BLACK SMOKE BAND
The Black Smoke Band were comprised of five members
Norwell McNeill on lead vocals (and songwriting duties)
Bobby Moore on bass guitarJames
Jacobs on lead guitar
Joe McLaughlin on keyboards
Ronnie Brewington on drums.
Joe was also the man behind the band’s resources, financing both the musical kit and studio time.All of the members hail from the town of Dunn, North Carolina - a state which has gifted us some amazing soul music from the 1960’s, 1970’s and beyond.
All of the members of the group began recording music prior to the band’s two releases, before they met and formed as teenagers playing local bars, dance halls and night clubs.
They gigged with other local acts.
Both of the band’s releases were recorded in 1977 at Arthur Smith’s Studios in Charlotte - and both released on the group’s own label, Black Smoke Productions.
‘Starting my Life All Over Again’ was the first of two releases, a beautiful sweet soul effort, that really showcases Norwell’s earnest, soulful vocals. The flip is a solid funk cut called ’Skateboard’.
‘I’ll Keep Searching’ b/w ‘Get n Off’ was the second and sadly final release from the group - but what a record it is!
A moody, funky, and compelling arrangement that eschewed the ubiquitous disco sound of the period and created a gritty masterpiece for lovers of hard edged soul music.
Norwell’s gruff, captivating vocal and some stellar guitar work were all laid over a tight, rolling beat accompanied by strong horn stabs.
The pleading, emotional dynamics of the record work brilliantly with its strutting, insistent pace. Delivering both emotionally and musically it was to be the group’s swan song, but left ample evidence of the talent that lay within them as a band.
Eventually the group decided to go their separate ways in 1978, although that was not the end of their musical careers, with all of the members continuing to perform in and around North Carolina for many years.
Ronnie sadly passed away, but the other four original members of the group are still actively making music, with Norwell and Bobby remaining in regular contact today.
Bobby played with Kool & The Gang for a brief spell, alongside other well known acts. Joe continues to run his own studio, and has a large back catalogue of previously unheard material recorded both before and after the Black Smoke years.
That is the story of the Black Smoke Band in 1977.
Although short lived, the group have provided soul fans across the UK and beyond with two fabulous singles, considered by many to be shining examples of the musical talent that coursed through America’s suburbs and communities during the golden age of soul and funk music.
A rich vein of talent which remains largely undiscovered even now...