There’s four brothers and one sister, is that correct?
M: That’s absolutely right. How did the musical aspiration of the kids come about and in what order?
R: My dad was playing around in Pittsburgh with his own band, then as we got older I think the lightbulb clicked in his head that it’s a whole lot easier for me to feed these guys than pay some side musicians. I think that’s why we started playing music with him because he didn’t have to pay us. All he had to do was feed us, put some clothes on our backs and send us to school. I think that’s pretty much how we got involved. We’d always grown up with music in the house anyway, with all styles of music in the house. We just started playing all kinds of instruments and going out on their own. It was pretty easy actually.
Did Chuck and Irene buy you the musical instruments?
R: They did you know because when Les was younger the running joke in the house was that we’d got tired of eating lumpy cakes because he would pull cake cans out of the pantry and he’d beat on them with spoons and knifes until they were all dented up. We always used to say that we were eating lumpy cakes because of Les so they went out and bought him his own drum kit so that he could beat that up.
M: Jeff bought his guitar.
Do you remember what ages you were when you all performed together for the first time as a family group?
R: Pretty young.
M: I would have been eleven. Personally, I started playing at around aged four.
R: Actually before we started playing with our dad we were going around town setting up and playing wherever we could play.
What was the name of that French club?
M: The Hofbrau, in Canonsburg
R: We would just drag some acoustic instruments and we’d be the entertainment for the afternoon. There would be retired VFW guys and we’d just play music for them until we got tired of playing. As far as instruments coming into the house there was just always instruments in the house. I played the trombone when I was in fourth grade. That was my first instrument. In Pennsylvania, they give everybody a musical aptitude test in third grade and if you scored pretty good on the test you could pick an instrument and they’d introduce you to that instrument in your fourth grade so that you could get to play in the little school band. That’s pretty much how I got interested in playing instruments beside them being in the house all the time, twenty-four seven. We had everything set up with drums, bass, guitars and amps. You name it, we had it in the house. We could always play whatever we wanted to play.
Were you friendly with any other groups in Pennsylvania during those years?
M: Our cousin David had a group, but we never really got a chance to hear them perform much. There was Joe Williams. Our cousin Reggie played and I think that we did a couple of school dances together. I remember us performing at the school in our town. I think our cousin David had his band open or something like that. We knew of other singers in town because in fact our dad was taking artists into the studio to record them on four track or eight track sessions, like Maria Sacco.
R:…Phil Parry. He changed his name from Phil Lipary to Phil Parry. We didn’t have a whole lot of involvement with other groups in the area because we were always so busy doing our own thing and playing. Even as we got older, I personally know a lot more bands than I’ve heard only because we were so busy. The same times that they were playing we were playing so we very rarely got a chance to go out and see a band perform, but we knew them in passing pretty much on a daily basis.
Did you do any recordings as a family group in Pennsylvania?
R: We as a group didn’t actually record in Pennsylvania. Our dad recorded quite a bit there, but ourselves we didn’t until we went to New York and recorded for this producer that was interested in us called George Febo. Irene told me that the other day.
Who invited you to New York and what happened to those sessions?
M: I think that we got discovered when we were performing at the very first state lottery for Pennsylvania. I think somebody there saw us because it was shortly after that performance that our father informed us that we’d be performing in New York at the Lincoln Centre. Some of the information we were either disinterested because we were younger and we just wanted to play the music and we didn’t have that much to do with regards the business portion. We performed in New York City in three venues in addition to the Lincoln Centre which were Top of the Gate, the Bitter Inn and Greenwich Village. In those different shows we opened for Carole King and Bill Withers. We were the opening act for them. Then it came, which I think was late ’71 or early ’72, our father decided to pack the family up and go to California.
Was that a big culture clash for you then?
M: Absolutely we were small town, we had our cousins and friends in the neighbourhood. Back in those days people were a lot more neighbourly and came out. We had friends that would come out to play. That’s all that we knew in addition to the music it was just normal general living. In fact I personally had never had Mexican or Chinese food until we came to the West Coast. I think there was like one Asian family where we lived at and that we knew of. When we got out to the West Coast we had tacos and burritos, which were all new to us. Very new. Even seeing the melting pot of other ethnicity groups in one state or one city was a heightening experience for us as well.
When you moved to San Francisco did you stay in a motel for six months?
M: I think longer than six months, wouldn’t you say?
R: Probably M: We stayed in the Executive Motel.
