The Sun Ra Philly Connection” “The Foxhole Cafe & WXPN-FM”
Dedicated in memory to Mr. Eugene Barnhart (1948 – 1982)
In the early 1970’s in Philly (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Sun Ra and The Arkestra performed many outstanding concerts at various venues with emphasis to “The Empty Foxhole Cafe” which was located in St. Mary’s Church along with radio station WXPN-FM on the campus of The University of Pennsylvania.
During this time, radio station WXPN-FM was managed by Jules Epstein and Russ Woesner who at respectfully provided Sunny with access to their stations studios which resulted in the recording of the “Antique Blacks” recorded on August 17th of 1974. Sunny used the WXPN-FM studios to record the following interviews, recordings and poetry sessions; an interview 1972,4-11-77 poetry, 5-26-77 “My Favorite Things” (which was released as a 5626 Morton Street limited edition featuring John Gilmore), and an interview on 9-27-82.
“The Empty Foxhole” or “The Foxhole” (named after the Ornette Coleman album of the same name) was conceived by Eugene (Geno) Barnhart as a coffee house venue in the mid to late 60’s in Philly. The Foxhole, like Bill Graham’s “Fillmore East and West”, became the Mecca for jazz during the 70’s. There you could see Betty Carter, Archie Shepp, Yusef Lateef, Steve Lacy, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and numerous jazz artists from all walks of the genre. Some double bill performances included the Joe Henderson Quintet / the Clifford Jordan Quintet and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers / Philly Joe Jones Quintet. During this time “The “Foxhole” concerts were recorded and broadcasted over radio station WXPN-FM.
Sun Ra and The Arkestra began performing at “The Foxhole” around 1972 way into the late 70’s. I own several Arkestra “Foxhole” concert posters in my archive. I saw The Arkestra perform in April of 1974 as a teenager. This was my first time ever seeing music of this type being performed on stage and I loved it because “To See It Was To Believe It” especially with a little help from my weed friend. This was before I joined The Arkestra a few years later in 1977.
While others in my age group were into disco and the funk of George Clinton & P-Funk who was inspired by Sunny (“The Mothership Connection”) which I still love, I was heavily into what Sunny and the Arkestra were doing. The music, the exotic beauty of dancers Cheryl Banks and Wisteria as well as dancer Ted Thomas along with the ultimate beauty, vocalist June Tyson, as one “DISCIPLINE” brought out everything Sunny envisioned musically. This completeness allowed the listening audience to become a part of an ultimate music universe somewhere way out in space.
A funny thing happened at one these concerts where a woman through her draws (underwear) on the stage onto the piano near Sunny like you would see with popular R&B vocalists of the time like Teddy Pendergrass, AI Green and Marvin Gaye. The audience roared and Sunny even had to stop playing and laugh. Sunny said; “even in space you can get some draws”.
By 1980, “The Foxhole” had new management which included founder Geno Barnhart, Rhoda Blount (of The Arkestral, my cousin Reginald Dunn, Ransom Rembert, and myself. We would be the last directors of “The Foxhole”. In October of 1982, “The Foxhole” presented and recorded its last two concerts which included “Sunny Murray and the Drums Interactuel” with Sunny Murray, Steve McCall, Ed Blackwell and Dennis Charles on drums, Byard Lancaster on alto sax, Khan Jamal on vibes and Wilbur Morris on bass.
The final concert performance for “The Foxhole” organization was the Sun Ra Arkestra. The Arkestra put on an incredible performance far beyond any Philadelphia concert at this time. Sunny was still doing “The Sound Mirror” which actually began being performed at “Grendel’s Lair” in South Philly in 1975/76. The house was packed far beyond the legal “Standing Room Only” protocol. I recorded the concert but it was confiscated by baritone saxophonist, Danny Thompson and has yet to be found. Tragically Geno Barnhart died of heart failure in April of 1983 and the legacy of “The Empty Foxhole” would end to be remembered in the minds and hearts of those who were there.
When Sunny and The Arkestra performed at home in Philly, these were (to me) were the best concerts of his career for that time with sets that lasted 2 and 3 hours with non-stop performances. It was a great time that will last in my memory as an audience participant and Arkestra band member. There are those who saw The Arkestra in the mid 80’s into the 90’s, but the 70’s was an extremely creative period to see Sunny and the band. With respect to the 50’s and 60’s, the 70’s was like a third height filled with directed musical intensity and magic in which you had to be there to believe it.
Michael D. Anderson – January 14, 2010
AI. Song No.1
A2. There Is Change In The AIr
A3. The Antique Blacks
B 1. This Song Is Dedicated to Nature’s God
B2. The Ridiculous “I” and the Cosmos Me
B3. Would I For All That Were
B4. Space Is The Place
Sun Ra [ rocksichord, mini moog, vocals, declamation
John Gilmore [ tenor sax, percussion, vocals ]
Marshall Allen [ alto sax, percussion, vocals ]
Danny Davis [ alto sax ]
Aku Tal Ebah [ trumpet, vocals ]
Tani Tabbal [ drums, vocals ]
James Jackson [ bassoon, percussion, vocals ]
Atakatune [ congas ]
Sly [ electric guitar ]
Live recording, 8/17/74, Philadelphia Saturn 81774.
Art Yard CD010 Bonus Track : You Thought You Could Build a World Without Us. Running Time; 9.11
Art Yard / Kindred Spirits Vinyl Edition Cover:
Digital Audio – Download links:
ITunes Apple: Sun Ra The Antique Blacks
Apple Co: Sun Ra The Antique Blacks
Amazon: Sun Ra The Antique Blacks
All Compositions Published by Enterplanetary Koncepts BMI. All rights reserved © Art Yard Ltd 2017 / All rights reserved © Sun Ra LLC 2017.
Special Thanks to Sun Ra, John Gilmore, June Tyson, Charles Davis, Marshall Allen, Pat Patrick, Michael Ray, Danny Ray Thompson, Knoel Scott, Elson Nascimento and The Sun Ra Alter Destiny 21st Century Epic Myth Science Cosmic Dream Arkestra band members, Thomas Jenkins Jr (Managing Director, Sun Ra LLC), Michael D. Anderson (Sun Ra Music Archives), Irwin Chusid (administrator, Sun Ra LLC), Quinton Scott at Strut, John Corbett, Paul Griffiths, Chris Trent, Hartmut Geerken, Cornelia Mueller, Val Wilmer, Francis Gooding, Siofra McComb, Edwin Pouncey, Jill Tipping, John Sinclair, Antal, Olf and Cris at Rush Hour, Leni Sinclair, Rick Steiger, Carey Hamblett, Jimmy Johnson at Forced Exposure, Chris Cutler, Dave Pelts at RER Megacorp.
Vinyl Edition Distribution Rush Hour NL : Rush Hour
CD Edition Distribution UK: ReR-Mega-Corp,
Transferred and Mastered for CD and Vinyl at Technologyworks by Peter Beckmann.
More from The Sun Ra Arkestra: http://www.sunraarkestra.com