When The Bar-Kays headline Augusta’s KISS Family Reunion concert on Saturday, Sept. 15, their appearance will mark 40 years since they appeared at the Wattstax music festival in Los Angeles.
On Aug. 20, 1972, The Bar-Kays appeared at L.A. Memorial Coliseum along with several acts from Memphis-based Stax record label.
The outdoor festival was the brainchild of Stax executive Al Bell, who wanted to help ease tensions in L.A.’s urban sector known as Watts, a district that was still reeling from the riots of 1965.
Minnesota Fattz, Augusta’s Clear Channel radio executive and the executive producer of the third annual KISS Family Reunion, said The Bar-Kays’ Augusta appearance is relevant and timely, considering the local event was created to increase community bonding in the wake of growing violence in Augusta neighborhoods.
Fattz and longtime disc-jockey mate Cher Best often use their morning shifts to enlighten listeners about the benefits of education while promoting an anti-crime sentiment.
Gates open for the KISS Family Reunion at 10 a.m. Saturday, and music begins at 11. Tickets are $12 from Pyramid Music locations, www.etix.com or by calling (706) 396-6000.
This year’s festival lineup also includes James Fortune, Urban Mystic, Klass Band Brotherhood, Derrick Monk, Big Robb of ZAPP, Avery Sunshine, Anthony David, Matthew Davis Band and Ray Lavender.
In the process of staying current, The Bar-Kays recently released a new single titled Grown Folks, which is steadily climbing R&B charts.
“Folks should expect an exciting brand of all-day music and family fun,” said Fattz, who serves as the program director for WKSP (KISS-FM) 96.3, an urban adult contemporary formatted station.
Bassist James Alexander and lead vocalist Larry Dodson, the two remaining members from the group’s mid-’70s heyday, acknowledge the historical significance of the band’s Wattstax appearance.
In reflecting on their L.A. concert, Dodson said, “Frankly, I was scared and nervous. More than 100,000 people? That’s a moment we’ll never forget. Truly historical,” he said.
Alexander is one of two survivors from the original Bar-Kays that backed Otis Redding. His bandmates died in the December 1967 plane crash that killed Redding – the legendary Macon, Ga., crooner.
Trumpeter Ben Cauley survived the crash, which Alexander escaped altogether when he was forced to take a different flight because of space constraints on Redding’s private plane.
“Wattstax? We turned it out,” said Alexander, noting the band’s electrifying rendition of Son of Shaft. “That’s why you see us in all the movie-documentary promotions and trailers. We were the poster boys for the film and the concert,” he said.
Pittsburgh music historian Darryl “Boogie” Dunn, refers to Wattstax as the black Woodstock and credits Wattstax for spawning outdoor music festivals in urban areas throughout the 1970s and beyond.
Dunn cites Kool Jazz Festivals and Budweiser Fests as emblematic of outdoor concert trends that occurred in small towns and mid-size U.S. cities alike.
Augusta’s KISS Family Reunion fest, Dunn said, reflects the ongoing Wattstax legacy.