5 min
10 Oct

Father’s Children

Clicking the youtube you happen to bump into unheard-of jams every now and then. It is a labyrinth, lots of times you skip the actual vibes you’re looking for, just because you’re an impatient fool sometimes, like me. You don’t want to listen through the first twenty seconds if it didn’t catch your ear straight away right? This did not seem to be a problem when I first heard Wild Woman by a band called Father’s Children. It’s a knucklehead groove from the very start and appeals instantly in it’s freshness. As soon as the vocals kick in – some sweet harmony there – you’re sold. That’s how I started listening to this band anyway. This piece of goodness came from their 1979 self titled album on Mercury Records. What I didn’t know is that they had put a lot of effort into making an album earlier that decade. This album however…got shelved by the producer, because the sessions were never paid for. Numero Group dug those tapes out of the dust and released the album decades later, in 2011. Who’s Gonna Save The World is the title and it finally exposed the band to a wider audience, with even Kanye sampling – not paying tho’ – their work. I spoke to Qaadir Sumler, or simply Q, about the band’s history and what not. Hear him out.

So I know these two albums Father’s Children made. The self titled one from ’79 and the one from ’73 that was stuck on the shelves until only recently. There’s some short stories written about the band here & there. But I’d like – and I think I speak for all the fans – to get a clearer image of what went down and what goes on. So let’s go back to the beginning. I’ve read you guys started out as a doo wop outfit named The Dream. What can you tell me about those early days? How did you meet? What were your influences?

The Dreams was a group formed in High School.. The original members were Nick Smith, Ted Carpenter, Jackie Peoples and Eddie Jones. Nick, Ted and I , lived around the corner from each other and had gone to the same Jr. High school. I was singing with another group called 4 Miles high, when they invited me to sing with them, after letting Eddie Jones go. We did local gigs at a few clubs until hooking up with a guy name John Austin who wanted to manage us. He use to play for the Boston Celtics and was preparing to become a club owner himself. He bought a warehouse in S.E. D.C. and opened a club called the Experience. We played there with acts like the Chilites and Parliament Funkadelic. We sang top 40 songs by groups like the Temptations and 4 Tops, and other male vocal groups who were popular them. We also rehearsed original material because Nick played piano and wrote songs. We later dropped Jack from the group along with moving on from John Austin and became a trio in search of a band to play behind us. That changed when we entered the Adams Morgan Peoples Center. They were having a call for local musicians. We found a Bass player Michael Rogers and a drummer Donald Ratclift and all we needed was a guitarist…enter Stevie Woods.

Would’ve been quite a gig to see you guys accompanied by Parliament/Funkadelic and/or the Chi-Lites. Anyway. So that was the Dream and – as Stevie Woods joined – it turned into Father’s Children am I right? Now, what happened with the first album Dirt & Grime? It got shelved and only saw the light decades later. This is not the first time I stumble upon a case like this, still I’d like to know…what happened there?

The first Album was never released because the sessions were never paid for. So the engineer still had those tapes years later. Numero Group finds unreleased music and contacts the artists. They stumbled across our music in their search. DB Sounds was the name of the studio in Silver Springs Maryland , where it was recorded. Two different guitarist on that project also…Stevie Woods on some tracks and Dana Cruz on others. Dana/Khalik took Stevie Woods place in the group, although at one point we had them both, that was great. Numero Group released the CD in 2012 and put my (27 years old) picture on the front cover. I guess you know Kanye West sampling us came as a big surprise. And we’ve played with Parliament once as the Dreams and then later as Fathers Children. And so many acts, from Stevie Wonder to Earth, Wind & Fire in all these years.

When Numero Group released the album, how did that feel? Do you like the attention late in the game or do you maybe feel like this should’ve happened back then. And of course I’d like to know how you guys reacted to Kanye sampling your work!?

Most of the guys had forgotten about the material and recording of the first album. During that time we were being pulled in a lot of different directions. We were gigging regularly, and  changing guitarist from Stevie Woods to Dana Cruz (although we had them both a one point). And we were going through management changes. When nothing happened with the recording we just kept moving forward. When Numero Group contacted us it was a pleasant surprise, to be reunited with our pass through the music. Nothing happens until it’s supposed to, is what I believe, so to have the attention late in the game is one of many blessings we’ve received through the years. Since we’re still in the game and still recording and performing, having music all over the web is a good thing. Kanye sampling our music introduced us to a whole new generation of people. The song had been sitting on YouTube for 4 years with about 6,000 views, it went to 106,000 views quickly and inquiries as to who we are. That was a good thing. Although we’ve sampled by several hip hop acts, none of them as big as Kanye and never received any royalties. So the show part is cool, but the business part is still cheating artists of their just dues.

I find it shocking that there are absolutely no royalties being paid, unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me at all…I’ve heard it many times before. So on to the second album, the self-titled 1979 release on Mercury. What can you tell me about it? How was the process, how did you get to Mercury and was it received well? 

