About 4 years ago, I realized I had a few different versions of the Bob and Earl classic “Harlem Shuffle”. You know Hip Hop heads, the horns at the beginning of the House of Pain’s anthem “Jump Around”. I had that version, a cover by the Traits, and a third by a band called the Nite-Liters. Now it wasn’t Harvey Fuqua’s “Afro-Strut” Nite-Liters, it was a garage band doing a really upbeat, rough version of the tune. I couldn’t find anything about this group at all. I knew it was some private press record, but a few e-mail messages from people let me know that they were a band out of Virginia, and that was it. That was, until last night, when I got an e-mail from Steve Keith, guitarist from the Nite-Liters.
Here’s his history of the band according to Steve Keith:
Harlem Shuffle recording session, Steve
” The band started out in 1962 with two 13 year olds, Harrell baker and me, playing Harmony Rocket guitars at local teen centers. We added a drummer and became known as “Johnny House Junior and the Two Commodes. I’m not sure which was Johnny. LOL. The name was changed to the “Nite-Liters” by our Eighth grade music teacher for a talent show in 1963. A bass player, Donny Falk, and Keys, Joe Fromal, soon followed. Due to poor school work the drummer was replaced by Bobby Schnell. The Nite-Liters were a true garage band. Our practice areas w ere Donny’s garage, Bobby’s parents living room or my parents house. Man, what our parents tolerated. We played a number of local gigs at schools and community centers. By 1965 we were well known in the area. Joe suggested adding horns to capture the soul music movement and since Harrell also played sax, this worked out well for us. George Rest and Danny Kelly brought their trumpets to the group. We played a rock set without horns, then a soul set. This was unique in our area. I also learned the steel guitar for added dimension to the band. 1966-67 was our hay day. We were in high demand at all the school proms, including our own, catholic and Jewish community centers and private parties. We opened for the Yardbirds, Animals and Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces. Included in the pictures is Jimmy Clanton playing my red Gibson SG. We backed him and the Dovells (Bristol Stomp fame) at a military concert at Fort Eustis, Va. The band was offered a touring contract with the Hulabaloo club chain in 1967 but we could make more money staying home. Most of us graduated HS in 1967 and went off to college or the military, thus the end of the band. As I told you ealier, Donny as well as Harrell continu in music, Donny in LA and Harrell in Hawaii. Both can be Googled. Joe also played in a series of bands after HS and college. All but Harrell got together for our 20th HS reunion in 1987 for a 80 minute concert. Our classmates went wild. In 1987 Bobby and I attempted to put together another version of the band. We played one wedding for a friend.”
1966 Harlem Shuffle recording session (Steve, Joe, Donny)
1987 reunion of the Nite Liters with two extra players
Announcement of Harlem Shuffle release in Hampton High School paper
“As for the record, we recorded in tracks in 1966 and pressed 250 copies for sale. Those went fast so another 250 were produced. I still have a few of the unplayed copies. We also recorded 10 other tunes for an “album” which was never pressed, the master tapes dissappeared after we broke up in 1967.”
Jamison, we are all old guys now, in our 60’s. I saw where someone had sold a copy of the record on E-Bay. I would never imagined this some 44 years ago. I suppose we can all live on in our music.
Rock and Roll forever.
I love hearing from artists I have no info on, and I thank Mr. Steve Keith for bringing the real story of the Nite Liters to life here in 2011. Keep Diggin’!
In a weird coincidence, my man Larry over at Funky 16 Corners has posted another version of “Harlem Shuffle” here.