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It's a Funk Family Affair

It's a Funk Family Affair

It sounds like the title of a sitcom from the 80s, but for this The Whole Darn Family we actually have to go back another decade. It’s a seven-piece funk band out of Richmond, Virginia, whose short-lived career in the mid-70s made for a long-standing source for sampling. Take their most sampled track, ‘Seven Minutes of Funk’: new on Tracklib, but flipped before for music by Public Enemy, Jay-Z, Kool G Rap, Wu-Tang Clan, Kurtis Blow, and countless others.

By DannyVeekens
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“The first group I heard that sampled me was EPMD,” tells bassist Woudy Hughes to Richmond Magazine for the previously untold story of The Whole Darn Family. “I was coming home one night, had the radio on and heard ‘Dun-Dun-Dun …’ It was my bass. I thought, ‘Wow, I’m going to get paid for this.’”

It was EPMD’s “It’s My Thing” playing on the radio, with a sample of Hughes’ timeless bass line throughout the whole track. But it was actually nearly a decade earlier when Grandmaster Flash sampled The Whole Darn Family for the first time for his 1979 classic, “Superrappin’.” Turning seven minutes of funk into twelve minutes of early rap.

Bassist Woudy Hughes (Photo by Jay Paul | Source: Richmond Magazine)
Bassist Woudy Hughes (Photo by Jay Paul | Source: Richmond Magazine)

The catalog of The Whole Darn Family originally consisted of covers of The Ohio Players, KC and the Sunshine Band, and Kool and the Gang. According to Hughes, the bass lick on “Seven Minutes of Funk” actually arose when bandleader Tyrone Thomas a.k.a. Little Tommy asked for “something like ‘Skin Tight’ by The Ohio Players.” The track was one of their four singles on Soul International Records (an independent label founded by August Moon, the family’s manager, producer, and promoter). This led to recording more original material, including their first (and only) full-length album, Has Arrived, which was reissued in 2009 by Amherst Records.

Back to the bass

In the dawn of disco in the 70s, “Seven Minutes of Funk”–and the bass intro in particular–was actually in heavier rotation than the album’s official guitar-heavy single, “Ain’t Nothing but Something to Do.” DJs in New York started spinning “Seven Minutes of Funk” more and more, leading to a special 12” disco mix of the track.

Since "Has Arrived", the funk family is no longer together. But luckily, their bloodline lives on through samples, with "Seven Minutes of Funk" as their inheritance to producers around the world.

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