R: Going to San Francisco was a complete accident because we were on our way home but our dad wanted to go via 80, which takes you across the Rockies because he wanted to see the mountains. When we drove out to California we came the southern route…
M: …Don’t forget that when we were in L.A. a lot of people were saying that you’ve got to go to San Francisco. People were telling us that “you’re going to like the people up there. They’re much nicer people up there.”
R: Our dad had always wanted to go to San Francisco. Whilst we were going home to Pennsylvania, he said we’d go through San Francisco and that’s as far as we got because when we got there we stayed. I remember the first three months that we stayed thinking was it ever going to be sunny there because there was so much fog. It was so foggy. I never envisioned San Francisco to be that foggy.
M: Not that we had that much back ground on San Francisco. The only information that we had on the West Coast was what we saw on the TV. R: For me personally California was a huge disappointment because growing up in Pennsylvania you learned its history. I’m sure that’s what happens in every other state, but when they touched on California, every picture I’d seen was of palm trees and oranges. Everybody had oranges in their back yard, and nobody had said anything about the smog. When we got to L.A. it was so thick that when you looked out on the horizon there was like a five foot patch of black smog. I remember that my eyes were so itchy from being in that smoggy weather. I was like where were all the oranges? I was seeing palm trees but they weren’t like the ones I’d been seeing in the history books. They way that it had been hyped up it was a huge let down for me personally.
M: That was how I felt about Disneyland. I was like what the heck??? This is Disneyland? When you went to the West Coast originally was that a working holiday or a family holiday?
R: It was a little bit of both. We originally came to California on vacation, but whilst we were there let’s see if we can sell some music. That’s what it was all about.
M: We also heard that California, Hollywood was the place to go. Our dad had a two-week vacation so we all drove out here.
R: When we stayed in L.A. one of our relatives ran a motel, like an apartment complex. That’s where we stayed because she offered one of the apartments to us to stay in whilst we were there. Three doors down from us were the Ohio Lakeside Express, who went on to become Lakeside. It wasn’t too much longer than that they’d had their first breakout hit. We were going back and forward to Barry Whites studio whilst recording for him m: “I’m going to make you a big star!”
M: He would have!
How did the Barry White hook up come about?
M: From my recollection, we were out driving. I’ve written about this in my book, so please correct me Ron if this doesn’t sound correct.
R: I don’t really remember.
M: I totally remember that we were driving on Sunset Boulevard or some street when we were just going past MGM Studios. A gentleman that used to sing with War was out picketing in front of MGM Studios going back and forth. He was holding a little picket sign. I can’t think of the gentleman’s name.
M: I think that it was Eric Burden. That’s exactly who it was. He was walking on the side walk in front of MGM Studios holding a picket sign and I think even his name was even on there. At the same time that we saw him picketing, I happened to look across to my left and saw this little white house. I saw this sign which was a big banner that had a white hand and a black hand shaking. It said Mo Soul Productions. I said “Look there’s a production place let’s stop there.” I remember that when I was in fourth grade we’d just got back to school after the summer break and the teacher asked the class “what did you want to be when you grow up?” At that time I raised my hand, she chose me and I said “I want to be a producer.” I didn’t know what a producer did. I just knew that my dad had a record shop with two record stores in town and we’d go there after school. I used to look at a lot of vinyl records and I’d turn the sleeves over to where there’s a lot of writing. I got really involved in all these album covers. The one thing I noticed on every album was that there was a produced by name. I was like wow produced by producers, that’s what I want to be. So when I saw the Mo Soul Production, that stood out for me. I was like “Pops there’s a production studios. Let’s stop by there!” That’s when he made a u-turn and we pulled up to the place. Then we all jumped out and went up to the door. The interesting thing is that the door opened up and there’s this rather large male and he had a very deep voice. He said hello to us. I remember thinking wow I know this voice from somewhere! Where do I know this voice from? When he offered us to come inside of his office there was my answer because plastered all over the walls were promos and posters for Love Unlimited. I remember the name of that song ‘Walking in the Rain with the One I Love’ because that was one of the songs that was hot at the time in our store because we were selling it. So, I put it together when I saw the title that he must be the one talking on the telephone and that’s who it was.
R: Barry White M: The interesting thing was that whilst we were talking with Barry one of us said “we have all of our musical equipment outside in the van.” He was like “bring it in because I want to see and hear what you guys sound like.” We set up our musical equipment right inside his office and we auditioned right there. We just played our music.
