The Web” located on Western just South of Manchester in LA. She was standing out side her club by the curb, this was around the last part of December 1954. Big Mama Thornton had just gotten back from Texas. She invited me to come on into the club with Her. I can remember just as clear as if it happened a few years ago. Big Mama Thornton said to me, “Come on Boy Ain’t No-Body Going to Bother You!” I do remember Her showing me a pistol in Her pocket, she was wearing Overalls.  Also most folks didn’t know she was a drummer to.

Another Artist We met while we were the Creators was Sam Cooke at Moore’s Swing Club on South Main Street in South Los Angeles. We were all on stage playing and he came in and sat at the Bar. He asks Mr. Moore who we were and ask to meet us.  He was a Gentlemen very cordial. We talked for a few minutes and we all walked out to the curb together and I can remember him going across the street and getting into his 1964 Candy Apple Red XKE Jaguar.  A few weeks later he was shot by a motel manager, they say in Self Defense December 11, 1964?

In your opinion, what is the biggest revolution which can be realized today?

The Biggest Revolution Is deciphering Real History Verses Fake History. Due to the Mass Population(s) having access to the inter-net. We Citizens of the World are being Bombarded with all types of messages (Good and Bad) stories. Turning on the News Cycle can be devastating to see and hear what’s taking place in Our Societies on Planet Earth. The fact that the Rich are becoming Richer and the Poor are becoming Poorer. Also, some say Global Warming is Real, Others Say it’s Just Myth; but Yet we hear & see that the Glaziers at the North Poll are Melting away and Our Sea Levels Rising.  We have been having more floods around the world, catastrophic, Fires, Earth Quakes and not to foreget WARS taking place on Planet Earth. We as Citizens of Planet Earth are going to have to Come Together to Solve These Problems or We are All Doomed!

"During the early 1960’s Music was taking on A Folksy Touch. Folks were trying to get back in contact with their Roots. We were having the British Invasion. There were a lot of American Blues Artist Traveling all Parts of Europe. In fact, Southern Bluesmen were treated better in Europe than In America, Truth Be Told."

What do you think the major changes will be in near or far future of the world?

We will see and experience a Larger Population Growth on Planet Earth. This will cause more Wars, due to various countries needing more Land and Resources for Their Citizens. The Governments of Planet Earth, will be out on the PROWL for more resources’, Water, Food, Wood, Metals, and Waterways to connect to various Continents. Not to mention Space Exploration the New Frontier!

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

Going forward: In the Studio with all of the Surviving Original War members: Howard Scott, Lee Oskar, Morris BB Dickerson, Lonnie Jordan and Harold Brown recording Real War Music.

What touched (emotionally) you from … "Spill the Wine", "The World Is a Ghetto", “The World Is A Ghetto”, "The Cisco Kid", and "Low Rider"…?

"Spill the Wine" … First Off, I would Like to Thank Our Big Brother “Eric V. Burdon” for giving Us Our First Big Hit Record. “Spill the Wine” and We Spilled some Wine.

This Song “Spill the Wine” is the one, that I always refer to when an up and coming Musician/Artist approach me about recording a Hit Track! Well, Howard Scott, had come back home from the Army late 1968. Him and I made a pledge that we would give it another try at Our Dream(s) of becoming Famous Artist/Musicians. We named our Group “The Night Shift” since I was working as a Machinist at Night. So, I sold off all of my machining tools; This way I couldn’t just give up and go back to being a machinist, which was great money back in the day. By selling off the tools it was like burning the bridge behind me so, I couldn’t just turn back. I/we had to March Forward, No Turning Back!

So, I bought me a set of drums from Spiegel’s Catalogue, it was a Mail Order Catalogue founded in 1865 mainly clothing, but I seen a set of Drums for $199.00 in the Catalogue. They were a Four Piece set of Pearl Drums. I can remember guys laughing at me when I went to Hollywood to record, Well I got the Last Laugh! When you hear “Spill the Wine”, That’s those $199.00 Four Piece set of Pearl Drums! Ha, ha, ha. He, he, he LOL!

