Prior to sporting his infamous Magical Jazzy Ponytail, Charles Johnson sported a Magical Jazzy Afro in order to blend in with the Stanley Clarke / George Duke jazz fusion band. It didn’t fool anyone. Besides that, Clarke and Duke were both talented and should have been embarrassed playing this mindless noodling garbage in the first place.
Maybe that’s why they hired Charles…
On occasion, the blogger we love to mock reminisces about his glory days as a Jazz Guitarist. He brags on Twitter about playing on one of Stanley Clarke’s albums.
OK, I’m slightly biased because I played on this one. Still a great illustration.
— Charles Johnson (@Green_Footballs) December 24, 2015
This is the same Stanley Clarke who did not invite Charles to play on the George Duke tribute album.
Al Jarreau just released new album a month ago, and considering that it’s a tribute to the late George Duke, I was kind of surprised that I don’t recall hearing a peep about it from someone who used to play for both those guys.
I mean, it’s doing well:
Maybe this has something to do with the silence:
Al Jarreau got his start playing in a jazz trio led by pianist/keyboardist George Duke, so it is fitting that Jarreau pays tribute to Duke, who passed away in 2013, on his 2014 album My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke. It was while working as a vocal rehab counselor at a hospital in San Francisco in the late ’60s that Jarreau began singing with Duke’s trio. It was also due in part to the popularity of these early performances that both musicians’ storied solo careers were launched. On My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke, Jarreau delves into a batch of Duke compositions with a select group of guest artists, many of whom also had connections to Duke. Joining Jarreau here are such luminaries as Gerald Albright, Lalah Hathaway, Jeffrey Osborne, Dianne Reeves, and others. Similarly, backing Jarreau at various times is a superb ensemble of musicians including bassist Stanley Clarke (who also produced the album), keyboardists John Beasley and Patrice Rushen, guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr., and drummer John “J.R.” Robinson. In fact, Duke himself makes an appearance here via the wonders of modern technology on the languidly romantic “Bring Me Joy.” Elsewhere, Jarreau turns his sonorous, joyful voice to such Duke songs as “Sweet Baby,” “No Rhyme, No Reason,” “You Touch My Brain,” and more. Ultimately, My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke is a heartfelt tribute album that, as with many of Jarreau and Duke’s previous albums, feels fresh, warm, and full of love.
And by this I’m saying that in the cornucopia of “select” and “superb” jazziness and swinging ponytails that coalesced at these recording sessions, there’s no mention of Icarus. Was he asked?
A nervous young white boy somehow made the cut to play funk rhythm guitar in George Duke’s band in the late 70s. Were there racial overtones in the session? Yes. Were the band members racist? Doubt it. The impromptu lineup includes:
George Duke – keyboards, vocals
Leon ‘Ndugu’ Chancler – drums
Sheila E – drums/percussion
Charles ‘Icarus’ Johnson – guitar
Vocalists – unconfirmed
George Duke narrating: “I would not have attempted this song without the soul members of the band.”
GD to recording engineer: “Okay. Gary, you ready?”
LC: “Okay, it’s Howdy Doody Time, baby!”
[LC’s Drum intro]
GD to CJ: “C’mon, Barry!”
[Song stopped abruptly by LC]
GD: “Wait a minute, I think we oughta change the guitar lick – a little bit. Whaddya think. [laughter] Heheh, Yeah? Naw it ain’t nothin’, ain’t nothin’. Who you playin’? Wait a minute, Barry, who you playin’?”
CJ: “I’m playin’ like a…”
[Charles plays new lick]
LC: “Goin’ surfin’ baby! Here we go!”
GD: “What about another lick. Try out something else. You wanna try it with me? Try it before we get back in the band. Okay, one, two, three, four…”
I found the video clip amusing (Funk 101 lesson happens in the first couple of minutes).
[Update: Original link was deleted, so Jump to 00:02:50]
At 05:00 Charles eyeballs the camera, then photobombs a group shot:
Charles, were it not for you claiming to be a close friend of the late George Duke, it’s doubful that we’d have bothered much about it, but since you did, you owe your fans some stories. Did they let you ride in the same bus? Did you get to drive it? Did you hit on Sheila E? Is that why you got the boot? Or were there too many little green speedballs involved?
Inquiring minds don’t give a crap either way, so you might as well fess up.
Seems that The Big Boy got a tad humpy with our earlier posts regarding his questionable affiliation with the late George Duke (posted here and here). Everyone knows that Charles Johnson doesn’t read here, yet after we commented about his faux obituary for George Duke (on Twitter!?) and posted links to Duke’s own words, it appears we hit a nerve.
Johnson, once touted for his photographic brilliance and knowledge of the balance of subject and lighting (remember when Charles captured the famous and awesome “Tanker On The Horizon” photo?) posted this simple request:
Word of advice, Charles. Quit making up stories that dead men can’t refute.
