M-U-1 and Clayton Gittens

Left -Right Vincent drums, Leslie vocals, Clay Keyboards, Kristina (my sister) vocals, Lance hanging out, and me, bass. 1979.

In 1977, I transferred from Baldwin high school in NYC to Cardozo high school in Queens. The bus ride and three subways to and from Manhattan had taken a toll on me.

I just wanted to be in the same high school as my big brother! Once in Cardozo, my brother introduced me to one of his friends. A musician, his name was Stanley. Stan and I talked about music and I told him I was a bass player. I laugh when I think back on that because I had only been playing bass for all of one month!

Stanley introduced me to two brothers, the Byfileds, John, and Vincent. Vinney played drums and John played guitar. John told me he was starting a band and needed a bass player. He asked me to come down and play. Excited out of my mind. I could not wait for the weekend to come. This was to be my first band ever!

We did one jam session at Stanley's house. There was another bass player there as well. His name was Laine. He was older than I and a better bass player.

After a few months. John realizing the band needed a keyboard player. Reached out to his childhood friend Clayton Gittens. Johnny, Vinney, and Clay lived on the same block in Hollis Queens. I lived about a mile away in Springfield Gardens Queens. The next jam session would be in Clay's living room. It would also be the first day he and I meet, we were15yrs old.

The four of us would become the core rhythm section of the band. And we'd call ourselves "M-U-1." Multiple Unit as One! The next step was to find singers. Influenced by a new "hot" band on the music scene, Chic, we wanted to be like them. We thought having two female singers would give us a Chic sound. I grabbed my sister Kristina and her friend Leslie.

Over the next two to three years. M-U-1 would learn from each other disagree, argue and grow as a band and as musicians. It was an experimental testing ground for us to learn how to play in a band, write songs and become good musicians.

However, for me, it was more. I've always been observant. I would always watch Clay. Once his parents purchased his Farfisa organ, he was on a mission. Like me, he wanted to learn! Clayton would become the first person to influence me as a musician.

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Honoring: James Ingram

I think I've lost count on the number of artists that have died. In the middle of recording this episode back in January. My brother Anthony sent me a text telling me that R&B singer James Ingram had just died! The news caught Clayton and me by surprise.

James was an outstanding singer and songwriter. Discovered by Quincy Jones. He first appeared on The Dude album. His first two ballads from that album were "100 ways" and "Just Once."

As his career grew. James began writing and collaborating with artists like Patty Austin on their song "Come to Me," Linda Ronstadt "Somewhere out There" Michael Jackson's PYT, Pretty Young Thing," and with Michael McDonald on the song "Yah Mo Be There"

One of the major highlights in his career was singing on "We are the world." His soulful improve added heart and soul to the song that would raise millions for Africa!

James, you are already missed! Give Michael, Teddy, Barry Jimi, Marvin and Prince a high five for me. Damn!


Featured Artist: Mandre

One day Clayton comes to a band rehearsal and says, "Hey guys, I have a new song I want us to do!" I was excited. Little did I know he wanted to play a futuristic, far out funky, Coolio, funriffic, wrapped up in outer-space star wars type song, LOL!

The song is called "Solar Flight." It's a mixture of classical, funk, jazz, electronica, synth opus type tune. I didn't want to learn or play the song.
I felt it was too hard for me. Initially, it took Clay and Johnny to teach me the song note for note, change by change. John would show me the fingering on his guitar and Clay would play the chords on his organ.

Hour, after hour, they nailed the song into my head! Until I could play it from beginning to end with few mistakes. Over time. I was able to play the song with no mistakes. But it wasn't until Clayton played the record for me that I made all of the musical connections.

Solar Flight has become a classic in music. It was an innovative song of its time. I recently found out and was shocked to learn that Mandre, the artist who wrote and performed Solar Flight was signed to Motown records! I never knew that because the day Clay played the song for me. I never saw the actual record! You know, the old wooden home stereo players.

This new information speaks volumes for Motown back in the 1970s. And for Mandre signing to Motown. It's to my understanding that he was originally a major part of an R&B funk group called Maxayn. That band was signed to Motown.

Mandre died in 2012 at the age of 64. His contribution to music has been awesome. He was a major influence to the Roger "Linn Drum" machine. He was also given synths prior to them hitting the market. He would throw gear parties that artists like Stanley Clarke would go to to see the latest gear before they hit the stores.

History continues to amaze me!


Featured Artist: Sun

Sun is one of those groups that never truly made it to prime time. Still, their music was good. Light of the Universe was another song Clayton brought to the band. Upbeat, light, inspirational and just fun to play.

I don't wanna get too deep here. Take a listen to the song and you'll get what I mean


Related Song: What's on Your Mind