"The World Is a Ghetto" … This Song “The World Is A Ghetto” makes me think of Sylvester D. Allen AKA “Papa Dee” as most of us called him, because he was our Elder Statesmen. He was the Oldest in the Group. I, Harold Brown met “Papa Dee” at a Gas Station on Arrow Highway and Gary Avenue in Pomona California. “Papa Dee” was having his oil changed in his 1965 American Motor Rambler. Papa Dee was playing on his Conga and Bongos at the same time. Bongos between his legs and one conga in front of him. He was going to town; I had never seen anyone play like him before. So, I ask him would he like to play with the Night Shift, He said yes!

So, “Papa Dee” and I would start making our runs from Pomona to Hollywood together. Back in those days gas was about $0.23 $0. 28 Cents a Gallon, Yes! $0.23 to $0.28 Cents a Gallon and cheaper if you had Gas Coupons. So, we could survive off about $5.00’s a day. A Burrito was a $1.00, a Coke $0.25 Cents.

Well, One day  “Papa Dee” and I were leaving out of the Ritzy & Glitzy parts of Malibu, Beverly Hills, Hollywood area and we had noticed that the toilets, the gutters would back-up, the dumpsters would feel up with all types of garbage, the high priced Autos such as Rolls Royce’s, Mercedes Benz and Cadillacs got flats too. “Big Money Big Problems, Little Money Little Problems, No Money Problems, Problems” …  This is when Sylvester “Papa Dee” Allen came up with the concept of “The World Is A Ghetto”. So, this is where Our “TEAM” Came into Play! *Lead Vocalist Morris BB Dickerson (Bass & Writer), Howard Scott (Guitar & Writer), Leroy Lonnie Jordan (Keyboard & Writer), Sylvester “Papa Dee” Allen (Percussionist & Writer), Charles W. Miller (Sax & Writer), Lee Oskar (Harmonica & Writer) and Harold Ray Brown (Drums & Writer).

“The World Is A Ghetto”... was the Biggest Selling Album of that Year and we still did not win the Album of the Year. That’s when I realize there was more at play in the Politics of the Music Business than What Meets The “EAR”!  We All Can Agree That “The World Is Still A Ghetto”, HELLO!

"The Cisco Kid" ... I can remember like it was just a few years ago. I was out making a few runs that took me into South Los Angeles and Compton area and decided to stop by Mr. Howard E. Scott’s place. He was living in some Condo/Apartments at the time and when I came up on Howard he was setting on his Fender Guitar Amp by the Swimming Pool, playing this slick and Singing this Hook, of which wound up being one of our Biggest Hits, “Cisco Kid” was a friend of mine, He drank whisky, Pancho Drinking Wine. I looked at Howard and thought in my head and saying, I got a great idea for a rhythm to put with it.  The Rhythm is that “Ticky, Tacky, Ticky, Tacky” and along with that Amazing Horn line(s) that Lee Oskar and Big Brother Charles W. Miller came up with, “BB’s” Bass Line(s), Lonnie’s Key Board Groove and “Papa Dee” Tasty percussion licks made it a rememberable Catchy Song the moment you heard It.  A Side *Note, The Wife of Cisco Kid (Mrs. Duncan Renaldo) told us that He Didn’t Drink Whiskey ... Maye Tequila? #IDo!

"Why Can't We Be Friends?" … By the time we came up with this song “Why Can’t We Be Friends” in 1975. We had been traveling extensively. All over the United States of America, Europe and then found ourselves in Japan. At the time most of us in the band where taller than the average Native, so we could keep our eyes out for each other in a crowd of people. Then we started thinking about what if, say two folks,” One from say the Segregated South, One Black and One White get dropped off in a Foreign Country somewhere in the Amazons of Brazil” They both speak the same Language, eat the same foods, how quickly they would become Friends.

