posted by Robert J. Carmack     twitter: @blues2jazzguy

R&B Soul legendary singer Charles Wright keeps re-inventing himself,from Doo-Wop to Hip Hop. Charles is Looking for an Ugly Woman, at least that’s the name of his new cut that’s catching  on around the country. Partly due to a famous commercial using Wright’s very popular music from the  1970s “Express Yourself” , Charles was able to catapult himself into the hearts of a new generation of admirers.  Charles was the original founder of  Watts 103rd Street Band,producer,writer,singer and multi-instrumentalist.

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Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band is a pioneering American soul and funk band. Formed in the early 1960s, they had the most visibility from 1967 to 1973 when the band had 9 singles reach Billboard’s pop and/or rhythm and blues Hot 100 lists, such as “Do Your Thing” (#11 Pop, #12 R&B), “Till You Get Enough” (#12 R&B, #67 Pop), and “Love Land” (R&B #23, Pop #16). They are best known for their biggest hit on Warner Bros. Records, 1970’s “Express Yourself” (#3 R&B, #12 Pop), a song that has been sampled by rap group N.W.A. and others.    


Charles Wright was born in 1940 in Clarksdale, Mississippi, before moving to Los Angeles in the early 1950s, playing guitar and singing in several doo-wop groups including the Turks, the Twilighters, the Shields and the Gallahads.

He also briefly worked as an A&R for Del-Fi Records and was responsible for the hit record “Those Oldies But Goodies” (Remind me of you) by Little Caesar and the Romans in 1961.  In 1962, he formed his own band Charles Wright & the Wright Sounds which included future Watts Band member, John Raynford, along with Daryl Dragon, aka “Captain” of  Captain & Tennille.  Over the course of the next six years, Wright would add more players to his group and these were the players who would eventually become known as the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, at least by 1968. Several of those members, namely drummer James Gadson, bassist Melvin Dunlap, trombonist/arranger Ray Jackson, and both guitarists Al McKay and Benorce Blackmon, would play on several Dyke & the Blazers charting singles, including “We Got More Soul” (1969) and “Let a Woman Be a Woman, Let a Man Be a Man” (1969).

Color Charles   w Guitar

The Wright Sounds played in several venues across Los Angeles but their best known stint was three years (ending in 1968) at Hollywood’s Haunted House nightclub. Originally located at Hollywood and Vine, the Haunted House was a popular club in the 1960s and appeared in several popular culture artifacts, most notably the 1969 Go-Go dancing

B-movie, Girl in Gold Boots. Wright’s nephew was the rapper Eazy-E,   a successful solo artist and member of infamous hip-hop  group N.W.A.  Eazy-E, whose real name was Eric Lynn Wright, died of AIDS  March 26, 1995 at the age of 31.  The name, Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band was originally coined by Los Angeles producer and Keymen Records owner Fred Smith in 1967. However, between 1967 and 1968, the Watts 103rd name applied to three, arguably four different personnel configurations before settling into the final band who played on every Watts 103rd album from 1968 forward.

Smith produced a theme song for KGFJ radio personality, The Magnificent Montague. The song became so popular that Smith released it as a single in 1967 and created the name, Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band for the studio group who had recorded it. Purportedly, the players on the single included Wright, James Carmichael,Leon Haywood, and Bobby Womack. (R&B Soul Iegends)

In 1966, Carmichael and Wright were both working as session players for the Nashville West recording studio. Their group of studio players was discovered by Fred Smith and comedian Bill Cosby who needed a backing band for his upcoming album, Silver Throat. Smith hired the Nashville West players and gave them the Watts 103rd name. This group included (but was not necessarily limited to): Arthur Wright (bass), Pete Fox (guitar), Streamline Ewing (trombone), Herman Riley (tenor sax), Jackie Kelso (tenor sax), Melvin Jernigan (tenor sax), Mel Brown (guitar), Abraham Mills (drums).

Due to their association with Cosby, the new Watts 103rd Band landed a deal with Warner Bros. Records, becoming the first R&B band to sign with them. They released a debut album in 1967. Technically self-titled, the album has also come to be called Hot Heat & Sweet Groove after a sub-title found on the back cover. “Spreadin’ Honey” was included on this album, per Warner Bros. insistence, even though none of the players on the album, except for Wright, had actually played on the “Spreadin’ Honey” single.

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  1. This is great Rob. Charles Wright hung out in my neck of the woods and I hung out in his (Clarksdale, Mississippi). I use to drive from Memphis to Clarksdale to get my “shine.” Actually it came from a bedroom community called Bobo. Shine was so smooth you could serve it at communion. Came in a 1 gallon Purex bottle.


    1. Thank you again Mr.Tucker. as always You always have great contributions and a few anecdotes to pass along to the folks just listening or looking. just thinking about the bleach bottle… Might make things whiter and netter than bleach. last time i dranked some “shine” was 1978, I had to drink it with “Branch Water” to soothe it a little.


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