The story continues like this. We met a brother in Pittsburg years ago James Williamson/Raheem who had seen us on a show there around 1976. He was a singer and songwriter who was trying to get a record deal, although he had no band. He had material and a lot of drive and tenacity. He had gone to California to follow his dream and began knocking on doors, in hopes that someone would answer. The only person to do so was Forrest Hamilton of At-Home Productions. Forrest. along with Wayne Henderson ran the company, Forrest doing the business and Wayne doing the music production. They had Esther Phillips, Ronnie Laws, Side Effect (with a young Miki Howard) and The Dramatics, to name a few. He convinced Forrest to take a listen to his group, which he didn’t have, and called us to see if we would be interested in a partnership on this venture. We had material and so did he so we joined forces to see what would happen. We brought him and his partner Chyp Davis (who didn’t stay long) into the group so they could learn our material and we could  learn theirs. Forrest flew in from California to D.C. to hear us and was knocked out. Those were the days we rehearsed EVERYDAY and it showed in our sound. He then flew in again with Wayne Henderson for him to meet and hear us, along with Augie Johnson from Side Effect, who co-produced a lot of their acts. Forrest knew every big name record exec in the business and began to set up auditions for different labels. We had auditions with ABC, Atlantic, Polygram and Arista with full show outfits and performances. A couple were interested, but Forrest kept looking. Then one day he comes into town to our rehearsal, with the V.P. of A&R from Mercury. Asked us to play for him the same songs we had done for the others. And after about playing for him he stops us and said ” You guys rehearse a lot don’t you”? and we said everyday. He said he could tell and as far as he was concerned we had a deal. And in the blink of an eye things began to change. We recorded the Album in L.A, and listed a house in Beverly Hills for the 3 months we were there. The album was released the first day of spring in 1979, BTW, the same person who signed us signed the GAP band the same year. The album didn’t do that well in the states, because the money for marketing was mishandled. And the V.P. of A&R who signed us left the company and was replaced by someone Bill Haywood, who let a lot of artist fall by the wayside. Along with the sharks at At-Home. As a side note, everyone from At-Home Productions, who had anything to do with us, is now deceased.

Man. Such a shame it was no success. It really shows you guys practised so much, as the album is super tight, a real pity those sharks negatively influenced your potential success. Anyways, I’m enjoying the album – along with other contemporaries – as we speak. 

So what happened moving into the eighties, did you guys try and continue making albums? Or did you pursue a career in something different from music for a while? Are there any post-1979 recordings?

In the early 80’s we gigged locally at all the major venues in the D.C. area. A local production company called Dimensions Unlimited, owned by Bill Washington (R.I.P.) took a liking to us and put us as the opening act for a lot of the shows. Ashford and Simpson, Teddy Pendergrass, Chaka Khan, Maze to name a few. At venues like the Kennedy Center, DAR Constitution Hall and the Warner Theatre all major places in the D.C, area. Life got in the way in the mid 80’s and we disbanded for a while. Then re-grouped with a mixture of old and new members only to disband again. Although we always stayed in touch with each other, the music is what we did, but the BROTHERHOOD and LOVE for each other is everlasting. In the late 90’s Nick/Nizam Smith, Ted Carpenter and I started to form a separate group with a local female artist Esther Williams. We named it MetaFour and did a couple gigs and recorded some demo stuff, but that didn’t last either. In 1996 I was given a keyboard as a gift and began teaching myself how to play, I was 44 years old. I had a ton of songs floating thru my head and had to get them out. I invested in more keyboards and recording equipment and did a solo project called “Qaadir, One Moment In Time”, that was in 2001, It’s on CD Baby. Ted Carpenter pitched in and sang backgrounds with me on a couple tracks. After that he and I decided to try and reform the group, with he and I and Michael Rogers, the bass player from the original group and a new guitarist and drummer. That morphed in to the group we have now , with Ted and I being the only original members. We recorded and released 2 projects since then…2008 “Sky’s the Limit” and in 2013 “Love and Life Stories”, both on Amazon, iTunes and other sites. We have a website www.fatherschildren.com with a bio, music and a video. 

https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/qaadir (red.)

Now I just have a few small questions left, just for the fun of it. From all the music you recorded, what do you consider your personal fave?

My fave is the one I haven’t written yet. Of the ones I have written, it’s an unreleased song called The Letter.

A spaceship is descending above your house, a friendly stranger gets out and approaches you to ask whether he may take one record (could be any record) from your collection back into space, to play it for an extraterrestrial population. What record would you hand the stranger

The record for my space traveller friend would be one I wrote called “If I” on my CD and Fathers Children’s Sky’s the Limit CD.

Can you recall something memorable/a funny anecdote or something that happened during a gig?

I remember playing with Parliament/Funkadelic at Howard University back in the 70’s and awaiting the audiences’ reaction to what George Clinton had on (a Halloween costume with his face painted black and white) as he crept into the audience, from the side door. AND HAVING THE SOUND SYSTEM CUT OFF on us at a gig with Earth, Wind & Fire, because we were going to do a tribute to them with one of their songs.

What advice or inspiring words could you share with young – or old – starting musicians?

My only advice is to remember that show business is 90% business and 10% show. The show part most of us can do in our sleep, I say STAY WOKE!