Circle City Band - Magic
Circle City Band - Magic / My Place 45
A clubland favourite amongst boogie and soul fans, Circle City Band’s ’Magic’ is made available on 45, coupled for the first time with the band’s follow-up single ‘My Place’.
Originally released in 1983 on Tyscot sub-label Circle City Records, ’Magic’ was a best-selling single in the band’s Indianapolis hometown. Whilst making waves across the Midwest US R&B charts, it became a popular import in the UK and a staple for DJs, often being described by fans as one of the best Slave soundalikes, with its classic bass groove and appeal.
"I didn’t want it to be a Paul Thomas record. I wanted to be the producer in the background, even though I did all the instruments, so I told the label, let’s call this the Circle City Band representing the city where I’m from," say’s the man behind Circle City Band. Founder Paul Thomas began his career working as a roadie with various R&B, Jazz and Gospel acts in the late 70s. Whilst developing his craft as a musician, he toured with hometown bands Manchild, Ebony Rhythm Funk Campaign and Amnesty working as a live sound and effects engineer.
“I started playing instruments in grade school. I was influenced by my ‘play uncles’ Cannonball and Nat Adderley. Every time they would come to the area they would stay at my mum’s. Their bass player Walter Booker took me under his wing and gave me a couple of lessons, teaching me notes and all that,” explained Thomas.
Thomas recollects going with them to the first Black Expo in Chicago in the early 70s, an annual black business and cultural trade exposition under the auspices of Operation PUSH. “I was around so many legendary musicians. They stuck me with two musicians who were older than me, Bernard Purdie and George Duke. I hung out with them the whole week and I was so excited about being in the business, me and my cousin started a garage band. From there, I started meeting lots of musicians, including Chuckie Bush, who was a member of Manchild. Ironically, the lead singer of Manchild grew up across the street from me, so I went to their rehearsals and hung around.”
In the early 80s, Thomas was introduced to multi-track recording by producer and multi-instrumentalist Reggie Griffin. A fellow Indianapolis native, Griffin was working for Sylvia Robinson in New Jersey at the time as an in-house musician at Sugar Hill Records. “He taught me a bunch of stuff and showed me how to use reel-to-reel,” explained Thomas. “Reggie came home from Sugar Hill Records. He’d done Grandmaster Flash and all that stuff and he bought a drum machine, vocoder and a keyboard with him. I said ‘hey man I got some studio time, come and hang out.’ So he helped me put this one track together and I built this song ‘Magic’. Frankie Crocker broke the record on WBLS and then BET ending up using the instrumental for a theme song.”
By 1984, Thomas’s output was absorbed in the electro-funk sound of the times that had dominated clubland since the early 80s, including ‘Time To Throw Down’ for radio DJ and record executive Rickie Clark; a vocoder-swamped electro novelty co-produced with Reggie Griffin. In Thomas’s own words, “created pre-freakazoid but released during the time of the ‘wicky, wicky, wicky.'"