We learned that the more we communicate with each other and we get past all the Jive & B.S. That Divides us as Humans. We Find That We are More Alike Inside Than We Are on The Out-Side. We Both want Respect, Dignity, Love and Appreciation. It’s the “Reciprocal Factor”, “Do unto Others as You Would Want Done unto You!” So, “Why Can’t We Be Friends”, HELLO!

"Our Music; Howard Scott, Morris D Dickerson, Charles W. Miller, Sylvester D. Allen, Lee Oskar, Leroy Lonnie Jordan and myself, Harold Brown; came from the Inner-Cities. Our music represents the sounds, culture, life-styles of the every-day classes of the Streets of Long Beach, Compton, San Pedro, South Los Angeles, Hollywood and the Beaches of Southern California. Our Music came from Our Hearts and Souls. It was not Pre-Fabricated and Our True Fans Knew and know That for a Fact."

"Low Rider" … The “Original LowRider” In #WartheBand Is Mr. Charles W. Miller. I, Harold Ray Brown, met Charles W. Miler, around 1962. I was practicing my on my Drums in our Garage at 1095 East 21st & Lemon Avenue In Long Beach Charles W Miller lived a few door down from me at 2109 Lemon Avenue. Charles was about 7 years older than me. He, ask me if I wanted to play in his band. I played maybe one or two dates, but I was still young, going to school, homework, and mix with the Bar Scenes at the age of 15 Years Old, So I was replaced by an Older Drummer.

Big Brother Charles W. Miller and I didn’t hook back up until 1968 at Studio Instrument Rentals on Sana Monica and Vine. We were rehearsing with Deacon Jones from the LA Rams. He had just released a 45 Single called “Lover and Pro” and R. B. Greaves, before he had his first Hit Record “Take A Letter to Maria”.  When I see Charles, I knew he was the missing link. He had been in the Marching Band at Long Beach Poly and he knew what it took to have a Kick Ass Horn section. The Night Shift had a 10 Piece Band with Three Back Up Singers, when Eric Burdon, Lee Oskar and Jerry Goldstein herd us at the Rag Doll in North Hollywood 1969.      

Charles, was Born in Olathe Kansas 1939, his family moved to Southern California. Big Brother Charles W. Miller went to the same High School I went to Long Beach Poly High; He was an Athlete also at Long Beach Poly. He Graduated in 1957. I Graduated 1964 from Long Beach Poly … Side *Note Snoop Dogg graduated from Long Beach Poly also. Snoop tells me/us stories of Him as a Kid coming by our rehearsals on Hill Street and Lemon listening to us rehearsing, while Riding his Bike in the Neighborhood.

Our Song “Low Rider”, Started Off Jam, Yes, A Jam. We all had met up in the Studio located in Hollywood. Jerry Goldstein, our Producer and Christopher Huston, the Engineer would have everything ready to Roll. Jerry was very brilliant, because he knew how to have everything set up and the environment that Sparked Our Creativity. He would say that, “Tape was Cheap, But the Moments were Priceless!”  

I will never for get the Moment When We (Charles W. Miller, Morris “BB” Dickerson, Howard E. Scott, Lonnie Jordan, Sylvester Papa Dee Allen, Lee Oskar and Myself, Harold Ray Brown) Created “Low Rider”. I, Harold the drummer was playing on an Awkward Up Beat instead of a Down Beat. Morris “BB” Dickerson Started playing the Bass Line on an Up Beat to my Bass Drum … Then All of a Sudden, I could Hear Big Brother Charles W. Miller over my Head Phones Singing, “All My Friends Know the Low Rider, The Low Rider Drives A Little Slower”. While I am telling you this True Story, I get Chills and Tears in my Eyes … Because It’s the Truth!

One More Thing. The Low Riders Are the First Recyclers!

Lowrider Band - Official website

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