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Letter From Egon: Conrad “Prof” Johnson
03/12/2009, 10:53 PM
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Conrad O. Johnson, bandleader of the Kashmere High School Stage Band from 1968-1978 and owner of Kram Records, the label that issued the Band’s legendary eight albums and three 7” singles of Texas jazz, funk and soul music, died in Houston February 3rd at 92 years of age.

World-renowned Kashmere Stage Band reunited February 1st in Houston for the first time in over 30 years and played a tribute concert for their leader, the legendary Conrad “Prof” Johnson. Below is a letter from Egon Alapatt, owner of Now Again Records, the label responsible for the release of the Kashmere Stage Band Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974.
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FROM EGON ALAPATT OF NOW AGAIN:

He received one hell of a send off. On Friday, the Kashmere Stage Band reunited for a performance at the High School’s auditorium. Filmmaker Mark Landsman, who is producing and directing a documentary on the Band, worked with Johnson’s foundation and Kashmere High School to set off the event for his crew’s cameras. But the reason that the Band’s members, many of whom left the music field after their departure from Kashmere High, reunited and rehearsed, daily, for a month prior to the concert, was to give Johnson the respect he deserved and had fought for, for so long.

The Kashmere Stage Band’s story can be found here (link to the Now Again Section of Kashmere). But in a nutshell, here it is: Johnson, known by those close to him simply as “Prof” took the reins of the Band in the late 1960s and worked with his charges to perfect the idiom that they understood most: funk. Heavy funk at that. By the time that the band recorded their third album, Thunder Soul, they were funking like a mini-JBs. And, by the time they won “Best Stage Band In The Nation” in 1972, they were funking as hard as the JBs themselves.

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Yet the Band was relegated to the annals of funk lore, largely due to the fact that the records they released were so rare and, when a collector did get his hands on an original copy, he usually wanted to keep that power for his own ears. A few people did bootleg a song or two in the mid 90s, and, by 2000, the band’s name heated up then fledgling chat rooms when DJ Shadow sampled their namesake track “Kashmere” for the Handsome Boy’s Modeling School cut “Holy Calamity.” With Stones Throw, I reissued “Kashmere,” the first legitimate reissue of a Kashmere Stage Band track, on The Funky 16 Corners in 2001. The band that performed on “Kashmere” as teenagers back in 1973, including Gerald Calhoun on bass, Earl Spiller on guitar, Bruce Middleton on tenor sax and the indomitable Craig Green on drums, performed the anthem and other Johnson-penned classics like “Zero Point” at the auditorium on Friday. It was a overwhelming to say the least. I’m not the kind of person easily impressed by a funk band, and I’m especially critical of those bands that played intensely in the late 60s and early 70s reuniting and performing as a shadow of their monstrous selves, but the Kashmere Stage Band funked like their lives depended on it. By the time they reached the climax on Bubbha Thomas’s modal jazz classic “All Praises To Allah,” and Craig Green rode the uptempo breakbeat like Clyde Stubblefield and Gerald Calhoun plucked those same staccato notes that danced along those same rhythms nearly forty years ago, I stood breathless.
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After the event, I mentioned to Prof’s son that there were still some Kashmere albums at Prof’s house on Rosewood Drive that I needed to transfer, for the possibility of assembling a compilation of Kashmere’s ballads. He told me that the family had moved Prof out of that house he’d lived in for nearly sixty years, and that he had moved all of Prof’s records into a storage unit on the side of the house. I made my way over and sorted through everything on Saturday, becoming more inspired as I went through the stacks of vinyl. The man’s recorded output with that stage band was just tremendous, and the fact that he had kept such meticulous archives of his music, well into his 90s, blew me away.

On Sunday, I drove out to Conrad Jr.’s house to catch up with Prof before leaving for Los Angeles . When I arrived, vinyl in hand for safe delivery, I sat and talked with Prof… we had one of the best talks we’d had in months: about the band, and how good they sounded (“Doggone! Man, could they have sounded any better?” he asked), about Bubbha Thomas and his Youthful Musicians Summer Program and the 45 that they released in the mid 70s – a cover of Prof’s “Lost Love,” about future performances of the band, and, of course, about future anthologies of the band’s recordings. He was most excited about that. Smiling, laughing, and gently prodding me with the same types of questions he did over the first years of our musical courtship (“Look here man, how are you going to do it? With what songs? From where? With the reel to reels?”) – and, of course, making sure his business was straight.

He was so thrilled, so happy, so with it… I left feeling uplifted. I hadn’t just spoken with a sick man, a man recovering from the heart attack that had confined him to a hospital bed just days before. I had spoken with a peer – a man who was going to be with us forever – carefully stewarding the next steps of his legendary Band, the band whose legend seems to grow greater by the day.

In a way, he will be.

-Egon

**Ed. note: This was a letter sent out by Egon shortly after Mr. Johnson’s passing last year in order to raise funds for the Johnson family’s funeral expenses. It’s also a good introduction to a good man, his music, and life.

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[...] running a label, frequently DJing, and coordinating all kinds of projects, Egon also occasionally writes articles. Here’s a great short piece he did for NPR about digging for funk in [...]

Pingback by 2 Dope Reads « NERDTORIOUS.com

[...] If you want to imerse yourself beyond the grooves then check out some beautiful thoughts that were captured in a letter written by Egon Allapat of Now Again Records in Feb 2009 just after Johnston’s death. The letter was written by Egon to help the family raise funds to pay funeral expenses. You can read Egon’s letter here. [...]

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[...] Letter From Egon: Conrad “Prof” Johnson « NERDTORIOUS.com [...]

Pingback by Letter From Egon: Conrad “Prof” Johnson « NERDTORIOUS.com « Whats Hot

[...] Road follows these out-of-practice musicians as they reunite to perform a tribute concert to Conrad O. Johnson, the irrepressible music teacher who whipped the teens into a musical dynamo all those years [...]

Pingback by CIFF: Thunder Soul - Chicagoist

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Comment by Prayash

Yes. I think what you have written is a better description of what I felt. I wasn’t ‘angry’ at the technical skill with which the painting was executed in the least. It’s a two-pronged feeling – half “Why didn’t I think of that?” and half “Well, I can never do exactly that now that it’s been done so perfectly”. Though, there is now a part of me that wants to make a derivative painting based on the one above, just for me – just to scratch the itch. @hellothefuture: I’ll have to check out those recommendations. Thanks for that!@Donna: Bacon fixes everything. @Ryan: See that’s one of the reasons I like Schiele so much. I love creepy artwork (in general). @tattooedg33k: Wow. That’s a beautiful painting. Gonna look up more about Hodler.

Comment by small business insurance

Great article. I’ve enoeyjd this contribution. Its nice to see every questions answered in a blog post like this. I will add this post on my blog and link to it. Thanks for a clear informative post, I’ve learned a lot. I hope to see videos though as I can be A.D.D and reading articles is not my favorite thing to do online. So what I do sometimes is just print the whole thing and read offline.My website is .

Comment by Rian




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