Friday, May 23, 2014

Peace & Rhythm's Interview with Larry Grogan of Funky 16 Corners

We're kicking off our new interview series with a fantastic funky gentleman from New Jersey named Larry Grogan. If you've ever read his popular blogs Funky 16 Corners and Iron Leg you'll know Larry as a passionate music fan of 60s & 70s funk, soul, garage and pop. An avid collector, groovy DJ, familyman and all-around excellent dude, Larry is a walking encyclopedia of old-school 45s. We highly recommend that you bookmark his blogs. Here we present our brother in soul, Larry Grogan:

(photo by Eilon Paz, Dust & Grooves)

Could you give us some background on your early life and how you found this music you passionately write about?

I grew up in NJ during the 70s. My father was a full-time teacher and a part time musician. There was always music in our house/family (mostly jazz and classical before I started buying my own records) and we were all encouraged to play an instrument as well. I started out on the trumpet when I was in grade school, but as soon as I fell in love with rock’n’roll I got a drum set.

Tell our readers about your bands you played in. Did these bands appear on any records?

I had a bunch of bands during and right after high school (mostly hard rock) but after getting deep into 60s garage and psyche my brothers and I formed the Phantom Five in 1984. We played 60s garage, folk rock, mod and some psyche stuff on the NYC garage scene. We recorded and released a four-song EP ('Great Jones Street') in 1986 and then recorded a second EP in 1987 that never made it past the cassette stage.


Could you tell us about your experiences with print zines? What are the best and worst things to you about switching from print to online?

I started doing zines in 1984, first with Incognito (1984-1987) Evil Eye (1988 – 1996), then a few issues of a jazz/Beat Generation zine called Gone (1997/98). I sold them via consignment in NJ  and NYC record stores, through the zine store See/Hear in NYC and through the mail.
Funky16Corners started out in 2000 as a kind of on-line incarnation of a zine.
If on-line as a downside, it’s the ephemeral nature of it, i.e. unless you make an effort to keep things uploaded and current, they can disappear, whereas a printed zine gives the reader something in hand. On the plus side of things, the on-line format allows for a lot of multimedia possibilities. I can use color pictures, post sound files/mixes, and link to outside sources of information. Counting the archived episodes of my radio show, I host a couple of hundred mixes at Funky16Corners, mostly by me, but also including guest mixes from my yearly fundraisers.


You have two blogs, Funky 16 Corners and Iron Leg. What is the basic theme for each one? Why two instead of some kind of combination blog? When did you start these blogs?

I moved from the web zine format of Funky16Corners to a blog in 2004. I started Iron Leg in 2007.
Funky16Corners covers a fairly wide variety of funk, soul, jazz, R&B. I originally came from a ‘mod soul’ vibe that encompassed everything from late 50s R&B, to soul jazz (especially Hammond stuff) on through ‘classic era’ soul and Northern Soul-style stuff. I have also written about disco, breaks/samples, and of course funk.
When I started Funky16Corners I was also writing about pop and rock music, but decided pretty quickly that I ought to narrow the focus to soul/funk.
I have been a collector/fan of 60s garage/mod/psyche/pop since the early 80s, and still listen to/dig for that kind of stuff, so in 2007 I decided that I wanted to write about that music as well, and Iron Leg was born.
The blogs have pretty distinct audiences, but I’ve found that there’s a lot of crossover as well.

Obviously your blog posts are in the spirit of spreading the music, with your writing about the tune as well as a digital file to listen to. However, have you run into any trouble with an artist or publishing company wanting you to take anything down?

I have been extraordinarily lucky in that respect. Whether it’s because artists realize that I post the music out of respect and a wish to spread the word, or the fact that much of what I post is really old and out of print, I have never run into those kind of problems. Once I had the son of an artist write to complain about my posting a song on Iron Leg, but once I explained to him that I had purchased the music on-line and as a record, and my intention was to raise consciousness about his father’s music, he changed his tune.
I have been contacted many, many times over the years by artists and/or their families and they are universally thrilled that someone out there cares enough to keep the sounds alive for a new generation.
I know that it may not stay that way forever, but I just keep on keeping on and hoping for the best.

What would you say about the overall response to your blog activities?
Very positive. Funky16Corners will celebrate its 10th anniversary this fall, and I’ve had a number of younger bloggers tell me that my site was the inspiration for them to get into the game, which makes me extremely proud. That, and the number of DJs/diggers who have given thanks, either in person or on the web for the music and stories I’ve shared.

Have you ever thought about compiling a book?

I actually have, and right now I’m in the process of figuring out what form that book will take. I want to do anthology of writing from the blogs, but have to decide how to present it.

How often do you get out to DJ? What are some of the things about DJing that you find to be the best and worst for you?

I don’t get out nearly as much as I’d like. Unfortunately, where I live (Central NJ) there isn’t a lot of demand for the kind of music I play. I have traveled a lot to spin, up in NYC, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Massachusetts, Richmond, VA but having two kids (I’m a stay at home Dad), and the lack of real money involved limits the amount of travelling I can do.
I love to DJ though, especially when you have a room full of people that are down to dance. There’s not much of a downside. People complain about folks making weird requests, but it’s not really enough of a problem to waste time worrying about it.

What about the Funky16Corners Radio Show? What are your feelings on the radio medium now, and on the internet as a medium?

