In the early eighties, people had the Eagles, and Waylon, but they also had The Dead Kennedy's & Grand Master Flash -- Music's primordial soup evolves of chance, deal-making, and of not taking oneself too seriously. To make something requires tools and knack, but to make something new, often requires invention of a new tool. Music as with all art, reflects life, but the reverb behind this change is only heard by the bold. A little known man named Aubrey Mayhew was bold.
Disco was dead, but it's legacy like a mutating virus changed things as equal parts reaction, and retaliation.
In the late 70’s Ben Cenac was a young DJ competing with other DJ’s In battles in Brooklyn.
After winning a battle to another crew, The losing DJ taunted them saying “You guys are bad, but you can’t do this”..., followed by some quick scratching on his turntable “wiki wiki wiki wiki”... introducing lay-public to a sound which was to become famous & also a parody. Surely we give full credit to Grand Master Flash, the Furious Five, Kurtis Blow, and The Rock Steady Crew as the progenitors of the Hip-Hop Movement, but it goes without saying that putting all of these new elements into a common language lies within the artists, and the Production. As far as production goes, the above video may seem silly and amateur, but that is precisely the point. This Band Newcleus, formerly Positive Messenger made a parody of rap, (curse them), into a hit. This actually ticks three boxes now. 1. Proto-Hip Hop, 2. Rap, and 3. B-boy'ing, or Break-dancing as it became known.
This onomatopoeia, "wiki" I suppose a nod to Grand Master Flash, and Curtis Blow, would also become the name of a place to find exactly such trivia on a barely gestating internet. It was1982, and these sounds evolved a musical sea-change. Scratching and Rapping may have existed in the late 70’s, but when someone begins to use it as parody, it has yet to peak. The oddest cosmic cross-fade of the early eighties came where Punk and Rap intersected. Blondie gave full credit in the song, Rapture, to her forebears, and crafted the first Rap track to hit Number one anywhere. The funny thing is that Blondie did it so well, that looking back at Cosmo-D, and Curtis Blow, without nostalgia as a back-drop, makes the latter seem a bit talent show-esque. A Punk Goddess brought rap to the masses, while Hip-hop was finding it's legs.
If you couldn’t dance or sing in early 83, you were not alone. There were simply too many new styles to refine a single. You could however scrounge a square of cardboard or a vinyl table cloth, press play on your boom box and break-dance to the ironic 12” single “Jam-on’s Revenge”, the ‘Wikki Wikki song’ (AKA “Jam On It”).
The baseline of this Top 40 track was its hook, but the odd addition of sped-up vocals & ’scratching’ on the track (made by mouth), would become the absurd special sauce that lifted it and others like it to the charts. Often you have to mock yourself to forge genius, and many would fall in line behind Newcleus, as the mouth became a mocking instrument, in the form of 'Beat-Box'.
To quote band member Ben Cenac, AKA Cosmo D, “I didn't really think much of the Rap records that were playing on the radio, so I figured as a joke I would make a parody jam ... I threw in an idea from an [event] that actually had happened in the ’70s”, this was the Wikki sound thrown back at them by a DJ who just lost their DJ Battle to Cosmo et al.
“...but You can’t do this…?" the vanquished DJ said tauntingly, “...Wikki Wikki Wikki Wikki”.
And so they packed this parody onto the end of their next album and set about to shop it around to studios. The track impressed Joe Webb from Mayhew records, and it was later cut as a separate 7” single that charted.
OK, so In the most reverential way, I need to say, that I was no wannabe, but if one watched “Breakin”, and also listened to this track..., you’d basically be hooked (at least for a week or so) in the vocational disaster of learning to break-dance. Taking risks is what the Music Biz does, and promoters who do not, don't make it long in the business.
Owing to one industrious Record Promoter, Named Aubrey Mayhew, some cosmic musical tides shifted.
Aubrey Mayhew was born in D.C. and served in Korea. He got his start in the music biz, as a booking agent, and promoter. He became a Country music producer & director of a country music TV program called “Hayloft Jamboree”, produced in Boston of all places… After this he became a Music producer for Pickwick records. In 1961 while working on a 99 cent budget line based in New York City, Mayhew was on the hunt for talent, but his heart lay in Nashville. Mayhew found himself in Dallas in 1963 the very day that Kennedy was shot, and had the brilliant idea to bring as much magnetic tape as he could find into a makeshift studio to record the news from a live TV set for 12 hours. They rushed the raw tapes to New York, and pressed the "Kennedy Speeches" album, which sold 3 million copies through nearly 300 Woolworth stores in four months. After that, Mayhew became obsessed with The Dead Kennedys.
