Author Archives: motorengine Steven Stancell

THE 8TH WONDER OF THE WORLD

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I met Frankie Crocker at a party many years ago, and you wanna know what we talked about? His program directing at WBLS-FM? No. His VH-1 VJ gig? No. His professional beginnings in Buffalo, New York? No. We talked about Cuban cigars! During that period I smoked Havanas every single day for over 25 years, so when I met him I was surprised to see him with one in his hand. I was already familiar with his value as an artist, so we didn’t have to talk about that. That’s right. An artist.

 

Once upon a time radio DJs were like friends. You were aware of their time slots and followed their schedules on a weekly basis. They had style, some cooler than others. Frankie Crocker had style. He carved himself into an original. He had that suave urbane look for the ladies and all that, but what really set him apart are the kinds of music he introduced to his listeners, for Frankie Crocker was into some deep stuff musically.

 

The veneer of Frankie Crocker was furs, silky hair, candlelight baths with female listeners, expensive rides, flamboyance all the way, including once riding into Studio 54 on a white stallion. Ahh, but the music he played. That’s what made him an artist. Especially since today, most people are not creating music from scratch but programming music. And, since we honor these programmers, one of the greatest programmers of ‘em all was Frankie Crocker.

 

This is a small portion of some of the artists he would play for his listeners: George Benson, Miles Davis, Queen, Manu Dibango, Blood Sweat and Tears, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Prince, Madonna, Maxwell, Human League, Phyllis Hyman, Phil Collins, Bob Marley, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, Fela, Teddy Riley, Laura Branigan, Kurtis Blow, Sylvester, Celia Cruz, and he is also recognized as the first to break Sly Stone and Donna Summer on the East Coast.

 

A repertoire like that says a whole lot about a man. http://youtu.be/Yt0pNAm8aCI

 

BOB DYLAN’S MR. TAMBOURINE MAN

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(Fred Neil, Bruce Langhorne, Felix Pappalardi, and Jack Nitzsche) photo Fred Neil website

 

Bet you didn’t think that when Bob Dylan wrote his iconic piece, “Mr.Tambourine Man,” that a Mr. Tambourine Man actually existed. Well he does, and his name is Bruce Langhorne.

 

Langhorne, who was influenced by Staple Singers’ patriarch Roebuck Staples and Sandy Bull (one of the first artists to use tape recorders and loops on stage), started out as a session guitarist in the folk music scene back in the early 1960s, after playing at Gerde’s Folk City with other artists.  Bob Dylan, Harry Belafonte, Odetta, Carolyn Hester, Richie Havens, Hugh Masekela, Tom Rush and Judy Collins are just a few of the artists Langhorne has worked with, but he became closely associated with Richard and Mimi Farina (sister of Joan Baez)) during the course of their career, appearing on their first album, Celebrations For a Grey Day circa 1964.

 

Langhorne, whose distinctive guitar playing style was due to the loss of two fingers on his hand, was also known for playing a large Turkish style tambourine,  which Dylan said “was big as a wagon wheel.” Langhorne was the inspiration for “Mr. Tambourine Man” (although Dylan didn’t mention it to Langhorne at the time), and he is mentioned in the liner notes of Dylan’s Biograph album.

 

After playing on Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home, which would be Langhorne’s first folk-rock album, he went on to scoring films, first working with Peter Fonda (after his Easy Rider) on The Hired Hand in 1971, and later working with Jonathan Demme on Melvin and Howard in 1980. He did several films with both directors. Langhorne then ventured into the food business towards the early 1990s, developing Brother Bru Bru’s Original African Hot Pepper (all natural) Hot Sauce, which has been endorsed by Andrew Weil, M.D.

 

 

MILITIA’S MANY HATS

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Walking to the yearly Indian Larry Grease Monkey block party to see heavy metal band Judas Priestess, I heard the band’s lead vocalist MilitiA, three blocks away, above the Williamsburg din of cars and horns and trains I hear over here all the time. There’s nothing like the power of a good female vocalist!

