Big Ups With Keb Darge


Name, Location, What You Do:
Keb Darge. DJ and compiler of underground fifties, sixties, and seventies club music.

My biggest influence has to be Richard Searling at Wigan Casino in the seventies. I have copied his mic style of just chatting as though you were playing records to friends, but not too much. I also copied the speed of turnover of new discoveries to play each week. Nowadays I play records that most serious collectors know, but there is always a few new to my audience dropped in.

Favorite Records at the Moment:
Waaah ha ha ha…. I only got into collecting sixties garage 3 years ago so I have many favorites. I normally love a record until I have heard it too many times, then it goes into a “don’t listen to again for ten years” box in my head. No garage records have made it into that box yet.

Best Digging Story:
Here we go, this is long… A lot of northern soul people and rockabillys used to deal with a chap called Richard Minor from just outside Miami. In 1987 he died, and joyfully I booked a flight as soon as I heard. I arrived and phoned his wife straight away, but she told me “they” were not ready yet, and to call back in a few days. I called for two bloody weeks, as my motel bill ran up and up. Eventually I was in. I went to her house first to be greeted by the view of her son, unconscious on the sofa, with a couple of empty Jack Daniels bottles by his side. Edna, a woman in at least her late sixties, politely asked if I wanted a soda?   “Coke please”,  I replied, and off to the kitchen she tottered. Back she bounced, shotgun in hand, shoved it towards my groin and said “If you try and steal any of them fuckin’ records, I’ll blow your fuckin’ balls off.   I know what you folks do, you throw them out windows and sneak back at night”.   “Not me ma’m” I quipped, putting on the best Southern manners I could muster.

She then drove me to the warehouse, made me leave my bag in the car, and frisked me for no apparent reason. Once inside I was told to stay away from the shelves downstairs as they were full of original Elvis on Sun, rare rockabilly and doo wop. I was shown up the wooden ladder to a large room full of 100 count cardboard boxes. I spent three days in there, just returning to the motel to sleep. On my first toilet visit, Edna insisted on coming in with me as it was downstairs.  Now I could have stood up facing her and done a reach around to wipe my ass, however being the spiteful bastard I am, I pointed my ass at her face for the ceremony. She did not budge, but did sit outside the next couple of visits.

Towards the end of day three, I had only found about twenty records of interest, and asked if she had had anybody from the UK through recently. “Why yes she said, last week when you were phoning we had Mark “Butch” Dobson and Tim Ashibende here”. Two of the biggest collectors of soul 45’s known to man. That’s a bugger I thought before she carried on: “and you know we been dealing with that Tim Ashibende for years, why we invited him here out of the goodness of our hearts and not once, not once did he have the decency to tell us he was a [n-word].  Why we don’t have [n-words] round here”.   I kept quiet then, but as soon as I got home I phoned Tim and said “Tim did you know that you were a [n-word]?”   His instant reply was: “Have you been to see Edna Minor?”   I packed up at that point, and was driven back to the house for the very compos mentis son to price up my meager haul.  “How much would you like to pay sir ?”, “is five dollars each fair?”.   Which was a fair rate at the time for unwanted soul records.  Edna exploded, pulled her wig off and threw it down in disgust, “I ain’t working my fanny off for no five dollars a record”.   Then up popped the shotgun and pointed itself at my head this time.  The son leapt up, punched, and knocked out his mother, then he calmly turned and said “I am so sorry sir, I hope my mother has not given you a bad impression of our great state.  Five dollars each for these, but I want twenty for this one”.   The deal was done, and off I went before mummy came to.
I was just looking for soul at the time, and did very badly because of Butch and Tim.  About ten years later, DJ Shadow was round my house talking about record digging.  He told of the mountain of rare funk 45’s he had found at an old lady’s warehouse just outside Miami.  I think my response was along the lines of “Oh you’re fuckin’ joking aren’t you ? Aw shite !!!”.

Favorite Mix and Why. Any Genre, Any DJ.
Back to Richard Searling at Wigan Casino, towards the end of that era. It may have been cause I was only in my early twenties then, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited by a DJ set since. For a couple of years the standard of his new discoveries was just so high, and there were so many of them, plus it was impossible to hear them anywhere else as he had the only copy known of most of them at the time.

LP, 12”, or 7” format?
7” as that is what I was brought up on. I remember seeing Ian Levine play the first 12” in the UK at the Blackpool Mecca in 1975, and I said:  “nah… gimmick… it will never take off”. Ha ha ha.

Junk Food You Can’t Live Without:
I suppose I do like a good burger

Most Memorable Gig Played:
In about 1983 I went through a warehouse with about 70,000 mainly sixties 45’s in it.  I turned up the next weekend to do my set at the Stafford all nighter with a box full of killer new discoveries.  Records nobody had ever heard of before.  It blew the roof off the place, and even brought the undead from the record bar out of their shadows, and onto the dance floor.  The venues back then had a room or large space at the back for a number of record dealers to ply their trade in.  The stage got swamped with serious collectors all wanting a glance at these new future anthems.  Being the nasty man that I am though, I had covered up most of the labels.

Record That Never Leaves Your Record Box:
The Savoys “Can It Be” on Summit. That is such a killer tune, and as luck would have it for me, the bootleg sounds crap compared to the real one, so it still feels quite exclusive when I play it.

Shout Outs, Last Remarks, and Gig Info:
Big thanks to Pete and Lee at BBE for having faith in my taste for all these years. To my wife for putting up with my addiction. To Ernesto Chahoud in Beirut for all the recent fun gigs, and any other promoter over the years who gave me the chance to play something different when it was different.
I currently play at the new “Lost and Found” every Saturday night with Lucinda Slim, and Little Edith. That is at Radicals & Victuallers, 59 Upper street, Islington, London, N1 0NY.
I also do a show on Soho Radio every second Monday from 8pm till 10pm. That can also be found on Mixcloud.

His latest compilation, Cut Chemist & Keb Darge Present The Dark Side: 30 Garage Punk and Psyche Monsters is available on BBE here.

Original Photo Credit:(C) Eilon Paz for Dust & Grooves.

Keep Diggin’!

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