1/11/08

Right Place, Right Time, Part 1: Franky Jackson's Soul Kitchen



For reasons which I'll get to a little later in the year, I'm posting a bit of personal NYC nostalgia here. It's part of a bigger story which will be told on my blog over time, so for now it may seem a bit random, but it'll all make sense.

...I always thought that the reason I never made it to the LQ was because I was too young. The reality is that you could be as young as 15 or 16 up in there, but clubs were a few years off for me at that age. And I can't front, from what I knew of the LQ, I woulda been a little pet to go there especially with my penchant for getting mugged in the wrong part of town on a number of occasions as a young teen. (There was, of course, no internet, so if you wanted to learn about something, you had to go there in the flesh...it's bugged how technology has on the one hand brought people together but on the other, removed the element of old fashioned exploration.)

What I can shed light on, though, was Soul Kitchen, at which I was a regular from very early on. It was a part of my weekly routine - a home away from home where all the regulars knew each other. First off, I can't stress the importance of the party. It was THE place to be and while the music was focused, the crowd was a ridiculously colorful mix; one that you could only conjure in New York City, the New York City of then and not now. Soul Kitchen started out very small with a core group of friends and ended up snowballing into something bigger, picking up new people along the way, people that wanted to be a part of something that you really would not be able to find anywhere else. In the grand tradition of 70's and 80's clubs it would be typical to find artists, drug dealers, rap artists (LL was vexed one night because Jack insisted that LL pay the cover charge. So LL bounced and no one cared), models, actors, musicians, boosters, club rats, skaters, clothing designers, artists, music execs, dancers, djs, downtown girls, record diggers...

Brothers BBQ would be slammed with people- you couldn't move - and that's when it paid to know Frankie the DJ (he's one half of "Franky Jackson," the fictional proprietor of the establishment and party). Frankie would let friends congregate around him in the dj area behind ropes that were guarded by Evan who was paid with free 40s of malt. He was, and still is, a rabid collector of all kinds of music, and it was at Soul Kitchen that he would drop his latest aquisitions. It wasn't so much that if you aspired to be a hip-hop producer that you would go there. Soul Kitchen was where several very established producers would go, to enjoy the music and get inspiration, and maybe even catch a record to sample. But Frankie, like the original djs from the Bronx, would cover his labels so that no one could catch the titles of the songs and this on a few occasions had some heads a little perturbed. It was kind of a big tease in a way but Frankie was dropping serious dollars for these records at fairs, and wasn't tryin' to hear about producers making records off of his sweat. This was a smart move because even though Frankie was never a beat-maker his position at Soul Kitchen led Russell Simmons, who frequented the spot, to hire him to produce new Run-DMC material. Frankie looped up a Soul Kitchen staple, "You Can Have Watergate But Gimme Some Bucks And I'll Be Straight" by James Brown's Fred Wesley and The J.B.s, and "The Ave", the second song off of Run-DMC'S "Back From Hell" was born. Perhaps not a seminal moment for Run-DMC, who were struggling to remain relevant, but it showed the influence of the night.

Even though at the time other djs thought that the way Frankie would just play entire songs from top 'til they faded out was corny, in playing like that, Frankie killed two birds with one stone. Not only did he preserve the fidelity of these rare records but he also provided the crowd with a truly unique musical experience. It was refreshing to hear a song in its entirety, especially songs that were known, but only within a mixed and cut context. Records that were known for only a small break were given new life and to hear these songs amplified properly was great.

After Brothers BBQ, the party moved to Wetlands (now a bland condo) and S.O.B.'s but like all good things, faded out. But Franky Jacksons's Soul Kitchen has a permanent place in the pantheon of legendary and influential New York City parties.

For the record, the promoters who threw Soul Kitchen (Jack, Frankie and Chris) were not the same team that threw Pay Day, which preceded it. Pay Day was the creation of Patrick Moxey and Chuck Crook, and they had a great line up of dj's including Bobby Konders, Red Alert, Duke of Denmark, the Fascinating Force and others. While Pay Day was happening, Frankie Inglese held down Tuesdays at Nell's, and that night was THE place to be if you were down and could get in. If you weren't easy, Jessica would have you wait outside all night. It's the first place I heard "Set It Off," "Dominatrix," the dancehall monster "Ring The Alarm" and countless others.

