You’re not the oldest and you’re not the youngest!
That’s correct. I’m the third in the middle.
Your dad was a recording artist from the fifties!
The fifties, the sixties and even up until his passing, he was a recording artist.
Did it happen organically that you picked up instruments and play them?
Yes, I think that it was organically. We were always around our father who was playing an instrument. And primarily around the house there were always guitars because my dad was a guitar player. Seeing him play we were always intrigued to basically mimic what he did. It became quite natural to pick one up because the instruments were always around. That’s kind of how I got started. The guitar was there and I picked it up. It was a natural transition to go from just being kids to being musicians.
What age did you first pick up a guitar for the first time?
I think I picked up a guitar at a really early age, but my earliest recollections playing the guitar would be when I was probably around six years old and picking up my dad’s guitar. It may have had six strings or sometimes just two or three strings. I knew right away that it was something that made music. My dad bought me a guitar when I was probably around nine years old. It was an acoustic guitar. It was a couple of years after that when I got my first electric guitar and really started to learn my chords. My dad actually sat me down and started teaching me chords and chord structures. I would say that around about that time I was around twelve and up until that time I played by myself and probably learned one or two chords from other kids that I knew who could play guitar. It wasn’t until I was around thirteen that I actually started having some formal and informal training because it was at home, with my dad rather than being in a classroom. That’ why I’m saying formal informal.
When did you and the brothers start playing together?
The earliest that I remember us playing together it would have been probably around the same time that I got my first electric guitar. My brother Myron, Les and myself started a little band. There were a couple of other people in our town that we were close to that were also starting bands. We started playing together around the time that I was in middle school, eighth grade. Sometimes we’d have a little competition so the three of us got together as a band and there were other guys. I remember us doing a small gig at our school. That was kind of the first time that we actually started playing as a group. We performed as the Soul Impression. Then later we transitioned to actually playing as a group with our father because he was gigging all the time and teaching us to play at the same time. We’d graduated to a point to where he felt comfortable about doing a gig and having his sons as his backup band. That’s when we started performing with him as Chuck Edwards and thereafter as the Edwards Generation.
How was Irene involved back then?
She was the ringleader. She was our mother. She did everything that a mother would do. She wasn’t performing with us but she was basically overlooking everything that we did. She was there from the beginning to the end of us as sons but also musicians. She was the mother figure and also kind of like the manager figure for us. She didn’t manage my father’s business, music business, but she was definitely a mother that made sure that we were doing the right things, whilst looking over our activities as musicians in a band. We were quite young as you’d might expect.
At that point were you playing Chucks songs or cover versions?
We were doing a combination of both. We were gigging in the Pittsburgh area playing originals, not only Chuck’s originals but also we had a couple of our own original songs that we later recorded in New York City. We also did some cover stuff too. We were doing a lot of music at that time as well as pop and jazz standards.
Do you remember some of the other contemporary artists from Pittsburgh that you were friendly with?
At that time I don’t remember a lot of the groups that we were in competition with. I was probably between the ages of thirteen and sixteen years old at the time and I don’t remember there being a lot of competition. If I think about it we always got gigs through our father and I never viewed other groups as competition.
You went to New York to record. Do you remember what year that was?
That would have been in 1971.
Which was the year before you moved to San Francisco!
Do you remember what happened in New York because that would have been the first time that you’d have recorded in a studio?
I had been in recording studios before then, but not as a recording artist, just as a casual visitor when my dad recorded. I’d got to Gateway Studios in Pittsburgh during his sessions. New York City was the first time that I actually sat down in a professional studio to record. That was quite an experience. Thinking about it I was probably around 14 years old and It might have been 1970 that we actually went in there and recorded. We went to Broadway Studios in New York City and it was quite an experience. That was also the first time that we did a big show. We actually performed down in Greenwich Village at the Village Gate and that led to another performance at New York City’s Lincoln Center. That pretty much led to a recording contract with a label called Ghetto Records.
You released one single on Ghetto Records called ‘Someone Like You’ and ‘School Is In’!
My interpretation is that your father took the family on a road trip to the west coast?
We stopped in Los Angeles first and San Francisco happened afterwards. We left Pennsylvania on holiday. I never asked my dad what was in the back of his mind at the time. We went on holiday, but we also brought all our equipment. I think that it was in my dad’s mind set to go to Hollywood and if there was an opportunity that came up we could showcase our band at the same time.
Can you remember what the first opportunity was on that trip?
One of the first opportunities that we had in L.A. was a meeting with Barry White. We had a chance to do a showcase in Barry’s office. Barry liked the family group and told us that he wanted to take us into the studio to record us. After we did some recordings Barry offered us a recording contract which we didn’t sign, but there was definitely big interest at the time from Barry.
Do you remember when your parents said “this is it we’re moving from Pittsburgh to San Francisco?”
I don’t actually remember them saying that this is it. It was purely days became weeks and weeks became months, so I was still in high school. My first thoughts were, are we ever going to go home because we’ve been here now for three months and we’ve got to go back to school? I think that those months started passing and it was like school started, now we’re late. It ended up with my mom
saying that “I’ve got to get you guys into school. I’m going to put you in school here in California because I’m not sure if we’re going back or not.” She ended up putting us into school and it ended up basically being a relocation vacation.
My understanding is that the name for the album came because you became a street act?
