The song "Come Up Man" by G. Love and Special Sauce off their 2014 album "Sugar," brings to mind the original funk, hip-hop, blues sound that first defined them 20 years ago.
The group formed in Boston in the early 90s, became the house band at The Plough and Stars in Cambridge and rose to stardom after MTV put one of their songs on heavy rotation.
The release of "Sugar" last year marked the end of an eight-year hiatus for the band. But, for G. Love and Special Sauce, making funk music is just like riding a bike.
On his Boston roots:
Garrett Dutton: “I came [to Boston] in the summer of 1992. I originally moved here because it was the only city I knew about where you could play legally as a street performer, a busker. So the first time I came to Boston was to go to Inman Square in Cambridge to get my street performer’s license. So that first summer of '92 I was playing out in Harvard Square and in the T and that led to getting a couple of gigs around some local spots in Boston. One of those gigs was opening up for a band called BananaFish at the Tam O’Shanter in Brookline and that’s where I met my drummer, Jeff, who was dating the cocktail waitress."
On one of his most popular songs, "Cold Beverage":
GD: "I wrote my "Cold Beverage" tune sitting up somewhere right off Commonwealth Ave in Brighton waiting to get my brakes fixed in my ‘63 Dodge Dart. I was reading the paper and I saw the word “cold beverage” and I said, “I like cold beverages.” So that was a good Boston hit for us."
On the source of G. Love’s sound:
GD: "We figured out a way to mix up delta blues and old school hip hop — that’s the two kinds of music we grew up playing and it really clicked... Jeff, the drummer, is from Randolph, Massachusetts and he grew up playing in blues bands in Boston. Jimi went to BU and he was a rock ‘n’ roll bass player up until he started studying jazz. Jeff actually ran a jazz jam at the Tam O’Shanter on Monday nights and Jim first went to the jazz jam and he had a fender electric guitar bass. He had taken the frets off it so it was fret-less and it was kind of jazzy but Jeff said he didn’t allow electric jazz bass in his jazz jam, so it was upright only. So he turned away Jim the first time. But Jim went and got himself an upright and came back to the jazz session. He was the only jazz musician who had enough rock ‘n’ roll perspective to understand what I was doing. So it was a combination of Jeff’s jazz, Jim’s blues — a New Orleans influence — and my delta blues and hip hop. That was kind of the sound."
On reuniting the band after eight years:
GD: "We were out in Jack Johnson’s solar-powered plastic plant, which is a solar-powered, all-natural wood studio, out in Hollywood. We had five nights to cut the record. And it was the first time we had seen Jim in about five years. The first night, we had a special guest join us, David Hidalgo from Los Lobos. That first night we really caught a fire... The combination of Dave being there and Jim coming back and being on fire — we caught some real magic in those five days and it really felt good."
On singing "One Night Romance" with Merry Clayton:
GD: "Merry came in and she was just about the nicest lady you’d ever want to meet. We drank some Pinot Noir and she must have told stories for about an hour and a half and then looked to each other and said, “What do you think? You want to do it?” And we said, “Let’s do it.”... It was cool because she’s very accomplished. She got her first record deal when she was 16. She’s from New Orleans and she’s one of the first Raelettes, Ray Charles’s background singers. She sang on Sweet Home Alabama and Mick Jagger’s Gimme Shelter. You’re just trying to be as great as you can be and hang with her. But she was so encouraging. She really was into the subtle way that each word is going to rhythmically punch through the track. My delivery is naturally a bit, you know, 'sloppy blues,' like you said. And she was coaching me to really get on point with some of the swing of the lyrics. So it was helpful."
On openers and the music business:
GD: "There’s two sides of it: there’s always the music the music business side. At the end of the day, it works both ways. There’s plenty of people we open for that now would open for us, and there’s plenty of people who opened for us that now we open up for. Actually, Slightly Stoopid, who we’re opening up for tonight — we helped to produced one of their records, “Everything You Need.” I was on it. We’ve done a lot of touring where they opened up for us, then co-headlining, and now we’re going to open for them. So basically, you gotta just keep playing music. I always say that I’m happy with playing for zero to a million people because I’m happy with myself playing music. So really it’s about that and if you can keep it about that, then you can do it forever."
- "Twenty years after the release of G. Love and Special Sauce's debut album, the original lineup of the revered hip-hop blues trio is back together for a new album, Sugar, and an extensive U.S. tour."
This segment aired on August 10, 2015.