LUMBERTON — A group of musicians are rewinding back the tracks on Friday night and playing “old school Southern soul.”
Markus Davis, owner of Davis Entertainment, pauses his music to describe the genre.
“Southern soul tells a story — the music tells a story — and it relates to everyone’s lifestyle, whether it’s heartbreak or happiness,” he said. “Southern soul music captures the heart. If you listen to the music, it always tells a story and it might be something that’s been in your life or the life of someone you know.”
The music, which evolved from blues, country, early rock-and-roll, and gospel, will be performed by national and local artists at El Tenampa at 2381 Lackey St. on Friday at 8 p.m. The concert was originally scheduled in Fayetteville, but because of a conflict, and a Robeson County fan base, was moved to Lumberton. It will feature artists like Roy C., the Love Doctor, and Miles Jaye, as well as local artist, Disco Dynamite of Maxton and his famous “funk box.”
“It’s an instrument machine that you play beats on and now it’s all on computers, but back then it was just a little box that you hook up to the system,” Davis said. “People came from all over to see him play this machine. Wherever they heard he was going to be at, they went.”
Disco Dynamite, whose real name is Benjamin McCoy, is an import from New York who prefers the slowed-down tempo of a Maxton lifestyle. He calls himself the first professional player of the funk box, which is like the Atari of beat boxes. He says he has opened for names like Wilson Pickett who wrote “Mustang Sally” and “In the Midnight Hour.”
“I saw in Grand Central Station they had a lady playing named Chocolate and she was playing something like a drum box with a band and I looked at it and I seen it and I studied it,” said McCoy, his eyes smiling. “In fact, I didn’t start playing the funk box until I moved to Fayetteville. I got it from a man who ordered it for me. I took that box and mastered it and learned how to program it and everything.”
After 55 years of performing, McCoy’s show features him emerging from a casket while playing the instrument. He’s played big and small shows, and emceed at the Apollo Theater in New York. But his proudest achievement took place at a less likely venue.
From 1980 to 1982, McCoy played a free concert once a year at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women.
“They had 500 inmates from the A dorm, 500 from the B dorm, and the ladies were crying and carrying on. That was the best thing God could ever give me is to see that I could help somebody else,” McCoy said. “… I explained to them that anybody in here can be anything they want to be. No. 1: you have to put your mind to it. No. 2: You have to put your heart in it. And No. 3: You just say ‘I’m gonna do it.’”
That attitude has taken McCoy touring all along the east coast. On Friday night, he will continue his story at El Tenampa, paying tribute to music’s past and the feeling that only live instruments can evoke.
“When clubs book artists,” Davis said, “they usually come in and sing to a CD. They do three or four songs and then they’re gone. That doesn’t give the feeling to the audience that they’re looking for … . Any kind of music brings back memories but when you see it live, it just gives you that feeling that you got your money’s worth. To see that artist that you know and love to listen to all the time, to see it and feel it live, is just a great thing. It used to be like that back in the day.”
According to Davis, it will be that way again on Friday night. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. But whatever the price, McCoy says music is invaluable.
“Times are hard today. People ain’t got no money, people can’t go nowhere and if you take their music away from them … you might as well take their life. That’s the way I look at it. Because they need something to look back on. Music plays a big part in our lives.”