Family Affair: Full Force
by Dove
~Sheepish Lordess of Chaos~

Email Dove

There are not enough words in the music industry’s secret ‘how to’ guidelines to describe the devotion that Full Force has displayed in making quality music. Three brothers – Bowlegged Lou, Paul Anthony and B-Fine – and three cousins – Curt-t-t, Baby Gerry and Shy Shy – have made music a part of their bloodline. Over 25 years in a cruel industry have not jaded the Full Force approach to innovative professionalism, nor has the time aged their perception of youthful energy. Their story is more deep and wide than the oceans of activity most people will travel in a lifetime. Bowlegged Lou shares some of his special Full Force memories with flashy humor and charm, never letting the listener miss out on the importance of their persistence:

Junior Juice

"We were all in high school and junior high school – 1975 or 1976 or something like that, and we started out performing at the Apollo Theater. That was our first major show after we started performing in Brooklyn at all these little shows. Back in the day every week on Wednesday night was an amateur show, just the same as what you see on TV – everybody would compete, you would rub the tree for luck, and you could win first, second or third prize. We entered and won first prize our first go-round – we were singing this song called ‘Cloud Nine’ which the Temptations did years and years ago, but back then our name wasn’t Full Force, we called ourselves The Amplifiers. We won first prize four weeks in a row, cuz you had to win four weeks in a row to appear on the professional show. We got to appear with the Whispers at the Apollo Theater. Honi Coles was the host; he was a famous tap dancer back in the day. We were like the little Jackson 5, we sang and played instruments but we mostly sang. That was before the jheri curls of course.

"It’s amazing how people still ask us ‘y’all don’t wear jheri curls no more’, and I say back in the day, like in ’85-’86, everybody was wearing jheri curls! People act like Full Force were the only people wearing jheri curls. Keenan Ivory Wayans used to make fun of us so much on his various talk shows – I’ve got them all on tape because that serves as inspiration for us, but I remember on In Living Color they did this thing called the Jheri Curl Telethon with Jim Carey hosting in his Jerry Lewis [impression], and he said ‘many people have been affected by the deadly jheri curl disease – such public figures as Full Force!’ and they showed a big picture of us with our jheri curls – it was hilarious.
"The Apollo was a great jumping board for us. It taught us how to perform in front of a crowd, cuz they always say if the Apollo Theater likes you, because that crowd is so honest, then you’re gonna go places. After that we was still doing a lot of local shows in Brooklyn, but we knew we were different from any other group. We used to compete with a lot of other groups back in the day – like Teddy Riley, Keith Sweat, Johnny Kemp – everyone had their own group. We used to kill everybody with our stage performance. We always felt we were ahead of our time. The Trackmasters used say ‘man, when you guys came out with "Alice I Want You Just For Me" THAT was the original new jack swing sound’ – they just never called it that – and when Teddy came up, he was influenced by that. Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam gave us props for that song."

Patriarchs of Production

Full Force has worked with some of the world’s best and brightest to the underground’s most memorable. Their production roster is top-heavy with hit makers with very few bricks – UTFO, Lisa Lisa, Cheryl Pepsii Riley, Patti LaBelle, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Monifah, Samantha Fox, LFO, Teddy Riley, Selena, Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, 3LW, Blaque, M2M, and Britney Spears.
Lou recalls some of the earlier times in Full Force’s production endeavors:


"We did that because we couldn’t get a record deal as Full Force the group. My father Lucien George and my uncle Cito got us involved in the business, took us to the Apollo and managed us, but our former co-manager at the time, Steve Salem, was the one to actually encourage us to be producers. We were never thinking about producing anybody, all we thought about was Full Force the group. He was the first person who encouraged us to write our own material because we were doing a lot of cover songs. He said ‘hey listen guys, your tapes are getting returned back to you, maybe you should produce other acts and who knows, you might get success that way and you guys will get attention as Full Force’ – and I was like ‘to hell with that man, I don’t care about that – who ever heard of an R&B band producing anybody?’. I was so adamant against doing that. But we went out and got these guys from our neighborhood, Dr. Ice and Kangol Kid – they used to break dance for us on our shows – then they got Educated Rapper, and we did a record with them "Roxanne Roxanne".

"My brother B-Fine was the one that came up with the concept for that, because actually "Roxanne Roxanne" was the b-side of a song called "Hangin’ Out" which was on vinyl – and that was the one we were pushing for the single. DJ Red Alert was the one that discovered that b-side. We said ‘no! you’re playing the wrong side!’ and he said ‘no no no I’m playing THIS side – this is the hit’ – and Roxanne was born.
"Educated Rapper got in trouble with drugs, and Full Force family just can’t have anyone involved in drugs, and we reached out to help him – and the best way to help him was to put him on probation, not being a part of the group, until he cleaned up his act, which he did, and we let him back in on the third album Lethal. That was their biggest album – it was number two on the charts right underneath Michael Jackson’s Thriller."

Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam

"We wrote a song called "I Wonder If I Take You Home", and we went and auditioned girls to see whose voice would suit it, and Lisa Lisa went out of course. She was brought to us by Mike Hughes of Cult Jam who was a neighborhood friend, and she was auditioning with a lot of original songs that he wrote – they were horrible. I’ll never forget being by the bathroom when she was auditioning, the song was so horrible I was laughing til I cried – but not visibly – I had to keep hiding myself. But before she left – she was so pretty, and she was Hispanic – and we felt that there was no Hispanic anybody doing any kind of commercial music at all at the time.

"We said, ‘Lisa, before you go, why don’t you sing something that we know, that we’re familiar with’ and that’s when Paul Anthony asked her to do ‘For Your Eyes Only’ by Sheena Easton – and she sung that and she was on pitch on key and everything – it just turned out that the song that Mike Hughes wrote for her sucked. She became the first Latina to be in this whole commercial Hip Hop dance thing. After Lisa Lisa, Full Force got a record deal of their own. "Alice I Want You Just For Me" was a top ten record and was a big hit in England."

Samantha Fox

"We worked with Samantha Fox, she was in London, and we brought out songs that she really didn’t want to do at first ‘Naughty Girls Need Love Too’ and ‘I Wanna Have Some Fun’, and those were her two biggest records."

James Brown

"When they called us to work with James Brown we were blown away. They called us to do his whole album. It was the time when everyone was sampling him, and unfortunately it was also the time of him [having troubles], and every time we saw Eddie Murphy he would blame us ‘man, y’all the ones who got James Brown goin’ crazy’ as a joke, but the thing about it was it was still great working with Mr. Brown. We had to always call him Mr. Brown in the studio because we heard rumors that he was hard to work with – and no one intimidates us – but he’s a legend. We had a great time working with him."

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