Second generation Dayton Funk stars Slave formed in Ohio in 1976 around a nucleus of guitarist Mark Hicks, singer/brass man Floyd Miller, bassist Mark Adams, guitarist/singer Danny Webster, and trumpeter Steve Washington – the nephew of pioneering funkateer, Ohio Players trumpeter Ralph “Pee Wee” Middlebrooks. Early on, Floyd came to a band meeting wearing a kinky t-shirt that had the word ‘Slave’ on one side and ‘Master’ on the other. Washington, whose family had direct ties to Frederick Douglass and the abolitionist movement, picked up on a concept that flipped the term slave from a negative into a positive: that the weight of the world is on everybody’s shoulders to make the planet a better place. As a band, Slave’s contribution would be to uplift the masses by creating music with healing and meaning. They would call their higher plane music not Funk but ‘Fungk’ – with a ‘g’ – alluding to a spiritual, God-like element. Slave exploded on contact with its 1977 debut single, “Slide,” making overnight sensations of guitarist Hicks (who took the nickname “Drac” based on some vocal clowning he did on the track) and bassist “Mr. Mark” Adams – both still teenagers yet waxing electrifyingly advanced on their respective axes. By their third album, the ever-evolving collective had added two powerhouses: female vocalist Starleana Young (16 going on 17 years-young) and Steve Arrington who would start off as a percussionist but quickly become the secret ingredient star voice of Slave with an organic approach to singing that borrowed from Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and Blues-Rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix as opposed to other singers.
Did you know?
- The Ohio Players, Slave, Lakeside, Zapp & Roger, Faze-o, Sun, and Heatwave all come from Dayton, Ohio
- Slave only performed a whopping two shows before recording its first album
- Slave spin-off groups included Aurra, Déjà, and Steve Arrington’s Hall of Fame, all of which scored hits