Pocket Change: A band with real “old school” flavor

Sextet reminiscent of classic groups like The Four Tops, The Temps, The Stylistics and The Spinners

D. Kevin McNeir | 8/14/2013, 2:35 p.m.
Before the advent of computerized instruments, entertainers relied on a talented band to provide the beat, the harmonies and the ...

Before the advent of computerized instruments, entertainers relied on a talented band to provide the beat, the harmonies and the essence of their sound. As for their voices, they had to be on the money — distinct, projectable and always in tune. Think back to the 70s — the early days of R&B — when Black bands and their lead vocalists finally began to get real opportunities, quickly illustrating that they were just as good, if not better than whites: Kool & the Gang; Con-Funk-Shun; The Ohio Players, B.T. Express, Slave and the Commodores.

Their contributions to music and to the lives of the Black community are hard to capture in words. However, proof of their influence and the love that Blacks had for their sound and their message is the resurgence of bands that bring the same kind of musicianship to the stage. Take for example one South Florida-based band,

Pocket Change, that was formed in 1994 by Eddie “The Thrill” Carmichael, a drummer and guitarist from the Ft. Lauderdale area. Carmichael has been on the music scene since the late 70s, touring the U.S. and Europe with other groups, scoring several hits and eventually settling down as a studio musician. But he says it was the longing to perform again in front of a live audience that led him to return to the road with his band, Pocket Change.

Other band members include: Otis “Maestro” McCarthy, William “Dollar Bill” Ferguson, “Mean Roy Gene” Phillips, Al “The Rifleman” West and the newest member of the group, Jermaine “JD” Dukes. Each member has an impressive list of credentials and musical achievements in his own right. Together they have developed a chemistry and synchronicity that has endeared them to fans here in Florida and across the U.S. Most of the lead vocals are performed by Phillips and Ferguson — front men who may remind you of pioneers like Sam and Dave but with a more contemporary flair. And the almost effortless blend of the six members is quite rare.

Sounds of romance and boatloads of cool

“We’re a show band and so our sets are developed so that anyone — young or old, Black or white — can feel a part of the show,” Ferguson said. “We also incorporate some of the steps from The Tops and The Temps and our audiences really love that. We want to take folks back to the days of old when Blacks were jumping to The Miracles’ “Love Machine,” “Brick House,” Parliament/Funkadelic and The Stylistics. We’re told by a lot of people that when they close their eyes, it’s like hearing the original groups.”

What makes Pocket Change stand out other bands that specialize in Motown, funk and soul and keeps them employed — mostly performing at festivals, weddings and corporate-sponsored events? Ferguson says it’s because the group prides itself on being professional at all times.

“Four of the six guys in our band can take the lead or rap at anytime with supporting harmony,” he added. And we don’t use any music tracks or artificial enhancements. We take great care in dressing impeccably — on and off stage. It’s the presentation that gets our audiences excited.

Then we hit you with the soundtrack of the 70s. For those who were young back then, those songs remind us of some wonderful moments in our lives. Sometimes it was a chaotic age, with the senseless deaths of King, Malcolm and Kennedy and the Vietnam War. But when you heard songs like “My Girl” you were plugged into 10 million watts of cool. You were free from the cares of the world. That’s what Pocket Change represents.

For more information go to www.pocketchangephasetwo.com.