 

And there’s nothing like a woman who wears many hats. Listen to this: she writes, she sings, she performs solo, she heads another hard rock band, Swear On Your Life, as well as her Judas Priestess band (the all-girl tribute band to Judas Priest). MilitiA VJs, hosts shows and has been all over music TV stations like FUSE, MTV2 and VH1. She’s collaborated with everyone from Dee Snider to Cyndi Lauper, Sandra Bernhard and even Nancy Sinatra. She’s appeared in TV shows and film as well.

 

If I told you that on top of all that she models you’d probably say, C’mon, get outta here! Where does she find the time for all this stuff? But it’s true. MilitiA has modeled for several clothing lines and calendars. In fact, this is a woman so totally in control of her career and the scope of it, that I wouldn’t be surprised if the next career goal she plans to conquer hasn’t already happened at the time of this writing. Just sayin’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DRUMS BY STEFANIE EULINBERG

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Stefanie Eulinberg. Drummer and vocalist. Been with Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker band for over 10 years now. One of the hardest working drummers in the business today. She’s played cruise ships, lounge circuits, bars, prisons, everywhere she could. Hailing from Berea, Ohio (a western suburb of Cleveland), Eulinberg also plays bass, guitar, writes jingles and does soundtracks, something she went to school for when she lived in L.A. Sometimes you might find her “on loan” to other artists, like the time Melissa Etheridge hired her for a tour. By the last day of that tour, she jokingly said, she had everyone in that band “drinking beer and wearing slippers.” Nothing like drinking beer with a girl who knows how to rock is what I say.

 

WHERE’S PHIL LYNOTT’S PROPS?

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Seems like people have forgot about Phil Lynott. He headed the group Thin Lizzy, the band known for its dual lead guitars. If you’re not familiar with the band, you can hear elements of them in some of Bruce Springsteen’s earlier work. Thin Lizzy had hits with “The Boys Are Back in Town,” “Jailbreak” and “Don’t Believe A Word,” to name a few.

 

Phil Lynott, who hailed from Ireland, was a black man, with an Irish mother and a father from Guyana. He was a black Irishman, and he accepted who he was, even while friends said he might have been the only black man in the entire country at the time. On top of that, Lynott was completely rock ‘n’ roll, with the leather, chains, big afro, and all that.

 

Considering the work he and his band put out here, it’s been a mystery to me why he never seemed to get the attention he deserved while he was alive. (He died in 1986 from pneumonia and heart failure.) Lynott and the band were in the news recently, when it was reported that Lynott’s mother, said that her son would not be pleased that the Republicans were using her son’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” song at their convention. She said he would’ve disagreed with their position on gay marriage and taxes.

 

For more on Phil Lynott and his work, go to http://www.philiplynottexhibition.com and learn about the man considered to be Dublin’s ultimate rock star.

 

 

DID IKE TURNER ONLY BEAT UP TINA?

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Yeah, that’s the title. ‘Cause while we appropriately condemned him for the widely disseminated accounts of abuse he bombarded on the great Tina Turner, we have forgotten his real place in rock ‘n’ roll history.

 

Ike Turner was a key figure in rock ‘n’ roll in the early 1950s. He was a performer, a businessman with his own band, the Kings of Rhythm, and a talent scout, for RPM/Modern Records, as well as the legendary Sam Phillips. He recorded everyone from Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Johnny Ace, Otis Rush and Bobby “Blue” Bland during this period. Before that he was a DJ for WROX radio in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

 

But his real importance lies in his recording in 1951 of what Sam Phillips christened “the first rock ‘n’ roll record”: “Rocket 88.” In production from 1949 to 1960, Oldsmobile’s Rocket 88 really ushered in the muscle car era. It had a V8, 303 cubic inch engine with 135 horses, which was powerful for its time in the consumer market. The body was designed to mimic the space age, which was happening at the time. Turner did “Rocket 88” with his Kings of Rhythm, but the cut was credited to Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats. Brenston, a saxophonist who came up with the song, did the vocals. After it was done in his Sun studio, Phillips leased the cut to Chess Records, and the rest is history.

 

Then Ike Turner met Tina.

