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The Bar-Kays
Origin Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Genres R&B, soul, funk,
Years active 1966–1988, 1991–present
Labels Stax, Volt, Mercury, Rhino, Basix
Associated acts Otis Redding
James Alexander, Larry Dodson
Former members
Ronnie Caldwell, Ben Cauley, Carl Cunningham, Ronnie Gorden, Willie Hall, Harvey Henderson, Phalon Jones, Jimmy King, Lloyd Smith, Michael Toles

The Bar-Kays are a popular soul, R&B, and funk group who began performing in 1966 and continue to perform today, although with only one original member. The group had dozens of charting singles from the 1960s to the 1980s, including "Soul Finger" (U.S. Billboard Hot 100 #17, R&B #3) in 1967, and "Son of Shaft" (R&B #10) in 1972.



The Bar-Kays began in Memphis, Tennessee as a studio session musician group, backing major artists at Stax Records. They were chosen in 1967 by Otis Redding to play as his backing band. On December 10, 1967, Redding, his manager, and band members Jimmy King (b. 1949; guitar), Ronnie Caldwell (b. 1948; electric organ), Phalon Jones (b. 1949; saxophone), and Carl Cunningham (b. 1949; drums) died in a plane crash in Lake Monona while on their way to a performance in Madison, Wisconsin. Trumpeter Ben Cauley survived the crash and bassist James Alexander was on another plane, since there were eight members in Redding's party and the chartered plane could only hold seven. Cauley and Alexander rebuilt the group.

The re-formed band consisted of Cauley; Alexander; Harvey Henderson, saxophone; Michael Toles, guitar; Ronnie Gorden, organ; Willie Hall, drums and later Larry Dodson, lead vocals. The group backed dozens of major Stax artists on recordings afterwards, including Isaac Hayes's Hot Buttered Soul, but changed musical direction in the 1970s to have a successful funk music career on Mercury Records. Lloyd Smith joined The Bar-Kays in 1973. The Bar-Kays continued to have hits on R&B chart well into the 1980s and have performed all over the world. The band took a hiatus in the late 1980s, but regrouped in 1991 with Alexander as the only remaining original member. Marcus Price was also a member of the Bar-Kays, until he was murdered coming from rehearsal in 1984. The crime was never solved by the Memphis police.

Alexander's son is the award-winning rapper and record producer, Phalon "Jazze Pha" Alexander, who was named after Phalon Jones.

Album discography

  • Soul Finger (1967)
  • Gotta Groove (1969)
  • Black Rock (1971)
  • Do You See What I See? (1972)
  • Coldblooded (1974)
  • Too Hot to Stop (1976)
  • Flying High on Your Love (1977)
  • Money Talks (1978)
  • Light of Life (1978)
  • Injoy (1979)
  • As One (1980)
  • Nightcruising (1981)
  • Propositions (1982)
  • Dangerous (1984)
  • Banging the Wall (1985)
  • Contagious (1987)
  • Animal (1988)


The Bar-Kays appeared in the 1973 film documentary, Wattstax. In the 1985 movie Spies Like Us, starring Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase, The Bar-Kays' hit "Soul Finger" was the favorite song of the crew of a Soviet mobile ICBM platform on patrol in Tajikistan S.S.R. Their songs "Too Hot To Stop" and "Soul Finger" are featured in the 2007 comedy film, Superbad.


External links



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