R: We played ‘Gotta Make It Funky.’
M: He loved us right away. After that we went back to our motel, but it was only a matter of a couple of days before he asked us to go into a studio. He took us into Rainbo Studios, with no W on the end. I cannot for the life of me remember what we recorded. We recorded cuts, demo cuts. He never released anything and he never gave us a playback copy to listen to or anything. We never got any of the music from that session. I remember that eventually Barry offered a production contract to my father and we as youngsters because we were excited because we were going to have a contract deal and see some action on the charts whilst having recordings out there with a super producer because he’d had a certified hit album with Love Unlimited. Little did we know that he was actually recording music for himself to release as a solo artist because he was not yet a known artist.
Did he produce you in the studio or was it somebody else?
M: It was Barry. He produced us. I just don’t remember the songs.
R: The same as me. I don’t remember the songs either. M: It’s a shame because trying to find Glodean his wife is like trying to find one specific rice grain amongst a million other rice grains. She’s difficult to find. The reason I say that is that there’s a possibility that she might have access to those tapes. I would imagine that somebody like Barry white would have archived all the tapes that he ever did.
M: You would think so or if not he’d have somebody doing it for him.
You ended up in San Francisco did you start playing live quite quick?
M: Yes, we did some shows on Broadway at the 7 Divinities Club. We opened up for the Intruders.
R: We did some radio shows KBLX, KFRC and KSOL.
M: Exactly such as KSOL. We even did parties. Not long after that, maybe two years later, our father decided that he’d been booking us at the time across the San Francisco general area, but eventually the bookings started to peter out for him, so he told us that there weren’t any more gigs.
R: so we fired him! (Laughter)
M: We love you pops but we’re going to carry on. We stayed as the Edwards Generation for a period of time all the way up until the point I left.
What year was what Myron?
M: That would have been 1984.
R: After we came back from Japan. M: ….because I started with Stephanie Teel’s band in 84.
What year did you fire your father as a man?
M: We would have fired our dad around ‘78 or ’79. We carried on for years with the four brothers playing the same material. We were doing mostly covers at that point which was kind of amazing because we’d started out as an original band and then somehow we’d started playing covers which then became our identity more than the originals for a long time.
Do you remember recording your album?
M: Absolutely. We started recording that in 1974. There’s a whole section that we haven’t brought up so going back to 1971 or ’72 when we got out to San Francisco we’d eventually started performing live on the streets such as Market Street, which was downtown in the financial district. That didn’t last very long because the merchants started complaining that the music was too loud. Somebody called the San Francisco Police on us and they asked us to move. We had to pack up and move. In doing so the same time that we brought our equipment off the street and we drove all the way down to the end of Market Street down to Fishermans Wharf. That’s when we decided to strip away the amps and the guitars from our performances. So for eight years in the Wharf area we played with just acoustic drums, Les on drums, Ron had shakers and sometimes congas, our dad played the cowbell, whilst Jeff and I were dancers. It worked. It went on for eight years. We had fans from all over the place.
R: The thing that sticks out the most for me about that whole era was when we were in Korea and these school girls had a book from their school which had a picture of us in it in San Francisco. That’s how far we stretched. It was pretty amazing.
M: That’s where the title of the album originated from.
R: The cover is a picture from when we performed on the Mike Douglas Show. He was live in San Francisco that week. They had us on the show with Katherine Crosby and her son Harry. M: I think also her daughter Mary Crosby. Then Jim Neighbors was the host. R: That picture was directly from the Mike Douglas Show.
You recorded that album over a period of time rather than recording one block set of recordings. Is that right?
M: That’s pretty much how it happened because we were still writing songs too to complete the album. Our father was pretty much largely the producer of the album. He gave us some production roles too. He let us work our own songs out, but we weren’t credited on the album as producers. He let us work our own songs out. What happened was a lot of the time we would record our tracks and our dad would come back to over dub the guitar and sometimes he’d put a tambourine in. There was also songs that we all recorded together, with our dad, the four brothers and even our sister. That album is a combination of different studios because we recorded in two other studios on a four-track.
R: The Street Thang we did at home!
M: Yes, we did ‘I Got Something For You’ at home which had a (makes noise effect) sound in it.
Which was our father being technologically advanced using kitchen tools…
R: …using a spoon.