This is where I crafted the skill of reading record labels in the dark, the whole time fronting like I wasn't, while the records were spinning. I can remember specifically the time when Frankie was handed a Def Jam envelope (how jealous was I?), removed two white-label promos, and threw on one, and then the other. It was Public Enemy's first single, which sampled the JB's "Blow Your Head". Frankie first threw on the B-side "Son of Public Enemy (Flavor Whop Version)" which featured Flavor Flav talking mad shit, and then Frankie eased in the A-side with a mean Chucky D..."What goes on...Well... I'm all in - put it up on the board, another rapper shot down from the mouth that roared, 1-2-3 down for the count the result of my lyrics - oh yes, no doubt". That was heaven.

The J.B.'s "You Can Have Watergate Just Gimme Some Bucks and I'll Be Straight"
Run-DMC "The Ave"

Soul Kitchen Staples:

Cymande "Bra"
The Mohawks "The Champ"
Joe Cocker "Woman To Woman"
The J.B.'s "Blow Your Head"

plus a complimentary bonus:

The J.B.'s "Blow Your Head (undubbed version)"

This was a massive Soul Kitchen tune, and played a big part in producers looking to Roy Ayers for samples:

Roy Ayers "Everybody Loves The Sunshine"

I brought Frankie these two 45's from Jamaica and he played them every week. No one in Manhattan was playing "No, No, No" but after Frankie did, a lot of djs followed suit.

White Mice "True Love""
Dawn Penn "No, No, No (You Don't Love Me)"

28 comments:

dp said...

Stretch, you are ubiquitous like Roy Ayers. Last night at the screening at Mannahatta and today at my blog.

Franky Jackson's Soul Kitchen was def a legendary party even moreso for the eclectic mix of folks that came through. I literally ate my dinner there. SOB's had the best energy for the party.

You didn't miss too much at LQ unless you were rolling through deep. Between that space and the Underground's Friday night party Union Square I had to fight almost every weekend.

True story is that I just saw Chris this morning at the McD's on Court Street.

STRETCH ARMSTRONG said...

Oh trust me, I know what was going on there in hindsight. I I have many friends that have crazy stories as I'm sure you do.

Can't believe you saw Chris today. Like so many friends whom I knew from going out regularly, I wonder what happened to him.

Did you peep the Wax Poetics piece on the LQ? Amazing. I could not recommend it more.

Jim said...

For some reason, I've been thinking about Soul Chicken a lot recently. Dancin with some Columbia student at the Wetlands one - she was wearing clogs.

I'm not sure if it's true, but it seems like the standard "hip hop and classics" club format of the 90s was set at Frankie's party.

Thanks for the mammaries.

STRETCH ARMSTRONG said...

From my point of view, Frankie was one of the really important djs downtown in the second half of the 80's. Really, it was him, Duke of Denmark and DJ Jules, and between the three of them, they consistently held down the best nights. Of course there were plenty of other djs, but somehow, these three stood out, if not simply for the fact that they had the best taste and variety in their selection of music which set them apart from other djs who specialized in a specific genre. For me, Frankie ands Duke were hugely influential; in fact, I think Frankie was the first dj I ever heard live, not counting seeing AJ Scratch with Kurtis Blow opening for The Clash. Prior to that, I was up on club music, but just through my sister, who was older and went out, as well as the radio. So many of the songs that I got down with as a dj early on were records I learned from Frankie, and then Duke. Frankie leaned more towards the eclectic and cool downtown crowd, whereas Duke was more firmly entrenched in the hip-hop side of things, which was reflected in his style of dress. The first time I ever saw Duke was at Vinyl Mania, in 1987, and he was wearing a black bubble jacket, a do-rag and Cazals. Believe it. But hip-hop was only one facet of Duke's repertoire. His knowledge of old R&B, disco and breaks was encyclopedic, and he was a passionate purveyor of dance music- turning hip-hop heads into house music junkies.

STRETCH ARMSTRONG said...

As far as the hip-hop and classics format, there is no way that any single dj could claim credit for that. Like I said, Frankie, Duke and Jules played like that, but with dance music and reggae as well. When djs from the Bronx (Kid Capri most notably) and Brooklyn (Clark Kent) started playing downtown, they cut records more, and put on more of a show, but the flavor of music was similar.

Chris said...

I cant imagine a DJ playing a song in it's entirety, let along not mixing. However, with a good deal of the classic break/funk/jazzy records of the late 60's and 70's, the pleasure of the songs was the entire song. The songs were written and performed with that idea, not with just what DJ's deemed the "break". I love both type of DJ's. The ones who look for the break and manually loop, and the ones who let the tracks just rock out. I really wish i was born about 8 years earlier, so that I could have been going out in the late 80's. Being born in 78, and having an older brother, I was exposed to hip hop at an extremely young age, (87-88) but I can only imagine how much deeper my musical knowledge would be today, if I was a bit older then.

Thanks for always posting great shit stretch..

