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Click below for a Bohannon sample:

South African Man

Bohannon's Beat

Me and the Gang

Let's Start II Dance Again

Hamilton Bohannon has an immediately recognizable sound that announces itself from the first strains of his songs: furiously riffing guitars, repetitive chants and pounding drum tracks that never, EVER, deviate from their established pattern.  Formula music to be sure (he once boasted he could cut an album a day if he wanted to), but it was a recipe for success on a string of dancefloor smashes that included the radio hits "Bohannon's Beat," "Let's Start the Dance," and "Foot Stompin' Music."

Bohannon got his big break when he was invited to join Stevie Wonder's band after a chance meeting in the 1960s.  After graduating from college, Bohannon took him up on the offer and stayed with Wonder long enough to be promoted to Motown's top bandleader, where he worked with all of their acts when they toured.

Leaving Motown to sign with Dakar, he scored with the conscious "South African Man" and "Save Our Souls," both fairly straightforward funk tunes.  As disco bubbled up from the underground, he began to craft his fast funk style, with tempos faster than your average funk but lacking the embellished arrangements that would qualify as out-and-out disco.  The ability of his longtime band members Rick Rouse, Ted Waterhouse, Lorenzo Brown and Nimrod Lumpkin to stay in the pocket was essential to making the formula work.

"Bohannon's Beat" was the initial experiment of this new sound: a ruthless groove track with throwaway vocals.  Once it hit, he knew he had found his niche and refused to alter it for hte next five years.

His records became club favorites because the monotonous groove had a sort of trance-inducing effect on dancers, and he kept his songs long enough for deejays to take a quick bathroom break before having to cue the next track.  The album titles told it all: Keep On Dancin', Dance Your Ass Off, Stop and Go.  

A switch to Mercury in the late 70s saw him make the radical decisions to add strings into the mix and boast the tempo even higher for cult classics "Bohannon's Disco Symphony" and "Andrea." Summertime Groove introduced the vocal stylings of Carolyn Crawford, providing a much needed point of emphasis away from Bohannon's slicked-back, neo-queen appearance.  The change was rewarded with the smash success of "Let's Start the Dance," one of the top tunes of 1978.

He spent the remainder of the decade churning our variations on previously explored themes and developing the solo career of Crawford, with mediocre results.  A shout-out from the Tom Tom Club on "Genius of Love" was indicative of the level of respect he had accrued in the dance community, but his current recordings failed to impress anyone but hardcore fans.  A remake of "Dance" featuring a rap brought him back to the charts in the early 1980s, but a third attempt was not the charm audiences were hoping for.

He spent the 80s resting happily in Atlanta with his family and past earnings (he wrote, arranged and produced all of his albums, maximizing his take of the proceedings) until a wave of sampling sparked renewed interest in his work. Compilations of his past glory were quickly assembled, and now most of his best moments are available on cd for all to enjoy.

Bohannon's Deepest Grooves

Stop and Go (Dakar, 1973)

Keep On Dancin' (Dakar, 1974)

Insides Out (Dakar, 1974)

Bohannon (Dakar, 1975)

Dance Your Ass Off (Dakar, 1976)

Phase 2 (Mercury, 1977)
Big label debut introduces strings into the mix.  If I'm not mistaken Ray Parker Jr. reunites with his old boss for a few cuts.

Summertime Groove (Mercury, 1978)
Features the original "Dance" and "Me and the Gang," ripped by Paul Johnson for "Get Get Down"

On My Way (Mercury, 1978)

Cut Loose (Mercury, 1979)

Goin' For Another One (Phase II, 1981)

Make Your Body Move (Compleat, 1983)

Best of Bohannon: Wicked and Smooth (Rhino, 1995)
Culls most of the notable singles for Bohannon throughout his career.   Like all compilations, there are crucial cuts omitted: "Zulu," "Save Our Souls," "Andrea."  But it's a good beginner's guide to the world of Hamilton Bohannon.

Copyright 2001 B.Graff.  All rights reserved.

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