By Jeff Niesel Cleveland Freetimes Published January 18th, 2006


PLENTY OF REISSUES SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY, but few have had such an impact as Tuff City’s recent re-release of Black Merda’s The Folks From Mother’s Mixer. A “psych-funk” classic from an underground scene that existed in the Midwest for a short time in the ’60s and early ’70s, it came out last year and generated a cover story in the Detroit Metro Times and reviews in Rolling Stone and England’s revered Mojo magazine. As a result, the Detroit act reformed earlier this year to play a “Warner Blast Show” in its hometown. Now it’s at work on a new disc and trying to book U.S. and European tours. Rapper Ja Rule recently sampled the tune “Lying,” and the band’s show at the Beachland Ballroom on January 21 will mark the first time it’s played outside of Detroit in about 30 years.

“We play the classic stuff because that’s what people want to hear and because most people have never seen us play as Black Merda,” promises bassist VC L. Veasey. “We throw in a few other tunes. We mainly try to give the people what they want.”
Originally session musicians who toured and recorded with Edwin Starr (famous for hits such as “Agent Double-O Soul,” “25 Miles” and “War”), the guys in Black Merda were just another R&B act until they saw a Jimi Hendrix performance. They grew Afros, adopted hippie attire and started playing a radical-sounding form of music that got dubbed “psych-funk.” They shared bills in the Midwest with funkmeisters Parliament, and issued their self-titled debut in 1967.
“We were mostly popular in the black clubs and amongst musicians,” Veasey says.
At one point, the Temptations were interested in working with the band.

“They were so impressed with the sound we were getting backing up Edwin [Starr] that [the Temptations’] Eddie Kendricks talked to us about doing something,” Veasey recalls. “When we got back to Detroit, we lived in the same neighborhood and he continued to talk to us.”

 The pairing never took place, but through Kendricks, the guys met a singer-songwriter named Fugi who shared their affinity for both soul and funk, and they backed him throughout his career, which included a stint on Chess Records.
Writing about oppression and fighting the powers that be, Black Merda’s mix of soul and funk has been recycled in various ways. You can hear traces in Public Enemy, Living Colour and even the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Does Veasey think his band’s had an influence on those acts?

“I couldn’t say. I’m sure some of those people are aware of the music,” he says. “The guy who wrote the Metro Times article named different hip-hop DJs who were familiar with the music.”
One thing’s for sure. The guys are still too out there to be considered an oldies act.
“We have a new CD and want to show people we still got it,” Veasey says. “We don’t want to be like one of those old bands who ride off their past laurels. We still got some fire.”