Whats good with that Stretch Born to Live Remix? haha

Stiefel said...

Great Blog...
As far as the "ammo" put it on a cd and put it out please i d pay.
The Godfather Don produced MC Gruff Demos would be something i d like to hear.


peace

kenny parker said...

Yo Stretch, what's up?
Everything you said about soul Kitchen was correct. I used to go all the time in like 90-91, I even saw Wesley Snipes there once (LOL).
I'm so happy you mentioned Duke of Denmark!!!
He used to do that spot on 14th and Westside Highway in 1989. He's one of my all time favorites.

STRETCH ARMSTRONG said...

Like I said, Duke was a huge inspiration to me, and to a lot of people. He was so ahead of everyone, and wasn't even from here. I gotta dig up a Duke tape and do a posting on him. His story is pretty amazing. He's also the only dj I know that can really, really dance. He would regularly throw on the 10+ minute version of Ten City's "That's The Way Love Is" and come back 9 minutes later drenched in sweat from dancing so hard.

Roderick said...

Wow. My mom has "No no no" on tape. She used to play it constantly a few years ago.

Jim said...

Yo Chris, I hear you. I feel that way about Paradise Garage, Red Zone, and whatever else happened while I was still indulging my high school musical fantasies.

Yo Kenny Parker, that spot on the west side was Mars right?

STRETCH ARMSTRONG said...

Duke was one of the original djs at Mars. The party, which is what I was referring to when talking about Duke, was called Trip, and it was on the 2nd floor of Mars. Duke dj'ed and Almighty Kay Gee of Cold Crush was the host/MC. I'll do a post about this. That party was insane.

Brett said...

TRIP @ MARS!!!! i cut my teeth at that party. the duke of denmark left an strong impression on me musically.
around 89-91, that TRIP flyer was a prized possession. part of the selective door policy was that if you laminated it, you def increased your chances of being granted permission in by the flaming doorman. needless to say, i regularly sported mine right next to my RBG medallion. word up!
stretch is right about duke's hip-hop focus. i'll never forget listening to red alert premiere JungBro's 'Beyond this world' at home on my box b4 i stepped out to go. Then Duke played that joint that night at MARS. I was nutted.

Let's not even mention the Almighty Wizard KG. MIC CONTROL!! he kept the party feeling good. whether shouting out the ladies or pumping party chants, he was never corny, never overbearing, always on point. He & Duke were seamless as a duo.

The great thing too about TRIP was that i don't remember any fights in there. in fact these were the days of dancing crews. heads were coming to dance. save all the rest of that for somewhere else.

unfortunately i haven't found much type on TRIP or MARS. i look forward to your anecdotes. and if you put up a TRIP flyer or an DUKE/KG set, you'll make me cry.

Brett
Brooklyn Tech (86-90)

soul kitchen, trip, powerhouse, the building, cuando, sheets & pillows parties. NYC!!!!!!!

STRETCH ARMSTRONG said...

Damn, Brett. You're gonna make me cry! The thing about Trip was that we KNEW how amazing it was. It was not taken for granted.

Nick said...

Man, you took me back with that one, yo. Mars, Homebase, Sheets n' Pillows...what was the name of the party at Tavern on the Green? I think it was on Wednesdays, '91, '92. And Stretch, what was the name of the spot on St. Mark's? You used to spin there on Wednesdays, winter and spring of '95. I remember you broke "Survival of the Fittest" there.

Anonymous said...

I dont want to make anybody cry but on the Dukes myspace there's some audio from Trip:

http://www.myspace.com/superbadduke
Go check it!

Peace,

Dress

DJ Duke said...

Son, for people that wanna listen to some old tapes from Trip I posted them on Myspace. www.myspace.com/superbadduke

NUFF SAID!! LOL That shit is for real.. especially the Trip with GRandmaster Caz and KG rocking...

Someone emailed told me about this blog so i thought I drop some knowledge.. =) Some people posted a few flyers from Trip.. I will too. soo... aight

Duke

STRETCH ARMSTRONG said...

Duke what up man? Glad you chimed in here. But what's up with the emoticons??!!

RicainParisien said...

Thanks for this trip down memory lane. I started going when it was already at Wetlands and continued until the S.O.B.'s era. Was that its final spot? What I really want to know is the name of that short-term Soul Kitchen spot below Union Square (saw Slick Rick there with his dookie ropes twice before they made him go back to jail!)and that sweat-box on Varick. That one had the heaviest bass of all the spots ("UFO" has never sounded as good). One of these places was called Grand if I remember correctly. There was another wierd short-term spot as well. Nobody has mentioned: it was nice to be able to buy a dime and a blunt by the toilets. It was not as nice having to round up girls or risk not getting in.

