Shake your Soul Finger
Like sacred relics during the middle ages--wherein St. Agnes had so many sanctified finger- and toe-bones that she must've resembled a millipede more than a martyr--bands with long-running names and reputations often have the most tenuous links with their original incarnations. Even revered names like the Temptations usually have only a couple of original members, and once you get down to acts like the Spinners or the Platters, you half expect to see at the bottom of the ad or poster (or Holiday Inn marquee) something like: We guarantee a pair of shoes belonging to founding member X present in the dressing room before every show.

In the case of the Bar-Kays (or, as they've been known since the late '80s, the Barkays), it isn't really their fault: The backing band for Otis Redding, five of the founding members were on the airplane that the famed soul singer was riding in on December 10, 1967; four of them were killed with Redding when it crashed. The previous May, the group had scored their best-known hit, "Soul Finger"; although they went on to become the house band at Stax/Volt and enjoyed quite a bit of success during the disco era, they never really fulfilled the promise of that first song.

Overall, their track record is more serviceable than scintillating--a reputation not helped by their habit of patterning songs after contemporary chart-toppers--but they have had over 30 R&B hits (1984's "Freakshow on the Dance Floor" went to No. 2, the only song to surpass "Soul Finger"). Their music has been reliable dance fuel for 30 years and the soundtrack to countless folks' boogie nights, and the Barkays--with founding member James Alexander back on board after a hiatus--mix funk, soul, and R&B to prove that there's no shame (and quite a bit of rhythm) in being a working band.

--Matt Weitz

The Barkays play Fort Worth's Caravan of Dreams Friday, October 10; two shows, at 7 and 10 p.m.


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