Interview and photo by Mike Stephenson took place in Jackson, Mississippi in October 2012. Many thanks go out to Peggy Brown for arranging the interview.
Let’s start with your early years:
I was born and raised in a small town in Arkansas called Biscoe, and I attended college in Northern Little Rock, Arkansas and then I became a singer. I had always wanted to be a singer; I had sung in college and when I was at school I wanted to be in entertainment, but back then there was two elements of financial support that was big amongst blacks and that was sport and music, so I chose music, but I think that music chose me also. It has been a good marriage, it has been wild and woolly, but that is what it is all about. After college I got married and had a family and then I went into music full time in 1976. Before that I had a band, and we did the local circuit, and when we decided to really go for it we moved to Champaign, Illinois and we formed a group there named The Allini Connection. And from there, in 1980, I left them to pursue a musical career of my own, and I was blessed to have a hit ‘Are You Leaving Me’ on my first album, which was called ‘Deep Inside My Soul’.
There were several songs on that album that were good, but there seems to be on most of my albums and CDs, there seems to be one song that is so strong and gets known. We had a band back then which was the Allini Connection and I was one of the lead singers and I tried to touch people’s soul with my singing. I was in many, many bands before I went out on my own. One was called Little Billy And The Famous Flames and another was called The Soul Invaders. We later found out that there was already a professional group called The Soul Invaders so that is why we went to Champaign, Illinois and changed our name to the Allini Connection. I was very fortunate to come up through a music era. Some people like the Hip Hop guys, they started at Hip Hop and they were not able to come through the musical era that I came through. When I was a kid listening to music there was no southern soul, there was no country, everybody was played on the same station, you could hear B.B. King and then Elvis Presley and then Fats Domino.
What happened for you after you had that hit record?
I changed record labels to Light Time Records and I had another major record called ‘Baby I’ve Been Missing You’ which came from that company and it did well, and from there I went to Avanti Records under the leadership of the late Johhnie Vincent. I had two albums on his label ‘I’m On My Way Back’ and ‘Going Public Again’ and then Mr. Vincent passed on. I recorded those albums here in Jackson, Mississippi. I have been blessed that whatever the modern technology there is, I have been able to capture that live sound. How I connected with Avanti is that Mr. Vincent called me one day and told me had sold his previous company and that he wanted to start another company and he asked me if I would come and help him. So I did, from the writing to the producing to answering the phones, selling the records, talking to different people. As a matter of fact, I had two names. I had my stage name and another name that I did the company business with, sort of wearing two hats.
I had some other songs that we were working on but never released. I was an arranger and producer for Mr. Vincent’s label. One in particular I helped with, the Ronnie Lovejoy big hit ‘Sho’ Wasn’t Me’ and I have a song on that album called ‘My Woman Got An APB Out On Me’. On a Tina Diamond CD, I have a song on there called ‘Casino Queen’, which could have been a big record. I have a song out there that Pat Brown has recorded called ‘If It’s Good For You It’s Good For Me’. On a Rue Davis CD I did a song with him, together, called ‘Love And Affection’. I was arranging and producing these artists when I was with Johnnie Vincent, as well as developing my own career. It’s a strange thing about a songwriter, at a point when you write and write, you begin to realise that you are never going to sing all of the stuff and it sounds good, so you seek other avenues and that’s where you start producing other acts to share your music. I was involved with Willie Clayton when he was with Avanti, although he was pretty much independent. Avanti came to an end when Mr. Vincent passed. Before all of this though I had had some independent releases like ‘Soul Of The Man’ and ‘Heart And Soul’, but I couldn’t get good distribution on those releases.
What did you do next?
I then did an album titled ‘I Just Came To Party’ or ‘I.J.C.O.T.P.’ and that was on the Hus La label and I recorded some of that at Avanti and some of it at Mobile, Alabama. There is a tune on there called ‘Tell It To The Judge’ and that was recorded in Mobile, and at that time I was trying to piece things together to stay out there in between deals, and we came up with a pretty good thing and people are still requesting that song.
Then you signed with Waldoxy?
One day Tommy Couch Jr from Malaco/ Waldoxy called me and we sat down and he and I, we felt that we were good for each other and they needed a hit record and I needed a company that could get a hit record out there. It’s been a nice marriage. I did that album ‘Here Kitty Kitty’ and I had a hit with a song off it called ‘Scat Cat, Here Kitty Kitty’ and it’s still getting major airplay right now and I don’t see an end to it. It’s one of those songs that is family orientated; if the baby hear it, all the way up to the grandparents, they can all relate to it in some form or fashion. WMPR the radio station would play that number every Friday and that helped it get big. I now have a CD that’s been on the table with Waldoxy for about three and a half years, it’s finished and they were going to release it, when the tornado blew them away. The day before the storm came, I recorded a song at their studios called ’Kat Daddy’ and I’m the last artist to have ever recorded a song at the great Malaco studios where others have stood like Bobby Bland, Little Milton, Latimore, Tyrone Davis, Johnnie Taylor, Denise LaSalle, Shirley Brown and others. I think they are going to so something with that CD.
Is that song ‘Kat Daddy’ a sequel to ‘Scat Cat, Here Kitty Kitty’?
No it’s totally different, but on my new CD that is in the can with them, there is a song on there called ‘Puppy Wuppy’ and that is sort of like a ‘Here Kitty Kitty’ thing and there is another song on there called ’Every Time My Neighbour Walks His Dog My Wife Has To Walk Her Cat’ and that’s another ‘Kitty Kitty’ thing. I’m still with Malaco/ Waldoxy and just waiting for them to get started again. Everything’s put on hold at present.
Can you name some of the other artists who have recorded your songs over the years?
I know there is one lady in St. Louis, Missouri and she has recorded ‘Scat Kat, Here Kitty Kitty’. I’m not sure of any other artists who have recorded the same songs of mine that I have done for myself. When I was at Avanti I was there to help the company as a whole and I was trying to give each artist a song.
Did I read that you have a son is starting to develop a musical career?
Yes, he is my son and his name is DeCarlos Bonds and he is with Hot Spot Records and they have a compilation CD out right now and, from what we know, it is doing well and he is starting to get a lot of calls for work. He is more southern soul/ r&b, as he is younger and he has a younger sound.
Are you out on the road a lot?
Considering ‘Scat Cat’ is six years old I am grateful for the work I get. I really need a new record to enhance my career and my work, but I was blessed to have a good record before that tornado strike. I have my own band. I have a show because, like I stated, I was blessed to come up through a music era when people weren’t just singing, they were showing out, so that is what I believe in. I believe that singing is good but I believe that people want to see a great show as well. I have had a natural way of entertaining, I can dance, I can sing fast and slow stuff, sort of well rounded. I’ve watched the Temptations and James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jackson Five, all of them showmen, so that’s where I get it from. I have a five piece band and sometimes I use three back up singers, sometimes two and sometimes one, depending on what the gig is.
What is your main working area?
I work Texas a lot, I work Alabama a whole lot and Arkansas and Mississippi and Louisiana. I used to do the Carolinas a lot in the past, but if you don’t have great management you miss a whole lot and I’ve never had that great management, I’ve always had to fend for myself. I have my own office, and other agents book me like Rogers and Redding Entertainment.