Alvin Cash was born Alvin Welch, in 1939 in St. Louis, Missouri. Starting out dancing tap and soft shoe with his brothers, he would go on to attend the prestigious Summers High. Summers would be responsible for future R & B stars Tina Turner, Luther Ingram, and Billy Davis from the 5th Dimension, as well as Cash. Eventually Cash and his brothers would move to Chicago, where they were discovered by Andre Williams. Now I interviewed Andre a few years ago, and have never released it, so hopefully I can get my act together one of these days and put it out.
Williams would record Cash reworking his hit “Bacon Fat”, and calling it “Twine Time”. In fact, Bacon Fat in essence was really a reworking of The Five Du-tones song “Woodbine Twine”, so here it comes full circle. The side reached number 14, and Alvin Cash and the Crawlers had themselves a hit. However, the backing band was said not to be his brothers the Crawlers, but the Nightlighters band. Williams was definitely (and still is) a character, and his run ins with Berry Gordy and shady moves are legendary, so of course this tale makes sense. The Nightlighters would then go on to back up Cash, changing their name proper to the Crawlers, then the Registers. His brothers could not measure up as a backing band and were pushed away for this new band. Cash would put out a bunch of sides: “The Philly Freeze”, “The Barracuda”, “Unwind the Twine”, and “Mr. Penguin”, among others. He recorded for Toddlin’ Town, Mar-v-lus, Dakar, and Contempo.
His later recordings were a tribute to Muhammad Ali, and “The Ali Shuffle”. I came across a Toddlin’ Town compilation some years ago in the field called Funky ’69. I was excited because it had Cash doing “Keep On Dancing”, that DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist had made popular in the 90?s through Brainfreeze (although I believe they used the Commodores version on Atlantic). At any rate, this comp made me a believer in Cash, and here we are today. Cash would die, unfortunately in 1999 from complications of a stomach ulcer. I kind of wish he was around today, I would have loved to interview him. Alvin Cash has no problem showing you how Funky ’69 is. The Crawlers (aka the Nightlighters) tear this up on this track. That’s why I like Cash so much, he’s animated, and the screaming and shouting during the tracks really, to me, let you know what raw Funk is all about. Of course it’s another chapter in the dance craze, but who cares. The jangly guitar and horn stabs “whoop it” like Cash himself. The abrupt stops and proclamation of the dance name are right on time, as is Cash. It’s short, but you get the point at what this side is all about. Now what are you waiting for? Get out there and dance.By Flea Market Funk