UPDATED: Related posts:
This is an update/continuation of the previous thread, RIP George Duke.
Although there is no doubt that Charles was once hired by the late George Duke, performed and recorded with him, Johnson’s claim that he co-wrote Duke’s 1977 hit jam “Reach For It” has no credibility via either ASCAP, BMI. However, the intrepid Zeus Crankypants noted:
Even the 45rpm Epic Records label has no mention of Johnson, only Duke, but we discovered a bit more. Here is the front and back cover of Duke’s album “Reach For It.”
(Click for larger images.)
The small liner notes read: “All selections composed and arranged by George Duke except […] Reach For It by Duke, Miller Chancler” and our boy. Here’s a slightly enhanced blow up. (Note that the original Epic Records recordings were bought up and re-released by Sony Music.)
In the earlier post we stated:
“Nowhere in Duke’s own description or in any discography is the name Charles “Icarus” Johnson mentioned as “co-writer” of “Reach For It.”
That statement still stands.
UPDATED: Related posts:
RIP George Duke, 1946-2013
He was a great musician and producer with a long history of success in the music industry. He was a jazz/funk/soul classic, and his collaborative efforts were amazing.
With Duke’s passing, Charles Johnson gave recognition, and properly so. Duke hired him on as a sideman, and Charles was in the spotlight as a guitar player for a while in the late 70s. Yet even with Duke’s passing, Charles made it about himself with a “He was my best friend” tweet.
Nice enough, but let’s be honest. Since 2001, Charles has only mentioned George Duke in passing, and only when a lizard asked him about his musical career. One could argue that Charles is humble and shy about his musical accomplishments, but anyone who’s followed Charles over the years knows that that’s not possible. He brags about everyone and everything – including things he had nothing to do with – except for his once promising career as a jazz fusion session guitarist. On that he’s relatively silent.
Prior to George Duke’s passing, Charles mentioned him fewer than a dozen times on Little Green Footballs since 2001. (In comparison, he’s mentioned David Duke almost 100. Go figger.) Okay, we’re drifting from the point a bit.
Jumping into the BRC’s Deep Freeze Chamber, we found a few strawberries regarding George Duke, and here are the pertinent ones, (recreated verbatim via
The Nil Stooge Replic-O-Graph):
Let’s pause for a moment. It was Charles’ first time in a recording studio, and the track was “epic” because he played on it. Okay, let’s continue.
Pause again. Charles says it was Duke’s best lineup because Charles was in it. Next.
Charles Johnson has NO gold or platinum records to his name. True, he played during recording sessions for others’ records that went gold and platinum, but as for his claim to co-authorship of one of George Duke’s biggest hits? Woof. He hadn’t even been invited to a garden party when that went down. (If you haven’t yet listened to Duke’s cool funk jam at the top of this post, listen to it now.)
“Reach For It” became the hit from this record. It broke out of Washington DC and Detroit before the rest of the nation. We were on tour when the record hit, and were amazed at seeing the record moving to the top of the R&B chart.
The tune came about as a result of a gig at The Cellar Door in Washington DC. Ndugu had played a drum solo, and started playing this beat. I began to play this bass line and motioned for Byron Miller to play a solo. The audience went completely nuts. I knew that we had something!
Back in Los Angeles when we were in the studio recording (I waited until after dinner and wine), I asked the band if they remembered that groove we had come up with at the club in DC. They said they did, so we recorded it. —George Duke
Nowhere in Duke’s own description or in any discography is the name Charles “Icarus” Johnson mentioned as “co-writer” of “Reach For It.” No surprise, eh?
As an aside, while we were compiling research for The Ruse And Fail Series, we contacted as many people as we could think of and asked for anecdotes about Charles Johnson, with no leading questions or innuendo. Many responded with benign stories and gave similar descriptions: he was odd, quietly nervous, uncomfortable. (Only one called him “fuckface.”) Yet no one in the music industry, including Al Jarreau, Stanley Jordan, Billy Cobham and George Duke, even acknowledged Charles Johnson’s existence. Just as Johnson is mostly silent about his musical past, so is everyone else who hired him.
[By 1979] Charles Johnson had left the band (after I gave him money to help buy a Volkswagen I might add) and I began using Roland Bautista on guitar, who eventually took Al McKay’s place with Earth, Wind & Fire. —George Duke
We need not speculate further, but who cares. The guy is a narcissistic ego-dick who can play guitar and annoy the hell out of everyone who tries to help at the same time. That’s just a guess on my part.
Irish Rose’ classic suckup (Comment #149 above) was a bizarre interpolation of Charles’ Comment #147, presented here in its original form.
Heh. Carlos Dangler. Heheheheh.