Imagine the Memphis Music world without the Bar-Kays or at least without the group’s lead singer.
The band backed major artists at STAX Records and stayed together long after the recording studio shut down. When Larry Dodson announced just weeks ago that he was retiring, it created quite a buzz and a number of rumors about his health.
“First thing was Larry are you alright?” said Dodson.
He went on to explain that he’s in good health. Dodson’s nearly 50 years with the Legendary Bar-Kays is coming to a close. He wants to retire on his terms and spend more time with his family.
“We were going to slow down. My wife and I and use the rest of our life to just be with each other and to share with my daughter Precious who has Down Syndrome. As most people know us family wise, share this part of our life with her,” he said.
Dodson said it’s time to rest. He didn’t hesitate to share highlights of his life story while preparing for the next phase of his life in his Whitehaven home.
He laughed often while sharing life during the early days of the Bar-Kays.
“We were wild, funky, crazy kids man!”
Back in 1970 Dodson said he made two big moves. Alan Jones, manager for the Bar-Kays, approached the then 19-year-old with an offer he couldn’t refuse: to become the band’s first-ever lead vocalist.
“I didn’t think I was ready for it and I wasn’t to be quite honest. He helped to mold me into whatever he saw as the lead singer,” he said.
Dodson went on to say it was a wise move for the band to pick up a lead singer because instrumental groups needed something to stand the test of time. Many instrumental groups would eventually “play out.”
Dodson said he also got married the same year he joined the band and didn’t have anything. The young couple said with their parents for a while and eventually made enough money to move out. Dodson said back then when he joined the band we made $75 a week.
Over time his money and family grew and the rest is history. In the last 47 years Larry Dodson’s camp said the Bar-Kays achieved two platinum and five gold albums and 11 top 10 singles.
Dodson explained starting off the band wanted to reach a broader audience and added more to its music arsenal. The band’s music incorporated funk, rock, and soul, and they wore it on stage.
Making moves like that required taking big fashion risks too!
“A lot of the stuff we wore sometimes, I mean, we said, ‘Oh HELL NO!’ said Dodson laughing.
“I was the only black kid with long hair, skinny legs, walking around with a raspy voice like Mick Jagger but I’m black!”
Some of the wild fashion statements the band wore originally came from the creative imagination of Dodson. From planning the music to onstage performances Dodson will miss it all when he retires.
“I wouldn’t dare just say I want to retire and then a month later I’m gone. I love them too much for that and they love me too much for that.”
Dodson explained that the Bar-Kays will not break up when he retires. There’s currently a worldwide search underway for a new lead singer.
His final live concert in Memphis with the Bar-Kays will be June 16th at the Cannon Center.