 

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’S DARK ANGEL

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Sam McKeith is the man who gave us Bruce Springsteen.  He was the main agent at the William Morris Agency who promoted him.  He signed him. Signed him because he reminded him of Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and the Byrds.  All deals that Springsteen was offered came through McKeith’s office (except his album deal with Columbia, which brought forth Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, his first album). Along with Springsteen’s first manager, Mike Appel, McKeith is one of the most important behind the scene figures responsible for Springsteen’s amazing career.

 

That silhouette in the picture above next to Springsteen represents McKeith. I chose it because it is black, like McKeith. Sam McKeith is a black man. An African-American, if you will, born in Macon, Georgia (home town of Little Richard, Otis Redding and the Allman Brothers Band). He was the only black agent at the William Morris Agency at the time. (Wally Amos, entrepreneur and founder of Famous Amos cookies, was the one before him. Amos signed Simon and Garfunkel as well as many important Motown acts to the agency.) One of McKeith’s methods in building an audience for Springsteen consisted of him working as many college and universities throughout the northeast in the mid 1970s. This culminated with McKeith’s legendary five day, ten day show booking of Springsteen at New York City’s Bottom Line club in August 1975 that coincided with the release of Springsteen’s classic Born to Run album.

 

McKeith, who today is in the entertainment consultancy business, will soon be revealing himself to the world, image and all, to discuss  his career rise, and fall, and rise again. Visit his website, www.therenaissancemusicreview.com, to find out what he’s been doing since his times with Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Teddy Pendergrass and others.

And Who The Hell Is THIS Guy?

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One of the most beautiful (and hottest) women I’ve ever seen in my life was the iconic pin-up model Bettie Page. She died in 2008 (for those who don’t know) at the age of 85. Bettie Page’s pictures from the early 1950s are responsible for sparking the fetish and bondage scenes, which live on to this day.  Trust me, there’d be no Suicide Girls, Dita Von Teese, or any other like-minded scene if it wasn’t for the popularity of Bettie Page.  She will remain the queen of these genres, probably, till the end of human existence.

 

Which brings me to the inset photo above, of the black police officer.  His name was Jerry Tibbs. Worked the Harlem beat, as they used to call it. His interests: weightlifting, and photography. It turns out, Tibbs also knew how to make a woman look good in a photo.

 

As it’s been mentioned in the book The Real Bettie Page, by Richard Foster, and many other published articles through the years, it was Tibbs, according to Bettie Page, who is responsible for her wearing her traditional bangs. (A hair style she continued to wear until the day she died.)

 

Why is this piece being written?  Two reasons really. The first being that whenever a bio of Bettie Page is written, they kind of rush over the fact that Page was discovered on the beach of Coney Island by a cop, who liked to do photography on the side, as a hobby.  Sometimes they say he was a black cop, but they usually rush through it at the speed of light.

 

No one today can imagine how taboo it was in the 1950s, for a black dude to be seen photographing a white woman from Nashville, Tennessee (in a bikini or in the nude) in public, let alone dating or marrying one, walking together or whatever.  (The relationship between Page and Tibbs was platonic however.) The amount of cojones it took for both of them to pull this off is immeasurable.  The word “drama,” doesn’t adequately express the kind of madness this kind of thing usually caused in our society.  There was a film recently done on Bettie Page, called The Notorious Bettie Page.  Don’t know how much they focussed on this particular aspect, but it is an important piece of Americana to remember, nevertheless.  (By the way, a lot of reviews of the film took the same speed-of-light rush through approach of Tibbs’ race.  Most of them didn’t mention it at all.)

 

Secondly, this piece serves as a thank you letter, to Tibbs.  Although Page’s most important photographers were brother and sister Irving and Paula Klaw (who gave us the heels and bondage shots), and Bunny Yeager (one of the only female pin-up photographers of her day) who gave us a lot of her outside shots with animal skins and such, it must be remembered that it was essentially Jerry Tibbs, who launched her career with those first portfolio shots he gave her.  Thank you Jerry Tibbs for having the eye (and the balls) to give us something we could marvel at and appreciate for so many years.

