The Emperors – Karate

The homey Skeme Richards, aka The “Nostalgia King” reminded all of us that today was the 40th anniversary of the passing of the great Bruce Lee over at Anything Goes. As a youngster, I remember watching all of his flicks, and as I got older incorporated this imagery into my DJ nights. Whether it be Game of Death or Enter the Dragon, I loved to have that stuff from my childhood behind me. Who remembers the computer Bruce Lee game? I played that thing until I beat it. At any rate, all this talk about Bruce Lee got me thinking about karate/kung-fu themed records. There are a bunch, and as of late I reviewed Roberta Kelly, one of many kung-fu/ karate themed records. Today I bring you some Soul on Mala Records in 1966 with The Emperors and “Karate”.

Hailing straight from Harrisburg, PA, the Emperors consisted of James Jackson, Donald Brantley, Bobby Fulton, Billy Green, and David Peterson. This was their first single on Mala, produced by radio personality George Wilson. Although the band was from Harrisburg, they recorded at Impact Studios in Philadelphia, PA on September 13, 1966. Wilson stacked the studio musicians: Tyrone Moss drums, Ronnie Bowers bass, and Milton Brown on organ. Only one player would go on to play with the reincarnation of the Emperors later on renamed Emperor Soul 69, the guitar player James Jackson. These cats did a cover version of “My Baby Likes to Boogaloo” by Don Gardner, which rocks. I will agree with Larry from Funky 16 and say this might even be better than the original. As for the Emperors, they did turn up later reborn as the aforementioned Emperor Soul 69 on Futura. There’s some stuff reissued on Funkadelphia Records, plus an extensive lineup of Philly players, Garage Rock, Soul, Hardcore and the like.

It’s funny how this band is described as “a latin-influenced soul/funk band from Harrisburg, PA”. To me this tune is more influenced by upbeat Soul, Doo Wop and Garage inspired Rock. It had the corner harmonies of Philly, but that friggin’ organ throughout is haunting. I like the upbeat drums, and who cares if they were trying to jump on the band wagon of Karate dance records? This is from drummer Tyrone Moss about the record itself:

“I’m the drummer and co-writer on “Karate”. On the original recording, no guitar, just organ, bass and drums… but, Yes we added a guitarist we call “Pepsi” on later recordings……We lost our lead singer, Edgar Moore early this year, a wonderful friend and great influence on all of us in the Emperors. Thank you for the kind thoughts, memories and keeping the “Berg’s” musicians alive! We’re still hanging….”

So no guitar on this track according to the original drummer. Very interesting. This 45 was something I picked up from The Old Man many, many years ago, and have busted it out on occasion. This was totally ripped off by Carlos Santana on their tune “Everybody’s Everything” with no mention in the liner notes of the Emperors at all, only a guitar solo by Neil Schon. Another band ripped off and not even given a shred of credit by a Grammy winner and music legend. What the hell, right? The Stones and Led Zeppelin did it to start their careers, why not Santana? “Karate” is a dance you can do, no matter how old or young. Check out this Karate dance that never caught on. Pretty weird stuff. Harrisburg via Philly, the Emperors keep you moving and grooving with this mid 60’s sizzler. Respect to the band, to Bruce Lee, the man who inspired this post (along with Skeme Richards). It’s incredible that even 40 years after his death, Lee has been an icon to people everywhere, and the Emperors influenced Santana. Keep Diggin’.

Download or Listen to The Emperors – Karate from the Mala 45

Larry over at Funky 16 Corners did a write up last year of “Karate Boogaloo” on Brunswick here and more info from his e-zine.

Here’s the Santana rip off:

You be the judge: Shame on you Carlos!

2 responses to “The Emperors – Karate

  1. Santana asked permission to do the cover and change some of the lyrics. The original writers were credited and presumably made a nice amount of $$ off the cover. The album hit #1 in 1971 and the single made #12.

  2. Pingback: Morning Song – Everybody’s Everything | MassCommons·

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