Anonymous said...

the first time i heard "The Big Payback" on a loud sound system was at Soul Kitchen. My mind proceeded melt.

my cousin was visiting nyc once, and i took here there. out of her league, she started smoking blunts and drinking 40oz with these dreads. she puked everywhere, violently.

Anonymous said...

Wooowww...the Duke of Denmark!!! You brought me back to 1988-89 when I first heard him spin @Mars when it was owned by Rudolf. Yeah he was definitely the man on the wheels. Not even DJ Dmitry (Deee-Lite) was messin' w/his collection. As for Frankie, dude is maaad cool once you get to know him. He always shared his record knowledge w/me. I guess because I knew alot as well, had an extensive collection of Blaxploitation films & we frequent the same record dealers. I remember hearing about Soul Kitchen startin' off back in 1989. I didn't started goin' until '91...and didn't stop goin' until the last of the party in early 2001. Jack would hook me @the door & Rodney the Bouncer would let me skip the line. LOL...yeah Wesley Snipes used to go there, so did Rosie Perez, Woody Harrelson, Russell Simmons, Peter Billingsly (Ralphie from "Christmas Story")...etc. Back then, there weren't that many parties on a Sunday, Monday, & Tues unless it was private and/or industry-related. That was Soul Kitchen's biggest nitche. Plenty of great times, cool people, and eclectic vibes!!!

Anonymous said...

Wooowww...the Duke of Denmark!!! You brought me back to 1988-89 when I first heard him spin @Mars when it was owned by Rudolf. Yeah he was definitely the man on the wheels. Not even DJ Dmitry (Deee-Lite) was messin' w/his collection. As for Frankie, dude is maaad cool once you get to know him. He always shared his record knowledge w/me. I guess because I knew alot as well, had an extensive collection of Blaxploitation films & we frequent the same record dealers. I remember hearing about Soul Kitchen startin' off back in 1989. I didn't started goin' until '91...and didn't stop goin' until the last of the party in early 2001. Jack would hook me @the door & Rodney the Bouncer would let me skip the line. LOL...yeah Wesley Snipes used to go there, so did Rosie Perez, Woody Harrelson, Russell Simmons, Peter Billingsly (Ralphie from "Christmas Story")...etc. Back then, there weren't that many parties on a Sunday, Monday, & Tues unless it was private and/or industry-related. That was Soul Kitchen's biggest nitche. Plenty of great times, cool people, and eclectic vibes!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh and btw...the name "Soul Kitchen" had originated from one of Frankie's favorite tracks by The Doors off their 1st album...the track---you guessed it..."Soul Kitchen"...Frankie & I had this discussion many moons ago...LOL

Combat Jack said...

Yo whaddup Stretch. My two most influential spots that birthed me were Paradise Garage and Soul Kitchen. The earlier years wit the fried chicken, the colt 45 bottles (can't imagine that ish 2day) and the mommies was insane!!! Bagged mad latinas, chinas, morenas and french vanillas in the joint. The last of a New York moment.

The ill shit was Chris, the good homie, who was always blunted, was swimming in crazy mad women at the time, while my uptown homie was mad swimming in Chris' woman at the time. Had to stay mad the fuck partial on that one, especially since dude ALWAYS comped me at the door.

Whaddup dp?

Anonymous said...

what up peoples i just this link to this blog from my boy bak in nyc. Reading it took me bak like a time line jumper. I was one of the many heads that suported the soul kitchen at the many spots it stop at. My best two were the supper club and wetlands.
I realy miss the way that party would keep the peace even with the large beer in take. ( a forty and a blunt ) it was nothin like it.
we need to bring that vibe bak to the peoples becuse the people need it.
How hard can it be just add some new blood with some new faces and a new club and what you get is soulkitchennyc with a twist.

Rasheed

Dj Duke said...

Okay peeps.. I posted some old Trip flyers and pictures to www.myspace.com/superbaduke

NUFF SAID!

Dj Duke said...

okay, the correct web address is : www.myspace.com/superbadduke

Anonymous said...

As a Southern Ct., transplant living in downtown Brooklyn, I knew in the mix of something special at the Soul Kitchen. I remember one night seeing Red Alert lounging right in front of me, just like he was lounging at his crib. That place attracted a people group who loved all that which was the foundation of hip hop, particularly underground hip hop. Gritty R&B. Big up to Roy Ayers, the Sunshine Man. And oh yeah, the barrel full of Colt 45 forty ounces and the barbecue chicken wings was a beautiful, beautiful thing, par for the course. TJ