M: That’s the sound of a kitchen spoon going across the table with a microphone on, but it worked! We didn’t have a synthesizer at the time so you make your own effects. Was the album self-financed by Chuck and Irene? M: Pretty much, and also with a woman called Carol Barnett probably putting up some investment as well. Was the album distributed or was it something that you sold at local gigs? M: We did self-distribution of the album. He got it to the radio stations. He got that song ‘The Street Thang,’ which was the drum song from the album, on regular rotation on the biggest radio station at the time which was KSOL, which was originally owned by Sly Stone. R: and KDIA M: that was an AM station in Oakland, CA that played mainly RnB as a quote on quote black sound. KSOL was the same, with a lot of the hits of the time
R: that was an urban station. M: Distribution wise we’d get in the car with our father and driving out to the Fremont Hub. I did a lot of riding with him going across the bridge to the Sausalito side, Marin County – going to not only the radio stations but the record stops. Leaving a few albums in here on consignment. We got some in on Tower Records which was in the Bay area. We got them in Wherehouse Records. There was no national distribution. We weren’t connected to a distributor that way.
It’s become quite a revered album on the rare soul scene across the globe.
M: We probably discredited it in terms of the tones of the drums because we had one equalizer which I think was 24-band, which was silver and had two sides with the faders on. I think our dad had a spring reverb. Then we had a four track. The mixer was a tiny, maybe six-channel. That might have been a Realistic Radio Shack, if it wasn’t’ Pioneer at the time. That’s what we used to record the album. Chuck had an old Shure Dynamic that we used as the microphone. I remember that it had an on/off switch at the top, but I can’t remember the model. We used basic minimal equipment to record the album.
Some of the comments I’ve read recently that people love the raw drum sounds on the album. When we were recording it we were a little bit disappointed because we all thought that the album tone-wise wasn’t to the same standard of some of the albums that were being released at the same time by major artists. What we didn’t realize was that we were setting down our own standards. So, it’s good to read those kind of comments today.
Were you ever nearly signed by a major?
M: Basically, we had interest from Bruce Cohn Management, who was and still is the manager of the Doobie Brothers. That was a connection that basically came from when I approached him in an elevator whilst he was leaving MCA Records, who told us that “we’re sorry but our black music division has moved to New York.” That’s what we were told. There was Ron, Jeff, Les and myself standing inside the office of MCA Records. I’d seen two men walk out from behind the secretary and we’re standing there still talking to this lady where they walked on past us to an area, the lobby area before the elevator. We all had tapes on us with around 14 songs on, which is why we went to Los Angeles to shop the songs around. I had a feeling inside, which was I was feeling a bit nervous inside, but something kept saying approach them and go talk to them. Just do it. I was a little scared and a little shaky because I didn’t know what the outcome would be. I told my brothers that I’d be right back and just caught them at the elevator. I said “are you guys producers? That’s my brothers in there and we’re a musical group. Please take a listen to this.” I offered them a cassette and they took it. “I will!” That evening we got a phone call because we were staying in the Playa Del Ray, with a relative of one of the brother’s wife. We got a phone call from Bruce Cohn that evening saying that he’d listened to the tape and he loved the songs on there, especially a song that Les had written called ‘Wasn’t I Good Enough For You Girl.’ He said that this could be a big pop hit for you. He wanted us to meet up with him that evening in L.A. We agreed and he took us to a studio where he told us this is where we record the Doobie Brothers and a lot of other groups. He made his point and he offered us a management with a split publishing contract. That’s probably the closest we got. We worked with an indie label in New York, the Barry offer that our dad had turned down and then we had this offer from Bruce. I think our brother Jeff was speaking for us, but together when we spoke about the terms and about what we wanted to make per year. We may have been a little unrealistic, so he just scatted. So that one didn’t happen.
Did you ever think about releasing the songs yourself because you’ve got quite an arsenal of unreleased songs?
M: Oh yes! Oh yes! Those have always been future plans. I know from speaking for myself I’d never forgotten that we’d recorded all these songs. I may have forgotten some of the songs until I heard them again. I easily remembered them when I heard them because 30 or 35 years go by not having any activity with that material. I’m not going to remember everything. There’s a couple of projects that I’m working on, my family is aware of, I’d even got our dads consent before he passed away, of working on a project about the story of my father. Actually, it was going to include the family as well. I was planning on going back going through all these tape reels to find different songs that could be used in the soundtrack. I haven’t crossed that particular bridge yet for that project. I don’t know, Ron did you ever think about it?
