American Top 40 PastBlast, 12/11/76: The Bar-Kays, “Shake Your Rump to the Funk”

One of AT40‘s many charms for me when I began listening in 1976 was Casey Kasem’s storytelling. I know now that he (or maybe more accurately, his staff) didn’t always get the facts straight. However, I was both a sucker and a sponge for what he dished out, and I didn’t mind relaying what I learned (?) from the show on to anyone who would listen, be they family members, classmates, etc. Forty-plus years will make one forget far more than what has been retained, but occasionally something pops up on these re-broadcasts that I remember hearing way back when.

Such is the case on this weekend’s 70s show, two weekends before Christmas 1976, right before the #32 song is spun. Casey noted that nine years ago this very week, Otis Redding and most of the members of the Bar-Kays–his back-up band–were killed when Redding’s small plane crashed into Lake Monona as it sought to land in bad weather at the Madison, WI airport. The only survivor was Bar-Kay trumpeter Ben Cauley (Casey mistakenly says his last name is Curley, I’m guessing due to bad transcription somewhere along the way). Another member of the band, bassist James Alexander, had stayed behind to take a later flight in part due to lack of space on the plane. Kasem then relayed that not long after the tragedy, Alexander assembled a new version of the Bar-Kays, and years of hard work were paying off as they returned to the charts with “Shake Your Rump to the Funk.”

The AT40 crew and Wikipedia are at odds about one detail: Casey says that Cauley didn’t take part in the re-constituted group, while that crowd-sourced compendium of knowledge claims he remained a Bar-Kay until 1971. Regardless, Cauley continued playing trumpet, including as a session musician (despite health issues along the way), until his death in 2015. I surmise that’s he we’re hearing prominently on their crazy good 1967 #17 instrumental hit “Soul Finger.”

It’s certainly strong enough to have charted on its own, but I did wonder at the time if “Shake Your Rump to the Funk” (which topped out at #23 in January) got a boost because of its title’s more-than-passing similarity to that of a certain recent #1 hit from K.C. and the Sunshine Band.

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