We started performing on the streets of San Francisco and at that time a very feasible way of making money as long as you had a good act. Being a street artist wasn’t as regulated back then as it is probably today. Pretty much anybody who could play an instrument could set up anywhere. We never needed to have a permit or anything. We ended up in Fisherman’s Wharf and became very very popular on the streets of San Francisco. That led to the album ‘The Street Thang,’ which was named because the songs that we performed were very rhythmic and percussion based. These were very close to the type of songs that we performed on the street.
Do you remember how the album was sold because there was no distribution on it from what I was told?
My dad was very keen about getting things distributed. He put albums in the stores on consignment. He would go around to the stores and leave five or ten copies in a store. He was very knowledgeable about distribution because he had record labels when he was in Pittsburgh, back east. He did very well to place records strategically around the city.
Do you remember some of the other acts that you played with back then?
I remember opening up a show for War. I remember doing a show with The Intruders. Later we opened up for ConFunkShun, who are still a very popular group. We did some big shows with the Black Expo much later on with artists like Hammer, who was big then, BeBe and CeCe Winans. I want to say that Ralph Tresvant was on that show. I don’t know whether you’ve heard of Black expo but it’s kind of a big festival, which was at the LA Convention Centre.
Were Lakeside your neighbours?
When we first got to California our first stop was Los Angeles and we had a cousin who was living down there in an apartment complex. The actual address was 3939 Nicolet. Lakeside had just moved out to California from Ohio and we didn’t know who they were but we knew that they were musicians. We kind of met one day in the apartment complex and talked to the guys, “we’re from the east coast too. We’re musicians.” I believe at that time they called themselves the Ohio Lakeside Express before changing it to just Lakeside. One of the guys from the group that I can remember was Steven Shockley and I’ve run into him on a few different occasions. Even to today we’re now friends on Facebook, they were one of the groups that we first met when we moved to the West Coast.
Do you remember when your father and your brothers went separate ways?
It happened around 1981. We were kind of moving in a different direction. My dad was still playing the music he played like the standards and some cover tunes. We wanted to do more of the contemporary top forty music and play in places where there was a younger crowd, a dancing type place. We just wanted to move in a different direction. We thought that it was maybe kind of time to do something different.
The one thing that you did do really well was that you recorded a lot of your songs, which is great because we’re releasing them in 2019 together, on tapes. My understanding is that you all had little home studio set-ups.
My dad always had some sort of recording gear from the time that I remember. I remember during Woodstock he had a Webcor reel to reel because my older brother Ron was taping stuff from Woodstock live like Jimi Hendrix, the Chamber Brothers and many others. Before we left for California my father had bought a TEAC four track deck. He always was into recording and he had a vision where he could do things for himself to have more control over everything. That led to us doing a lot of recording at home
because our studio was in the garage or in a room that he built. He always believed in being able to record when he wanted to record and not have to worry about the costs. We did sessions in studios, but his whole idea was to become autonomous and have his own operation. He instilled that into us and that led us into buying portastudios where we could always record demos to work on our music. To this day all of us have digital recordings set up at home.
Is there any reason why you didn’t release any of the songs?
I think that during that time a lot of stuff was pretty much under my dad’s control and direction. We released as much as we could or that he thought was ready for release, but as you know when you usually go into record you always tend to record a lot more than you intend on releasing. It’s not uncommon to find unpublished or unreleased songs by artists because you’d record and just release certain songs.
At that point in the eighties you came over to Europe and Japan to play, do you remember how those happened?
We were performing together as the Edwards Generation at that time and had booking agents in the San Francisco area that were booking us for gigs. I was pretty much doing the management of the group at the time. Agents would call me and say “hey we need bands to go to Japan or we have buyers for a tour of Europe.” The agents would bring these buyers to an audition or to a night club where we were performing. That’s how those tours happened. We also had buyers coming down from Canada to see us and said “we’d like to put you in Europe, in Norway and Switzerland.” That’s how it happened.
Was that the first time that you came over to Europe?
The very first time that I came over to Europe was back in 1983 when we came over to play mainly in Oslo, Norway, and Zurich, Switzerland but we also did gigs in Germany at a couple of Canadian army bases.
Did you ever get interested in relocating to Europe?
I did and always think about it every time I come to Europe. I could stay here, but it’s never materialized because whenever we get back home we start gigging again. After our first tour in Japan the band went back for a second time.
My interpretation is that the band never really split up, what have you been doing as a solo artist?
I was always involved in writing material that was not destined for the group consideration. It was more personal things that I like to play, I was always gigging in an RnB Top Forty type cover band or original act, but a lot of my interest is for, lack of a better term “smooth jazz”. I had started writing songs back in the eighties and always wanted to release something. It wasn’t until last year that I put together my first CD and that it was time for me to do some of my own solo music. That led to my CD album ‘Late Night Romance,’ which has started to get a lot of attention in the UK, Italy, France and the US. Recently I released a single called ‘Cruisin’ and that’s doing very well. The reason that I’m in the UK now is to promote Jeff Edwins.
You’ve just come over to the UK to follow family friend George Benson. How long have you known George for?
My earliest recollection of George goes back to 1972. I can remember him coming to our house shortly before we moved to California. He obviously had had a much longer relationship with my father with both coming from Pittsburgh. Then when we came up to San Francisco my dad would always go up to the venues where George was performing at to see George. We were too young to go in so George would often come out to the car to say hello to us. Often he would come to our house after his concerts and spend time with the family.