 

 

 

TALKING WITH DAVE BARTHOLOMEW

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Fats Domino (L) and Dave Bartholomew, Courtesy of Franck-Bertacci Collection The Historic New Orleans Collection

Woke up this morning thinking about Dave Bartholomew for some reason. Dave Bartholomew: a legendary historic figure in rock n roll production, known for his work with Fats Domino, Shirley and Lee, Lloyd Price and others, it was THAT guy who asked me to come and perform as a guitarist at his club, on a permanent basis, and I couldn't go! One of the things you want to avoid in this thing called life, is the phrase, "what if," or "I should've." Frankly, I think that he was so ecstatic over the fact that a black dude was interviewing him over his career, that he offered me the gig. He told me, "You're the first black guy that asked me about my career. All the other cats have been white."

I interviewed Bartholomew in 1998, and my friend, the late pioneer rock journalist Al Aronowitz, published it on his website The Blacklisted Journalist in 1999.

[Parts of this interview were scheduled for Vibe Magazine, while other parts appeared in variation in the New York Beacon, in Steven Stancell's Alternative Discs column. Stancell authored the first biographical encyclopedia on rap music in 1996, Rap Whoz Who, which received a Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Award nomination. Stancell's earlier literary pieces have appeared on WBAI-FM's Radio Unnameable with Bob Fass, and his play, Neighborhood Disrupted, was produced by the American Theater of Actors in 1984. He is also a multi-genre musician and record producer, responsible for artist Shaman's 1985 single, This Is Not A Jungle, This Is A Zoo, which he co-produced with recording artist Strafe, of Set It Off fame.]

Talk about stupid—and I once heard the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards say the same thing. And what is that? The fact that age shouldn't really mean a thing when it comes to a rock & roll artist. Folks were pissing him off with questions centering on, "How do you answer critics who say that you're a little too old to be rocking and rolling?" This, Richards would answer with a claim that these questions were, in fact, racist. Nobody ever asks John Lee Hooker or B.B. King these questions, he'd say. Hallelujah!

So I second that and say, what about producing? Age shouldn't have anything to do with that either! Especially when it comes to a legend, as in Dave Bartholomew. Here's a guy that co-wrote and produced some of the greatest rock & roll records of all time, by the great Fats Domino: Ain't That A Shame, I'm Walkin', Blueberry Hill and others. He did Shirley and Lee's Let the Good Times Roll, Lloyd Price's Lawdy Miss Clawdy and a whole lot more.

It's 1998, and guess what? He's still making records at age 77. Hallelujah!

Bartholomew told me, "I been in the business since December 1949. The first day me and Fats went into Imperial Records (where he was house producer) we cut a two-million seller, called The Fat Man. The things we did many years ago are still prevalent today. I go all over the country and hear our music played by all these different groups. Been all over Europe for the last 40 years. You know, we (him and Fats) been in the business for a long time, although Fats is semi-retired now."

Yeah, but Bartholomew ain't. When I heard his latest work, this New Orleans Big Beat CD, the vibrancy and musicianship comes through that range of music genres he presents to us there, and with the same proficiency as always.

"I'm now coming up in the rap world," Bartholomew declared, "and I don't fool with the computer at all. So technically, I'm an unknown. Older people'll say, 'Yeah, his records are good,' but they don't buy no goddamn records!

"What I'm trying to say is this: you can have a hit record out now, and it can last for three or four months, and after that they want another one. They're always like, Okay, what else you got? But me and Fats haven't recorded in the last 25 or 30 years. We went our separate ways about 12, 15 years ago."

I asked him about those history making days he was recording, where every record he did with Fats from the 1950s to 1963 were big, big hits (they sold 800 million records to date!). "I was discovered in Houston, Texas, by the late Lew Chudd (owner of Imperial Records). I worked there in Texas for Don Robey (black record mogul, owner of the mostly gospel Peacock Records label, which released the original Hound Dog by Big Mama Thornton. I was working at Robey's club, not his record company."

