King Floyd

Singer of 'Groove Me'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Floyd King (King Floyd), singer and songwriter: born New Orleans, Louisiana 13 February 1945; married Patricia Ann Hubbard (one son, two daughters); died Los Angeles 6 March 2006.

The irresistibly funky "Groove Me", written and performed by the New Orleans singer King Floyd, topped the US R&B charts in 1971. The single was a perfect example of the gritty, sweaty, Southern soul genre and bore a distinct similarity to Jean Knight's equally infectious "Mr Big Stuff". Both singers had recorded their vocals on the same day - Sunday 17 May 1970 - on top of backing tracks arranged and produced by Warzell Quezergue at Malaco studios in Jackson, Mississippi.

King Floyd also charted with "Baby Let Me Kiss You", a virtual rewrite of his previous hit (complete with another "Uhh! Awww, sookie, sookie now!" ad lib on the intro) in 1971, and "Woman Don't Go Astray" the following year, while "Body English" became a dancefloor smash in 1976.

Born Floyd King in New Orleans in 1945, he started singing in his early teens. "I decided back then I wanted to be a musician, and the best way for me to learn was to hang out and learn from the people that were out there doing it," he told the music historian Jeff Hannusch. After spending two years in the army in the early Sixties, King tried his luck in New York and Los Angeles, where he released his first single, "Why Did She Leave Me?", as King Floyd, on the Original Sound label in 1965.

He worked with the producer Harold Battiste and the pianist Mac Rebennack (a.k.a. Dr John), who had both left New Orleans for California, and they helped him record A Man in Love, his début album, issued on Pulsar in 1967. Two years later, King Floyd went back to New Orleans and got a job with the post office to support his wife and daughter.

A chance meeting with Quezergue and the New Orleans entrepreneur Elijah Walker led to King Floyd being asked to join Jean Knight, the Barons and Bonnie & Sheila on a bus bound for the recording session in Jackson. He had to finish his mail round and followed in his car, which broke down on the way; he nearly turned back but reached Malaco studios in the nick of time. "We cut two tunes," he recalled. "'What Our Love Needs' took three takes and 'Groove Me', that only took one. I was out of there in 30 minutes."

Malaco issued "What Our Love Needs", backed by "Groove Me", on their new subsidiary label, Chimneyville. The local DJ George Vinnet took the single to his niece's party and noticed that "Groove Me" was going down a storm with the teenagers, so he played it rather than the A side on his radio show. "After that, everybody in New Orleans started playing 'Groove Me'," recalled King Floyd. "George Vinnet called Atlantic and told them what was happening here. Atlantic finally called Malaco back, and they came down to sign the papers."

With Atlantic's promotional muscle behind it, "Groove Me" spent 20 weeks climbing the R&B charts, eventually topping the list for four weeks in January 1971. The song sold two million copies but "Baby Let Me Kiss You", the follow-up, didn't fare so well. "It got pulled off some big stations because people thought it was too suggestive," King Floyd said. He also released three albums distributed by Atlantic: King Floyd (1971), Think About It (1973) and Well Done (1974).

"Woman Don't Go Astray" became a minor hit in 1974 as King Floyd, billed "The Soulful Highness" because of his high, occasionally raspy, tenor voice, toured Europe. He also travelled to Jamaica, where Bob Marley and Peter Tosh introduced him to reggae.

After the album Body English (1976), King Floyd's career tailed off and he left the Malaco label the following year. "When the disco thing came in, that just about terminated my writing," he said. He attempted a comeback in 1982 before moving back to California.

In 2002, Angie Stone covered "Groove Me" on the soundtrack to the film Austin Powers in Goldmember.

Pierre Perrone