I first met Floyd Beck at Elizabeth Davis' apartment which was over the Crawford Grill in the Hill district of Pittsburgh. Floyd was lookingfor a keyboardist. Also there was a singer named Joy Duncan.
Floyd always said "take one" at the beginning of each take even if it was "take 35". Sheer physical energy was at the heart of Floyd's singing. Floyd would work-out for several months before coming into the studio. Singing was a very serious business for Floyd. The last session emmett recorded with Floyd was at Jeree studios, possibly on the above track. "Got to be a Man" was one of my favorite Floyd Beck songs. One memorable gig emmett played with Floyd was Mother's Day at the Islam Grotto, formerly on the North Side. The caterers were all white and the crowd was all black. There were two bands and a dj. Floyd also sang many Marvin Gaye songs.
Anyone with any information on Floyd Beck or Joy Duncan, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
dec 30, 2004..brian kruman writes:
hey emmett, surfin the web .... i have to agree," got to
be a man" is one of my favorites. its been close to 19 years since i
left floyd in florida. last i heard he was still down there. a few years
back i heard a soul band playing at the street fair in garfield. guitar
player had that same feel as floyd. i approached the guy after the set.
turns out it was floyds cousin. small world. do you have any of his
stuff. i have the "communicate" sessions do in around 1982. stuff still
smokes!probably could be released somewhere if the masters were found.if
you want a copy, drop me aline with your e mail. i see on the web there
are copies of part is the solution in europe. on my cd is "time
bomB"...and as floyd would say "baby, bb..baby..bbb baby". hopr you are well,
In Memorium - Floyd Beck
Time: 1:09 AM EDT
Some of you will remember back to the years 1983-1985 when I played music with a soul band led by Floyd Beck. We worked in Pittsburgh for a while then moved to Florida where I continued with the band for almost two years. I'm sorry to report that Floyd passed away Sept 18, 2005 at age 59 in Hollywood, Florida.
As a young man fresh out of school, I learned more than a few life lessons living with the band on the road. I had heard a little Marvin Gaye and Tina Turner, but I really didn't know squat about soul / R&B and he filled in the gaps with Sam & Dave, Frankie Beverly, Sam Cooke, and so on. Basically he taught us how to get in the groove. We had a lot of great times together as well as some tough times. I saw first hand how, as a black man, he was mistrusted until he proved himself. The club owners were often leary the first night and enthusiastic buddies by the second or third night. I think that's what pushed him to hire an all-white back-up band and go on the road. There is no question that we got into venues that would have been unlikely with an unknown all-black band. This is unfortunate but it's the truth. Man, we got into some seriously stylin' clubs and there are many stories to be told about those experiences both good and bad. Florida in the 1980's was a bit like the old
Wild West. Anything was possible. He always said he was searching for his "people".
Floyd did have a very tough side to him and could be extremely stubborn. Scorpio. No drinking on the job. Got to be home from the beach by 6:00 pm in case we had gotten a gig that night. (This was before cell phones.) We called it "The Marines of Music". He had to have things his way. This was both a strength and a weakness. He may have missed some opportunities because of it. As Floyd told it, in the early days, after a stint with Sam & Dave, he was signed to Warner Brothers Records. (At the time they also had Pink Floyd and Jeff Beck. We used to joke that he was Pink Floyd's black brother.) The label wanted a certain person to produce Floyd's new record - a then little-known jazz pianist named Herbie Hancock. Floyd turned them down saying, "What does he know about my music?" He said they kept him "on the shelf" and didn't promote him. There's no doubt in my mind that this guy could and should have been a star.
On the other hand he could be very charming and sweet and rarely hesitated to help a neighbor in need. He was a very hard worker and completely self-motivated. He'd spend the whole day helping you hang a new door on your car if that's what was needed. Many were the days he spent on the "Willy's creeper" under the old van to keep the band safe and on the road. There were certain times when he wouldn't let us listen to any music in the van on the way to the gig because he needed to "listen" to the van in case something would go wrong. Vehicles spoke to him. Only Floyd drove the van, no one else. This was our life line. On the other hand, there were times when, on a long ride home from the gig at 3:00 in the morning when he would be really fired up and make us listen to a certain song that he wanted us to learn 20 or 30 times over and over ad nausium. Driver's choice. He taught us how to hear the "invisible" notes in a song.
Floyd grew up in the Hill District of Pittsburgh and emulated Georgie Benson who was a bit older. As I recall, Floyd said that George Benson played soul music until Wes Montgomery died and the label executives had him learn to play jazzy style to fill the empty slot. Anyway, Floyd said that, as a child, he used to go down to the corner and play an old guitar with 3 or 4 strings until his embarassed father would come and drag him back home and break the guitar in half. Floyd had his sister reclaim the parts from the trash, put it back together and was back to playing as soon as possible.
I recall Floyd saying that his first band was called the "Marshmallow Steamshovel". The rest of the band would dress like Jimi Hendrix and he would wear a black and white tux and do acrobatics on stage while singing and playing guitar.
I'm not sure if any of Floyd Beck's music is available on the internet. Try looking for the album "Communicate" or the songs "I'm in love", "Communicate", "Symphony" or "Trying to Love Two". Some material came out on 45's. I have some well worn second generation casette tapes. I think the Saturday "Soul Show" on WYEP should do a Floyd Beck tribute day.
Floyd chose to play songs that reflect life - love, heartache, ecstacy, despair - songs that people would take to heart. But he would never do a song that might push someone over the edge. He said once that he would never sing a song like "Hey Joe", because it might inspire someone to go out and act it out. Looking back on it, he loved to do humanistic songs with a message, whether they were covers or originals.
Floyd's obituary ran in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette Thursday the 22nd of September. It did not give any details, but referred to him as Rev. Floyd Beck. Apparantly he got into another profession after I knew him. I always thought I'd see Floyd again but I lost touch with him and never could seem to track him down. I guess I'll have to wait until that big jam-session in the sky. The guy was a hell of a singer and guitar player as well as a person. They broke the mold after they made him. We miss you, Floyd. "Ain't no big thing, man." "It's a groove thang."
- Hugh Watkins - September 24, 2005
P.S. I posted a picture of the band on the "Photo Album" section of the Post-Gazette Obituary Website. It will be there until Oct 22.
Post Gazette Obituary
P.P.S. My friend Brian Kruman, who played in Floyd's band for many years,
wrote this note to me . . .
". . . I went to the funeral in homewood. floyd still looked great! He died
from complications due to kidney and liver failure. saw Pat his wife. his
boys grew up to be good young men. saw his brothers ,sisters there too.
where did the years go? floyd gave up the music biz in 1986, shortly
thereafter he got the calling to the ministry. he preached and became an
ordained minister and had his own church in hollywood...." a bible in
one hand , his guitar in the other". from what they said at the funeral
, he spent the next 20 years doing good works, preaching and helping
people in need. seems he found peace doing those works. a got a copy of a
gospel cd that he did in 1998...he still sounds as good as ever...great
voice,great guitar grooves. in the funeral program , the promo picture
with you , me , bob and floyd was included. I was talking with some
other people there, musicians who had also played with floyd back in the
day.. we all laughed about that look he would shoot at all of us
when we screwed up on stage! funny, I too always thought I would see
him again. . . ."