Bartholomew said that in the technical sense, "we didn't actually write songs, Fats and I. The tunes we came up with, we got those together by sitting around jamming and doing little things like that. We didn't do like some guys. We got together with an idea, and put it together like that. Ninety percent of them were done like that.

"I always worked for the record companies, so I didn't own Imperial Records, and Fats and I didn't own any of the publishing. But we were blessed that EMI bought the catalogue. Lew Chudd always paid me a salary. He would hold back on the zeroes though, but I worked for Lew and he gave me a break. I think I should've been cut in more than I was. He paid me decent, but I started with him."

Now if you're an aspiring recording artist reading that, and you go "aww" with a tinge of disappointment, and think that that's how it was in those days, think again! The same thing goes on today. Record label heads always consider that they're giving you, the artist, a break when they sign you to a deal. Call it serfs and feudal lords if you must.

JIMI HENDRIX TO WU TANG CLAN TO JIMI HENDRIX: THE ALEEMS COME FULL CIRCLE

JIMI HENDRIX TO WU TANG CLAN TO JIMI HENDRIX: THE ALEEMS COME FULL CIRCLE

 

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(The Aleems, with Hendrix and friend Faye Pridgeon)



Since the 1960s, when they worked and recorded with their friend, the great Jimi Hendrix, all the way through to the 1990s, the legendary twin brothers Albert and Arthur Allen, known as the Aleems (a.k.a.,, the Ghetto Fighters, Prana People, Us and Fantastic Aleems) have been responsible for providing the best of rock, blues, R&B, dance and rap with their musicianship, performance and production artistry.  Their place in music history is well established as premier independent record label pioneers, and their status as collaborators with, and recognizers of major music talents, has propelled them to Hall of Fame attention and recognition in the world of black music in particular, and popular music as a whole.

 

Tunde Ra and Taharqa Aleem (keyboards and guitar specialists respectively, as well as vocalists), began their careers in the 1960s, working, traveling and socializing with the greats of rhythm & blues, such as Big Maybelle, Bobby Womack, Sam Cook, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Clarence “Blowfly” Reid and others. They learned the inner workings of the music industry through their association with Harlem legend Fat Jack Taylor, owner of the Ro-Jack Records independent label, and co-owner of the famous Harlem World club, of which the Aleems would also establish co-ownership status with Taylor. (Harlem World would later be known for the large number of pioneer rap acts that performed there.)

 

During this period the Aleems met Jimi Hendrix by way of a couple of girlfriends, and shortly after, they soon shared living space together in a house in Manhattan’s Park West Village for a period of two years. They also later began working with Hendrix as singers and musicians, calling themselves the Ghetto Fighters. They put on a free concert in Harlem on 134th Street in 1969 with Hendrix, and recorded three albums with him, Cry of Love, Rainbow Bridge and War Heroes, in addition to working on their own projects. Hendrix had planned to give the Ghetto Fighters wider exposure through special projects he was developing to present to the world. After Jimi Hendrix’s death in September of 1970, the deeply hurt and saddened twins decided to put the entire Jimi Hendrix experience on the side as a pleasant memory, and move on with their own careers, changing their name to Aleem from Allen in the process.   

 

By the 1970s, the Aleems hooked up with the New York Knicks’ basketball Hall of Famer Earl “The Pearl” Monroe. A music enthusiast, Monroe later established music business concerns which included the labels Pretty Pearl and In Your Face Records. Around 1977, the brothers recorded two songs for Monroe’s production company, one under the group name Us which resulted in the song “The Ostrich” for Spring Records, the other, as the Prana People, recording the single “Is Your Life A Party?”

 

Into the early 1980s, the Aleems established their own independent label, called Nia Records. This time recording as the Fantastic Aleems, they recorded the song “Hooked On Your Love” on that label. The work featured the background vocals of R&B singers Luther Vandross (his first vocal work for records) and Jocelyn Brown. Other songs the brothers released on their label in 1983 include their Captain Rock series, “Cosmic Glide” and  “The Return of Captain Rock,” which was co-written with the rap duo, Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde. (The twins would later work with Mr. Hyde, who began recording as Lonnie Love, producing two songs for him on the Profile label, titled “Young Ladies” and “Dr. Jeckyll Is Dead.”

