James Polk & The Brothers


James Polk grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas. After he excelled in all music classes in elementary, junior and senior high school, he moved to Austin, Texas, to attend Huston-Tillotson College. He gratuated in 1962 with a B. A. Degree in music education. James left Austin to teach band in Egin, Texas, and later moved to Massachusetts before he returned to Austin to work as a buyer in Production Purchasing.  Along with his new job he founded "The Brothers". Besides Polk himself (leader & organ), he remembers the other members of the original group: Reginald "Wimp" Caldwell (sax), Donald "Duck" Jennings (trumpet), Timothy Pickard (guitar), John "Sonny" Taylor (drums) and Yvonne "Vonnie" Joseph (vocals). 

Above: James Polk & The Brothers on stage

The Band became well known and grew to one of the hottest acts in the Austin area. In 1969 the group recorded the first of two 45RPM singles for Polk's Twink Label, 'Just Plain Funk' b/w 'Black Door Jeanne'. Due to Polk the Title of the flip is misspelled: "It's 'Back Door Jeannye'. The song title came from my wife's name whinch is Imogene Polk but we wall her Jeannye. The house we lived in at the time had a large double black door for the entrance, thus 'Black Door Jeannye'". 'Just Plain Funk / Back Door Jeanne' was followed by  'Power Struggle' b/w 'Never Give Him Up', their other release on Twink records. All Songs where recorded in 1969 at Lone Star Studios, Austin.

 

Twink Records was founded by Polk himself as a result of a recording project collaboration initiated by Polk and long time friend James R. Hurst. "Twink" was the nickname of the proprietor of the "Hide-A-Way Lounge", a popular nightclup in East Austin during the 1960's. When it comes to funk, another well known release on Twink record is the 45 RPM recording "Psycho" by The Fabulous Mark III.

In August 1969, James Polk & The Brothers had also recording sessions at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio in northwest Austin. The home-based studio previously has been used primarily for vocal overdub and mixing sessions. Although there are no photos from the sessions in the Sonobeat archives, Sonobeat co-founder and recording engineer Rim Kelley (Bill Josey Jr.) recalls that the tiny studio – which also houses the mixing console and tape decks – is so crowded that the musicians are practically falling over each other, requiring extremely close miking and several overdubs to get acceptable stereo separation.

 

The sessions yield two songs, lead singer Yvonne Joseph's original composition 'Stick-To-It-Tive-Ness', backed with 'The Robot', a jazz-influenced instrumental written by James Polk. Sonobeat co-founder and producer Bill Josey Sr. offers the Polk single to Liberty Recoprds for its Minit label. Although Liberty considers a deal, ultimately it never happens. Sonobeat finally releases the single on its own label the second week of November 1969.

In the late 70s, Polk joined the Ray Charles Orchestra as organist, pianist and later writer, arranger and conductor.  He moved back to Austin after living in Los Angeles for ten years, went back to college and received his Master of Music Degree at Southwest Texas State University in 1991. He was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Huston-Tillotson College. Polk retired from teaching in 2006 and received his Professor Emeritus status of Jazz Studies in the School of Music at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.

*Liner Notes with help from James Polk and Sonobeat Records

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