Johnny Paycheck was a country singer, with a disjointed capability, he left home at 15 roaming the country on freight trains, later he joined the navy, and was court marshaled when he punched a superior officer. he served two years in prison. It's said he was much like Hank Williams, brilliant, but unfocused, and not capable of completing much of anything -- Whisky of course plays a role. It's also said that Hank Williams never wrote songs, but he came with a flood of great ideas, Hank's Manager Fred Rose needed to write them down. and together Fred and Hank Williams finished nearly all Hank's ideas as a team. This duo was no different than Paycheck and his manager Aubrey Mayhew.
Mayhew gained co-writer credits for coming up with marketable if preposterous song titles, such as Pardon Me (I've Got Someone to Kill). Mayhew heard about a country musician he wanted to sign to Pickwick. Traveling down to Nashville he found Donald Lytle sleeping under a bridge on Shelby Street. Mayhew and Lytle wrote and finished a few songs together. Mayhew convinced his reluctant Label to sign him, and they changed his name from Donald Lytle, to Johnny Paycheck, after a Chicago heavyweight boxer. With the new-found talent, Mayhew tried to get his label to start a Country Line, but was turned down, "They didn't want me to do it, but they allowed me to release a record with him, 'The Girl they talk about'", said Mayhew. Later they recorded a hit called A-11" which brought some success to Mayhew & Paycheck. After the hit, Mayhew quit Pickwick and started his own label in New York, and in 1966 moved to Nashville to start Little Darlin' records. He lived and worked in the Renovated Roxy Movie Theater in Nashville, wholly immersed again in country music.
By calculated risk and bold gumption, He built a nifty empire for his small country label -- signing niche and even odd musicians in a genre they called "Hard Country". His label grew, but soon they ran out of cash. Mayhew convinced one of their suppliers, the magnetic tape company 'Certron' to continue Little Darlin's work under their brand, 'Certron'. With acts like Johnny Paycheck, Clint Eastwood, and Later Johnny Cash, The Music Division of Certron became a larger label with a strange name; "Certron Corporation Music Division".
Mayhew, also made some bad decisions and when he tried to re-start Little Darlin' Records, he chose to represent himself in a legal battle, and lost the label and Paycheck. Mayhew started Mayhew Records, his third label called Amcorp, which recorded diverse talent and not just country. But Oddly his passion remained with Dead Kennedys. In fact so obsessed with Kennedy was Mayhew, that whilst producing music, raising a family and collecting Kennedy things, he amassed a larger collection of JFK memorabilia than anyone, more than 300,000 artifacts. Whilst he collected a formidable farm of Kennedy stuff, he wasn't content with just plaques, and medals, or other trinkets. Mayhew became famous as 'the Kennedy collector' when he actually bought the Texas School Book Depository Building in Dallas in an auction in 1970, for $600,000.
Three years later Mayhew lost the building in foreclosure, although until his death he claimed he had removed the window from which Oswald shot Kennedy, and stored it in Nashville. Caruth Byrd, who's father owned the building previously, said that he inherited the real window from his father, who … removed the window just after the assassination. Mayhew argued Byrd, "...Removed the wrong window". The reporter David Hoekstra who interviewed Mayhew quotes him as saying, “I also have a letter from a very wealthy civic leader who was half-owner of the Texas School Book Depository, who said he witnessed them taking the window out and told them they were taking it out of the wrong window.”
To collectors Provenance is everything, but to the lay public it seems a waste of breath.
Dead Kennedys formed as a Punk Band in June 1978 in San Francisco, California, when East Bay Ray (Raymond Pepperell) advertised for bandmates in the The Recycler, inspired after seeing a ska-punk show at Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco. The original lineup of the Kennedys was front man Jello Biafra (Eric Reed Boucher) on vocals, East Bay Ray on guitar, Klaus Flouride (Geoffrey Lyall) on bass, 6025 (Carlos Cadona) on rhythm guitar and Ted (Bruce Slesinger) on drums and percussion. The Original Dead Kennedys had their first live show on July 19, 1978 at Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco, California. The Dead Kennedys, (the band) was of no interest to Mayhew, but were the ironic progenitors of the west-coast Punk scene after the band Black Flag. The Dead Kennedys have nothing whatsoever to do with Aubrey Mayhew, but his Son knew them well, as did anyone bent toward the counter-culture.
