Q&A With Dean Snowden of the Legendary JC's, Playing the Back Room Tomorrow Night
Few frontmen are as wildly energetic as The Legendary JC's Eugene Snowden. Backed by a badass eight-piece, he confidently recreates the soul revue sensations of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Snowden brings his own explosive quirks to the indelible personas created by such greats as James Brown and Al Green, two men with which he has shared a stage over the years.
Legendary JC's (Joint Chiefs) songs are mostly originals Snowdens wrote or co-wrote. Lyrically, each has an ageless quality that speaks to universal themes like wanting the girl, making the girl and, then, inevitably losing the girl. The greasy grooves are time honored, goosed by punchy horns and put across with maximum swagger and sweat.
Snowden cofounded the multinational, interracial ensemble about a decade ago in Orlando. The common thread that unites the J.C.'s -- a rather disparate group of men ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-40s -- is a love and understanding of old-school R&B.
It's that adoration and respect for the Southern, blues-based heritage that invigorates Snowden. Crossfade caught up with the fast-talking singer on a recent Wednesday afternoon at his Central Florida home.
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New Times: The Legendary J.C.'s roster has undergone some recent changes. How's the new lineup gelling?
Eugene Snowden: We're doing pretty good. We've changed the sound a bit; can't keep it exactly the same, but it's still all about the funk and soul of the late 1960s and early '70s -- that hybrid, which always harkens back to the blues of the '40s and '50s.
When writing new material, how important is it to stick to the classic soul template?
We keep the lyrics that way. You might hear sounds popular in 1975 -- but you're not going hear anything too far removed. Most of our original songs are just natural to write because it's a natural part of me.
Where did you grow up?
On Long Island but my mom's from North Carolina, where I was also [raised]. I'm half from the South, half from New York City. My momma's family all sang. My father and his side played jazz. [But] the South is where music began: blues in Memphis, jazz in New Orleans. There's no music movement that we invented that was not from the South.
The energy level of your shows is amazing -- and key to your success. Is it tough to get up for every gig?
The music itself gets me juiced. And keeping the music alive is enough of an impetus to keep me rocking and rolling and loving it.
Your audience is quite eclectic. What do you think is it about your music that brings people from different ages and backgrounds and races together?
A healthy respect for the roots. We might go off on jams -- we can all play jazz like John Coltrane, we love that, jamming on Otis Redding in that style. We stretch it out but not too much. And we get the audience involved ... It's the kind of show I would want to see if I went out.
You have shared the stage with many of your musical heroes. What was it like opening for James Brown at House of Blues in Orlando?
He died just a little after that. I remember when were leaving -- [James Brown] had an entourage all around him at all times -- he was walking around and [trombonist/co-bandleader Clay Watson] said to him how it was such an honor to open for him. James Brown put his hand up and his whole entourage stopped. He said, "You boys was fabulous!" That was really good. He wanted to take us to Europe but then he died.
Legendary J.C.'s play The Back Room Blues Bar, North Dixie Highway, Boca Raton, on Friday, June 12 at 9 p.m. Cover is $10. (561) 988-8929 or thebackroombluesbar.com.
-- Wade Tatangelo
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