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Bar-Kays roll on toward new album

Bar-Kay's on stage
Larry Dodson of the Bar-Kay's
David Porter and Al Bell
 

After 40 years of performing, the Bar-Kays are still coming to the stage with fire, snakes and various changes of clothes. by Jodie M. Johnson
Special to the Tri-State Defender

After 40 years of performing, the Bar-Kays are still coming to the stage with fire, snakes and various changes of clothes.


With thousands partying along the Mississippi, Larry Dodson, lead singer, of the Bar-Kays aimed to please. (Photos by Warren Roseborough)


James Alexander of the Bar-Kays dances across the stage at the 35th annual Autozone Sunset Symphony while playing the Bar-Kays’ seventies hit, “Son of Shaft.”


David Porter (left) and Al Bell of Stax were in attendance at the Sunset Symphony.

“There is still competition amongst the old school groups about who has the best showmanship, that’s what I like about those groups, they respect each other but they still try and keep it interesting,” said Larry Dodson Jr., marketing assistant and son of the Bar-Kays’ lead singer Larry Dodson Sr.

“Dad’s 60 now, but he’s still keeping it funky, cool and groovy.”

Fans, friends and followers of the Bar-Kays can look for all of that and more on the group’s upcoming album, said Dodson.

“The Mack is Back” is scheduled for a mid-summer/ early-fall release, featuring collaborations with rap artists DJ Paul of 3-6 Mafia, 8ball, and MJG.

“Part of staying fresh in the music business is having new and fresh young minds and the mixture of older minds,” said Dodson. “That’s part of what keeps groups like the Bar-Kays and even younger groups alive and around.”

The Bar-Kays also make a point to reach out to local producers and artists.

“We want to spend some money in our own back yard if we can. The talent is here, it’s just about having your business up to par,” said Dodson. “That’s why we want to reach in our back yards purposely. You never know where your next big hit is going to come from.”

Besides the touring and performances, the Bar-Kays are also involved in giving back to those in need. Whether it is partnering with the Down Syndrome Association in a fundraiser for children, or helping high school graduates pay for college through the Allen Jones/Marjorie Barringer/Bar-Kays’ Scholarship Fund, the Bar-Kays are quite the philanthropists.

Last year, in an effort to aid earthquake relief in Haiti, the group launched “A Message from Memphis.” The project featured various Memphis-based artists collaborating on one song. With the success of that campaign and with the people of Haiti still much in need of help, the Bar-Kays are re-launching the project.

“We are doing pretty well so far, we sold out of our initial orders of about a thousand copies. We have done pretty well digitally too,” said Dodson.

“There is still a lot that needs doing (in Haiti). I think the small businesses are more successful than the larger companies per se. I learned these things from talking to the Haitian people. I believe by doing it through small businesses we see more tangible progress and success.”

Meanwhile, the veteran showmen are focused on upcoming performances and growing both their music and fan base.

“We still have a lot of Bar-Kay supporters who look for our new music so that they can show new generations what real music is about. And we’re banking on those new and old fans to make those album purchases once the album comes out,” said Dodson.

“Anything is possible when you work together and put your mind to accomplish one goal. We still bring that showmanship to the stage. We still have the fire, we still have the snake, we still have the wardrobe changes.”

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