Johnny Talbot and De-Thangs – Pickin’ Cotton

Johnny Talbot

Pickin Cotton 45

Johnny Talbot & DeThangs – Pickin’ Cotton from the Jasman 45

It’s been a whirlwind weekend here at FMF headquarters, and although I posted a day early with a mix I did for DJ Blueprint over at This Is Tomorrow, I felt like I had to get a Monday review going. I wanted to do it, and despite my ever growing que of reviews (at more than 100+ as we speak, and that’s just the 45s), I rushed this record to the top of the pile. You see, this record has been a pursuit of mine for a while (a lazy one at that). When DJ Bluewater came over and told me he had a few records that were on my want list, I just couldn’t resist writing it up immediately. It may be a little overdone, and I know a bunch of the bigger blogs have featured something on it, but I haven’t, and damn it, this record needs to be heard again. So without further ado, let’s travel to Oakland, California via Texas, and get into Johnny Talbot and DeThangs with “Pickin’ Cotton” on Jasman Records.

Johnny Talbot was born in Texas and raised in the Bay area of California, to be more specifically, Oakland. While attending high school, he was involved in Doo-Wop bands, and like many musicians of the time, naturally graduated towards Soul, R & B, and in his case, Funk, as the times and tastes of music changed around him. He played guitar, and the bands he played in hit up the West Coast club and Bay area bar circuit. Eventually, Talbot went on to become the front man for De-Thangs, ( the name given because no one could think of a thing to call the outfit ), and lay down some very funky stuff, earning him the nickname: “The Father of Oakland Funk”. His turbo fueled mix of funky Texas style guitar and Rhythm Blues has inspired many Bay area artists including Tower of Power, and his bands backed up greats like Etta James and Marvin Gaye, plus other touring bands that came through town. Sort of like The Politicians from two weeks ago. This side was the first record put out on James Moore’s Jasman label, an Oakland based label that would go on to put out sides by Talbot and Sugar Pie DeSanto among others. He has gotten a bit of a resurgence in popularity since the 90’s, this time with a much younger crowd, from reissues by Ubiquity Records, courtesy of their Bay Area Funk compilations.

What drew me to the song itself initially, of course was the opening drum break ( which reminds me of the opening break of “Pretty Purdy” only slower ), but the heat did not stop there. The horn section kicked in, and Talbot and company really meant business. While Talbot has argued in interviews he is more Blues based than Jazz based when it comes to his style of Funk, I definitely believe him. The solid groove the rhythm section locks in is very bad ass. There is a great break down, with just congas, bass, and drums that will keep your head nodding until the song itself fades out. Seriously, if you can’t nod your head to this, check your pulse. I can understand why a guy like this was the king of the Oakland bar scene. His formula for his Oakland Funk sound when he breaks it down sounds really simple to me: “To be a Funk band, you have to have people in the band who are funky.” Spoken like a man who knows what the Funk is all about. I’ll be back midweek with another treat. Keep Diggin’!

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9 responses to “Johnny Talbot and De-Thangs – Pickin’ Cotton

  1. any Funk coming out of oakland in the mid to late 70’s was the shit. wait til i get a hold of the roger collins record, oh man. glad you dug it coop. i’ve been checking your blog as well. my father has an old rat rod, and i told him about your blog, he’s into it. cheers.

  2. i used to live across the street from johnny a couple of years ago, so we got to listen to them practicing every week (thursday, I think) from across the street.

    does anyone know when they’re playing next. still haven’t seen them at a show (I don’t go to hardly any).

  3. Does anyone have any info on an alternate pressing with a different version of “Pickin Cotton”. More uptempo and punchier. A-Side is not different. Looks Identical except for runoff #.

  4. i met Johnny when was 16; he was one of the veterans we used to always look up. he turned us on to a lot off good music and shows how to work like pros. i’ll always owe him part of my success in the music biz.

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