Mayhew had three sons and a daughter.
One of Mayhew's Sons, Parris founded a punk band playing lead guitar for the Cro-Mags. Which alone underscores the full effect of Aubrey Mayhew's colorful life. Mayhew made Country music in Nashville. Produced a Country Music TV show from Boston. Created iconic Country star Johnny Paycheck, from a guy sleeping under a bridge, Later he recorded Lightning Hopkins, Stonewall Jackson, Clint Eastwood, Newcleus, and even owned rights to some Charlie Parker, which he sold too soon, (likely to buy more Kennedy stuff). Mayhew Started Two Record labels, and became obsessed with The Dead Kennedys, but not the band, just dead ones... Later, his teen son who admired the Dead Kennedys formed a Seminal Punk-rock band in NYC called the Cro-Mags, who debut at CBGB, and seemed to incite a West Coast - East Coast Punk rivalry. In California The Dead Kennedys claimed NY Punk 'Nazi'fied' the more intellectual social agendas of "Real Punk".
Here is the Cro-Mags Bio told by Parris Mayhew himself:
“…The year 1980, it's sunrise on NYC's lower east side, Ave. A is a barren urban wasteland of empty storefronts in abandoned buildings. the streets are littered with junkies and freaks. Heroin and cocaine are the only flourishing businesses and the only sign of life in this ghost town are the local gangs and 40 or so kids in front of A 7 (hardcore club) where Urban Waste is still on stage. Little Chris, age 11, and Eric Casanova, age 12, sit on the curb still tripping from the night before, with no money, no hope and no future, just drive and dried blood on their clothes from a night they've already forgotten. This was hardcore and the streets were ours.
Across from Tompkins Square Park Parris Mayhew and Harley Flanagan are sitting in the back booth of the Park Inn Tavern (after-hours) pounding pitchers of beer and shots of Jack, planning their new band. Nothing unusual, except that Parris was16 and Harley was 14 and their band was to change the hardcore scene forever.
In the bar, Harley is recounting to Parris the details of a robbery he and Paul Dordal had perpetrated earlier that day. As Parris sits listening and looking into Harley's drunk, drugged and crazed eyes that seem to pierce the darkness, Parris thinks "What am I getting myself into?"
In the early eighties, while Mayhew's son was stoking the punk fire, an exec at his father's Label Mayhew Records / Amcorp finds talent in early Rap. Later hailed as Hip-Hop, Mayhew Records signed the Brooklyn Electro-Boogie band Newcleus. Who held onto a one hit wonder as a parody surprise that charted well, called "Jam On It" -- This track introduced most of America to the musical equation: Scratching + Rap + Dance + A catchy Base-line = Hip-Hop?
The Cromags, Now called the 'Real Cromags', have evolved into something else over time. While their wild- eyed front man remains. Like most punk bands, they became a hardcore revolving door of members. Meanwhile Parris Mayhew went on to Hollywood to become a formidable Camera Operator, and director, (a chip off the block). He has completed hundreds of films, TV shows, documentaries, and Videos. Mayhew also shot a documentary on Sufjan Stephens.
From Hard Country to Hard-core, Proto-Hip-Hop, to Punk Thrash, all genres converged in what was perhaps the most epic stone soup of any decade.
After Mayhew forfeited Little Darlin' & Paycheck, Johnny Paycheck went on to Epic, and charted with his seminal Country Hit, "Take this Job and Shove It". Which caused impressionable laborers to tell their bosses to fuck-off, in gastly large numbers.
Before Producer Aubrey Mayhew's death On March 16th 2009, he was embroiled in a custody battle of sorts for ownership of 'the actual window' through which Oswald shot President Kennedy in 1963. In London upon his death The Guardian wrote, "Mayhew swam against the current of mainstream music, in the nonconformist tradition of men such as Sam Phillips, Syd Nathan of King Records and the Chess brothers.”
Age and Treachery will overcome youth and skill.