The Greyboy Allstars

The Greyboy Allstars

On the heels of highly successful reunion tour last year, The Greyboy Allstars met in the studio for the first time in a decade to make What Happened to Television?, which is also the group’s first collaboration with DJ Greyboy since their seminal 1995 debut, West Coast Boogaloo.

As on that album, which featured former James Brown musical director Fred Wesley, one hears on What Happened to Television? elements of the old-school funk and soul that have always preoccupied the band’s namesake DJ, who returns here as co-producer in addition to performing on a track.

It was as an extension of Greyboy’s weekly residency spinning records at San Diego’s now defunct Green Circle Bar that the Allstars first formed in 1993—a diversity of emerging independent musicians who coalesced around a scene-defining DJ and his unique ear for music. After a few years in which word of the group—and, soon, the Allstars themselves—made their way around the world, it became clear to Greyboy that he was not interested in the touring life. So, retaining his name and spirit, the band continued on without him, recording and performing together for several more years.

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What Happened to Television? reunites Greyboy with the band he and co-founder Karl Denson originally handpicked—Robert Walter (keyboards), Elgin Park (aka Mike Andrews; guitar, vocals), Chris Stillwell (bass, vocals) and Zak Najor (drums, percussion, vocals)—each of whom shared in the album’s songwriting responsibilities.

The album was recorded totally live, without the use of computers. What few edits were made were done by the old-fashioned technique of cutting tape by hand. Capturing the sounds when truly fresh was, in part, a nod to the spontaneous brilliance of the band’s shows. But it was more a case of the music simply feeling great to everyone right away that allowed the recording to begin—and be completed—so quickly.
Even for these now well-seasoned musicians, the catalytic force that seems to take hold when they collaborate with each other seems to pleasantly surprise them. Denson puts this accelerated pace of creation into perspective. “What we did in one week would take me two months to do of the same quality in any other situation,” he reasons.

Television consists of tight songs rather than endlessly repetitive grooves. “Still Waiting” possesses a raw urgency, while “Old School Cylons” is an homage to early rap jams and their funk antecedents. “How Glad I Am” hearkens back to the ‘40’s sass of the Andrews Sisters, but instead the vocals are provided by the current harmonies of the Living Sisters, a group comprised of Becky Stark, Eleni Mandell and Blue Note Records artist Inara George (daughter of the late Lowell George and member of The Bird and the Bee). The finale is a rousing cover of the Kings’ classic “Give the Drummer Some,” highlighting the band’s members individually and collectively. DJ Greyboy even gets some as well, repaying the accolades with lively cuts and scratches of vinyl records.

Elgin Park’s take on The Greyboy Allstars and their singular feel-good energy sums up a feeling shared by all of the band’s members when they take time out of their individually busy schedules to work together. “In this band I’m a completely different player than in almost any other circumstance,” he explains. Of reuniting in the studio he says, “It opened up a new world for me creatively.” It was really liberating to be in the room with so many talented people and just have a good time again.”