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Sitting In The Park Maurice Jackson / Independents / Silk Interview

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Hi. Yesterday on my radio show I interviewed Maurice Jackson, solo artist and member of the Independents and Silk. Maurice grew up in Altgeld Gardens, the housing on the southern border of the Chicago. Maurice started singing at an early age in church and began taking voice lessons and singing in talent shows in high school. He even turned down an opportunity to sign with Capitol records, as his father discouraged him from singing secular music.

After leaving high school Maurice went to Reno, Nevada and on his first day there, Maurice happened to notice and sign up for a talent audition. When he finally got called up to sing Maurice sang "100 pounds of clay" and was sent home. Two weeks later Maurice got a call and found that he won the competition and that the audition was for a television program called "Break out". He initially started working television and then began to front a band called Maurice and the Mark IV. The band got a lot of work as they were a White band fronted by an African American vocalist so they were able to do a wide range of material and were able to cover R&B material such as James Brown, Otis Redding, and Wilson Pickett that was popular in the area at the time. The band even later changed their name to the Citations (solely due to the fact that "Maurice and the Mark IV" didn't fit on the Marquee for a specific show) and performed for about 5 years but never recorded.

Around 1969, the Checkmates recorded Maurice's first record, "Maybe", in Reno. Maurice left Reno and moved back to Chicago and met E Rodney Jones, who took the record to Weis records and released the record. Although the record had a really nice Chicago sound, the record did not get much play.

Maurice's followup record, "Lucky fellow", was produced by Emmett Gardner, arranged by Donny Hathaway, and backed by the Contributors of Soul. The record became Maurice's biggest solo record. The record was a huge hit in Chicago, having an all-time classic Chicago soul sound. It was released locally on the Candle-lite label and released nationally on the Lakeside label. Maurice even performed the song on the national Soul Train show show in California. Maurice released one more solo record recorded possibly at the same session (at least it was produced by the same people with the same backing singers) called "Step by step", released on the Plum label. The record did not receive much play, despite having a nice Chicago sound.

In the early 70s, Maurice was performing in Chicago with singer Helen Curry in the local club the Green Bunny. They formed a group with a singer named Ben Fernandez called Benjamin and Company and began performing in a club called the Pumpkin Room; the group performed fifth-dimension styled pop soul. After about a year, Benjamin and Company broke up and Maurice and Helen were performing on the same bill as separate artists. Chuck Jackson (brother of Jesse Jackson, no relation to the "Any day now" singer) and co-songwriter Marvin Yancy had recorded a demo (with Chuck singing lead) called "Just as long as you need me" and they came down to Maurice and Helen's practice to try to get a group together to release the track under. Maurice and Helen agreed to form a group with Chuck, named "The Independents" (based on the fact that they were all really independent artists), and signed with manager Eddie Thomas to Scepter / Wand records. Their first record, "Just as long as you need me" was actually just the demo record -- Chuck Jackson and Marvin Yancy -- backed by a third unknown female singer. The record was a hit, reaching number 8 on the Billboard R&B Charts. The Independents' subsequent recordings were Chuck Jackson, Maurice Jackson, and Helen Curry, occasionally with additional vocals by Marvin Yancy on record; however Yancy was not an official member of the group and did not tour with the group.

The Independents were an unusual group in that they released 8 singles and every single record they released charted in the billboard R&B charts. Their record "Leaving me" was a number 1 R&B hit. The group soon found that they needed a permanent fourth member to add the high parts that Yancy sang on record; the group added Eric Thomas (who they found via Jesse Jackson, as Thomas sang in the Operation Push Choir). The Independents toured Internationally and were successful; however, Maurice left in 1974 to join the Ministry and the group soon broke up.

In 1976, Maurice decided to get back into music. He formed a new group called Silk, with Eric Thomas (of the Independents) and Arthur Reid (also from the Operation Push Choir). The group got hooked up with a manager in New York who sent them to Al Bell and David Porter in Memphis to record. Silk released an album on New York's Prelude records in 1977, and the first single from the album, "Party" became a national hit. The record had an interesting southern disco sound, being produced by Stax producers but with a contemporary flavor. A follow up single from the record did not get any play. Prelude released a second LP on the group, recorded by Gene Barge in Chicago, but did not release any singles off the LP and it did not receieve any play. Silk soon broke up.

Jackson released one more single in 1980 on Sidney Thomas' Parrall / Parallel records -- "Don't Stop Saying you Love me" / "True love is you". The record had an excellent indie soul sound but received little play or distribution. Since then, Jackson went back to focus on his work in the ministry. He has recently began to work in music again, recording as "Maurice" with his daughters, and is currently releasing a second CD as "Maurice". You can check out the interview at the bottom of my interviews page at:




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