 

In 1984, the Aleems recorded the song “Release Yourself,” and with that, the two set up the Nia Records offices in residence of Earl Monroe’s partner, Dick Scott, former personal assistant to Motown Records’ Berry Gordy, and later manager of New Kids On The Block.

 

“Release Yourself” marked another turning point for the twins. After having watched and listened to the emergence of rap via their own children, they decided to use then upcoming hip hop DJ Marley Marl to do a special mix for the song. First meeting Marl through pioneer hip hop radio DJ Mr. Magic (who the brothers helped secure an on-the-air spot on New York radio station WBLS-FM), the Aleems recorded Marley Marl’s mix for “Release Yourself” on that single’s b-side. By 1985, Marl recorded the groundbreaking “Marley Marl Scratch” with MC Shan for the Aleems’ label. From there, the brothers found themselves at the forefront of recorded rap, with their Nia Records becoming a pioneer black-owned independent rap label.

 

Around this same period, the twins began working with female MC Sparky D, which resulted with them recording her “Sparky’s Turn (Roxanne You’re Through)” in reference to her legendary MC battles with Roxanne Shante. Shante recorded for another black owned independent label, located in Philadelphia, called Pop Art, also owned by brothers, named Lawrence and Dana Goodman. The Aleems and the Goodman brothers saw an opportunity to focus on the Roxanne battle craze, so they created a special label to record the phenomenon, called Spin Records, after which, The Battle was recorded and released.

 

At the same time, the Aleems were still recording as artists on the Nia label, releasing works under their name with singer Leroy Burgess (former lead vocalist for the R&B group Black Ivory), such as “Confusion” and others. They then decided to separate their own work from that label and sign with Atlantic Records (keeping the Nia label strictly for rap acts). They recorded for Atlantic with Burgess, the single “Love’s On Fire” and the albums Casually Formal and Shock.  Towards 1989, after releasing another one of Marley Marl’s work on Nia titled “Coke Is It” by the Supa’ Kids (featuring the Intelligent Hoodlum, Tragedy, recording as MC Jade), the brothers became divided as an act for Atlantic and as independent label owners. Also, staff problems at their own label caused them to dismantle Nia Records, and concentrate on production and engineering.

 

By the early 1990s they decided to build their own recording studio, as well as set up their own distribution services. Acquiring space on the fifth floor at 1600 Broadway in Manhattan, the Aleems built their Concrete Recording Studio, and B.I.D. (Black Independent Distribution) services. They also continued producing other artists, working with acts like Rick James, Kashif, Technotronic and New Kids On The Block. But later, once again, problems with their staff rendered disruption to the brothers’ operation, which forced them to disassemble their successful venture and move on to the next phase in their careers.

 

During the period when extensive attention was paid to England’s Royal Family, due to the marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, the Aleems decided to bring attention to the black royal family in Ethiopia, citing that royalty exists in people with an African lineage. They started a non-profit organization called the Reconstruction of Black Civilization, which ultimately brought over the son of the Emperor Haile Sellassie I of Ethiopia to the United States before his death.

 

By 1997 the Aleems began doing production work with the rap group Gravediggas, whom they met via their relationship with the Wu Tang Clan, who recorded some of their 36 Chambers album at the twins’ Concrete Studio. (The brothers also distributed the Wu Tang Clan’s “Protect Ya Neck” single in New York.) The Aleems were soon approached at this time by a CBS production employee, to contribute to a partially animated documentary on Jimi Hendrix. Realizing that they themselves had a wealth of film and audio archival material on Hendrix, from his early attempt to give the twins exposure when they performed as the Ghetto Fighters, the Aleems decided to devote their time as a labor of love, to assembling a project known as Jimi Hendrix Presents: Ghetto Fighters/Time Travelers. Consisting of rare unreleased studio recordings and film footage of Hendrix, as well as Band of Gypsy members Buddy Miles, Billy Cox, Juma Sultan and the twins, the Aleems have now come full circle as they continue to present the greatness of their art to music enthusiasts and the entire world.