R: Primarily we’d spent a lot of time working with other people rather than our own stuff. We’ve always had ideas and come together to record different songs that we had the intent of doing something with it. I think we spent a whole more energy in producing other people and other artists such as Brandon, TTPMC, Leroy and Francesca. We’ve always come together doing that stuff. We just like playing more so than recording almost.
M: We realized that to plan an album you also have to plan the point of what you do after you finish the album. What will you do? How will we market it? How will you promote it? Those are the things that our father had maybe not really planned, although he promoted and marketed the releases through his own devices. We all have studios with Logic and Pro Tools. We still have a 24-track one-inch player here, but we could write and record songs forever, but it’s easier to release now with all the new technologies such as CD Baby or whatever have you. It’s easier to get your music out to the world and they provide a portal for people to trust and put their credit card down to. It’s not as easy to sell your music on your own official website because even if you had trusted sources of protection on your site…
R: …That was one of the things that hampered us when we were younger is that our dad in his travels he became untrustworthy of people he had played so much and gotten so little with raw deals with deals not going the way that he’d wanted. He was clearly an emissary really. He became overprotected on us. You go back maybe 35 years and things could have been a whole lot different for us had he’d not been so protective and untrusting of certain people. That was one of the reasons why Barry white didn’t work out because Barry wanted to leave us with the only thing that we had which was the skin of our bodies. Everything else was his for five or seven years. There’s a lot of artists that have a name but they can barely make the rent. People know who they are, but they’re not getting anything out of their accomplishments. That’s one of the things that you hope for as an artist is that your vision that comes that people know who you are. When other people just want to take everything. It’s kind of hard for somebody to submit to that. For a long period of time you have to keep telling yourself that things are going to get better. Sometimes some of the deals are so exorbitant I can understand why our father turned down some of the deals. He was basically trying to protect us and our interest. We were like we’re not going to be superstars but we’ll continue being a family and play together. The songs that we’re working with for release, I said this to Irene the other day, that some of these songs are very high standard. In my opinion that would have had some recognition back when they were recorded if they’d been released in my opinion! It’s a shame that they didn’t get the exposure back in the day because it may have taken you through a different journey.
M: Around that time a lot of the songs were written when we were on tour in Europe, Norway, Scandinavia and then Japan. We wrote a lot of material out of the country so when we came back we started recording that material in other studios and our own home studios. I think because of the period in the 80s with a lot of new technologies coming through with the new synthesizers and the drum machines. Also, there were the portable recording studios. I think that we completely got absorbed with the freedom of the multi tracking of recordings on portable recording studios with one keyboard playing everything with bass, drums, strings, piano, guitar and horns. Then the hard disk recording came in and we got into computers. We got so wrapped up in writing, recording and mixing that we got totally sidetracked with stuff that we’d recorded from the early 80s and the 70s. That material was just avoided. We got so wrapped up in the new technology as many people did as well. There was a reason why we recorded all these songs. That reason was that we wanted to get the songs out to the public and make money from it too. That’s the part of the music business that a lot of musicians don’t really consider. I know this from experience because I’ve produced a lot of folks didn’t have a complete plan. They were able to be produced but after that who knows where they went. My point being is they never talked to me about the end product, a plan to turn this around and make money. At least get your investment back or make some money or get some gigs form them. That came from way later. It was write songs and record them. Even our dad would come to our homes to record material, but he had his own recording studio at home. He started coming to my house and Ron’s house with his guitar to do vocals. He’d bring some side musicians like a sax player. We’d record his material and again they’d just start doing this…. stacking, stacking, stacking. He did the do the album. He did this one CD album called ‘Back Again.’ Then he did a project called ‘Energy’ with another gentleman called Herb Franklin which was a CD single. The point I’m making is that we accumulated more material than we’d ever released. Then the gigging took over because for the thirty odd years my three brothers and I performed on stage constantly. Jeff was booking the band and we were booked every week. That cut into any kind of idea of releasing music. We kept talking about releasing our music along the way, we’d start writing, come up with projects but somehow a release would never come to fruition, it would never manifest. I said to Irene when I interviewed her was that to me it’s important that the one song that we’ve got that features your dad on vocals is the first single release.
How do you feel Chuck would feel about that?
M: I think he’d be very excited about that. Our dad was extremely talented and a very likeable person. The public enjoyed all of us. I think he’d be very well pleased with the decision to release it as a single. I remember hearing that song a couple of months ago for the first time when we were transferring the tapes in San Francisco because the engineer commented that it has a kind of Motown beat on there.