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Group Members: Kevin Toney
All Music Guide:
The Blackbyrds were a jazz-funk group with thick R&B streaks running down their backs. Assembled by Donald Byrd in 1974, the group's original members -- percussionist Pericles "Perk" Jacobs, Jr., drummer Keith Killgo, keyboardist Kevin Toney, reeds player Allan Barnes, bassist Joe Hall, guitarist Barney Perry -- were mined from Howard University's music department, where the doctor and jazz legend was an instructor. (Other key players included guitarist Orville Saunders and saxophonist/flautist Steve Johnson.) During the Blackbyrds' nearly decade-long existence, the group cut a handful of LPs (1973's The Blackbyrds, 1974's Flying Start, 1975's City Life, 1976's Unfinished Business, 1977's Action, 1980's Better Days); scored films (1975's Cornbread, Earl and Me); and supported artists like B.B. King, Mandrill, and Roberta Flack. "Walking in Rhythm," "Rock Creek Park," and "Happy Music" are their three best-known cuts; they have remained underground club classics, and they have been kept alive, in part, through sampling. The group's catalog has been overhauled and reissued a number of times; multiple best-ofs have been released (Fantasy's Greatest Hits is the strongest and most thorough), and most of the group's full-length output has been put out on CD through two-fers. As far as outside activities were considered, Barney Perry released a solo album under the name Blair in 1978 (through his own Solar Sound imprint). The remaining members' involvements are far too extensive to list.
The Blackbyrds is an American rhythm and blues and jazz-funk fusion group, formed in Washington, D.C., in 1973 and reformed in 2012 by Keith Killgo.
The group was inspired by trumpeter Donald Byrd and featured some of his Howard University students: Kevin Toney (keyboards), Keith Killgo (vocals, drums), Joe Hall (bass guitar), Allan C. Barnes (saxophone, clarinet), and Barney Perry (guitar). Orville Saunders (guitar), and Jay Jones (flute, saxophone) joined later. They signed to Fantasy Records in 1973 and are best known for their 1975 hit "Walking in Rhythm", which received a Grammy nomination, sold over one million copies by May 1975, and was awarded a gold disc.
With 8 successful albums released for Fantasy from 1974 to 1980, The Blackbyrds became an inspiration to late 1970s and early 1980s British jazz-funk acts like Light Of The World and Hi-Tension.
More recently, they have made a significant impact on the hip-hop generation with Gang Starr, Da Lench Mobb, and Full Force sampling their music. In particular, their 1975 song "Rock Creek Park" from the City Life album has been sampled numerous times by groups such as De La Soul, Eric B. & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, N.W.A, Massive Attack, Ice Cube, Heavy D, Nas and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five,Tone Loc and Wiz Khalifa.