I love doing the radio show. I’m old enough to have grown up when commercial radio was still important, and to have experienced the 1980s rise (and fall) of college/alternative radio first-hand. I’m one of those kids that used to sit up listening to my radio late into the night, dreaming about being a broadcaster myself. The internet has been the great democratizer, in that anyone with access to the basic technology can put together a blog, or a podcast. The hardware required is relatively small potatoes, and the software isn’t hard to learn.
College/public radio is really the last off-internet frontier where people can really say something interesting. Commercial radio, and unfortunately satellite (which has really been a missed opportunity) are both dead in the water.
Podcasting is really amazing in that you can pretty much do/say anything you want to. I look at my show as an educational opportunity in the same way as the blog. I get to turn people on to things they may not have heard, or remind them of something they haven’t heard in a while. Either way, it’s another outlet to get those good sounds out into the ether.

How supportive are your family members of your collecting, blogging and DJing?

My wife has been very supportive. We’ve been married for 14 years this year, so she’s been around for everything but the band/print-zine years. My kids both love music, and they know they’re not supposed to touch the records, so that’s all good.
I’m not irresponsible with my time or money (both of which I’ve seen get out of hand with record friends), and I’ve managed to find a nice balance between records/record related stuff and real life.

Are there any other blogs that you enjoy reading? Would you like to shout-out any other writers?

Yes. Though a lot of great blogs have gone under in the last few years, I always check in with AM Then FM, Echoes in the Wind, the B-Side, Fleamarket Funk, Heavysoulbrutha’s Put the Needle On the Record, The Hits Just Keep On Comin' and Soul Sides (you can find links in the Funky16Corners blogroll). They’re not all funk/soul related but they all make for interesting reading.

What are the most and least enjoyable aspects to digging for records?

The most enjoyable aspect for me is discovery. I have very far reaching tastes, so I can usually find something new to listen to. The least enjoyable thing for me is how competitive some people are about their digging spots and the commerce of records. There are too many people who have decided to spend the bulk of their time buying to sell, instead of buying to hear. I always share my spots. There are more than enough records out there for everyone. If I come up with more from any given spot than someone else it’s because I’ve taken the time to educate myself.

How big is your vinyl collection and what other types of music beyond soul, funk and garage that we may find healthy doses of?

I have maybe three to four thousand 45s and a couple of thousand LPs. In addition to the styles you mentioned, I have a LOT of jazz and pop, some folk, country, classical.

How do you manage your time when it comes to your blogging projects? You seem to be pretty regular, but do you ever get stressed about the blogs? Have you ever taken a vacation from it?

Right now, I generally do three posts a week at Funky16Corners, one post at Iron Leg, a weekly radio show/podcast at F16C and a monthly podcast at Iron Leg. I record and photograph vinyl as it comes in, so I have a huge stockpile of raw material ready to be blogged, and try to keep a couple of weeks’ worth of posts done ahead of time and a few weeks of the radio show pre-recorded. If I know I’m going to be away, or have a big project coming up I’ll try to increase those numbers to give myself some breathing room.
The only time I scaled back was to deal with a family health crisis a few years back.

Have you ever worked on compilations for labels?

I have not. I’ve provided info and gotten thanks on a couple of things but that’s it. I’d love to compile something.

If you could put together a fictional Funky 16 Corners Soul Revue, who would you want in the concert? How about for Iron Leg?

A Funky16Corners Revue would have to include Otis Redding, Eddie Bo, The Meters, Sam and Dave, Curtis Mayfield, Eldridge Holmes, Homer Banks, Betty Harris, Laura Lee, Irma Thomas, though I could probably spend several hours just interviewing Allen Toussaint.
For Iron Leg it would include Curt Boettcher, Van Dyke Parks, Brian Wilson, the Sonics, UK bands like the Action, Manfred Mann, the Pretty Things and several dozen one-off US garage bands from the 60s.

Are there any contemporary bands or artists that have captured your ear?

The only ‘of the moment’ band that I dig is Tame Impala. I do like some of the modern Afrobeat groups, like the Budos band, Antibalas, The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra and Ikebe Shakedown. The last modern band that I really flipped over was Stereolab (which isn’t that modern…). I find that I spend a lot of my time tunneling into the past, doing what I can to bring forgotten/neglected music to light. I’m sure that there’s more new music out there that I’d like, but I don’t really have the time for it.

What are some things that you are looking forward to this summer?

Nice weather, spending time with my family and hopefully spinning some records.

Besides the music, what are some of your other personal interests?

I love to read, any music history, Beat Generation and related, watching old movies.

Could you recommend a favorite current restaurant or two?

Well, if you find yourself in Central New Jersey, you should hit the Saigon Bistro in Howell, NJ (for pho and summer rolls) and Babur Garden in Ocean Township for Afghan food.

Name a few records that you count among your all time favorites:

Hmmm….As far as soul/funk goes:

Roger and the Gypsies – Pass the Hatchet Pts1&2 (Seven B) --My all-time favorite 45, by the New Orleans group Earl Stanley and the Stereos with vocals by none other than Eddie Bo.

Rex Garvin and the Mighty Cravers – I Gotta Go Now (Up On the Floor) (Like) 
– One of the most powerful, relentless soul 45s ever made. Brilliant and always gets the dancers moving.

Barbara Banks – River of Tears (Veep) 
--Amazing Northern Soul, also recorded (with a drum break!) by the Royalettes.

Toussaint McCall – Shimmy (Ronn) 
--Searing organ instrumental by a performer better known for his deep soul ballads.

Homer Banks – 60 Minutes of Your Love (Minit) 
--Amazing Memphis soul (written by Hayes and Porter) by a hugely underrated singer/songwriter.

Eldridge Holmes – A Love Problem (Decca) 
--Amazing, heartfelt ballad from the great New Orleans singer.

You can hit Larry up at
You can reach Peace & Rhythm at 

Post author: Andujar

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