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Bob and Gene

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Bob and Gene Press Release
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“When you’re that young, having so much fun making music with your friends, you never think it will end.”

In the late ‘60’s when soul music--led by such independent powerhouses as Motown and Stax--ruled the charts and countless smaller record labels vied for precious radio airplay, there was a reason why soul slingers like Dyke and the Blazers, Darrell Banks and Donnie Elbert all left their home town of Buffalo, NY. Buffalo, like Detroit, Newark and many other industrial cities across America, was in volatile flux; its music scene was not immune. Unemployment levels skyrocketed as factory jobs vanished. Then, in the summer of ’67, race riots chased much of what musically lingered, as local artists hit the road in search of safer, greener pastures.

One musician who stood his ground however was William Nunn, a man of many hats: singer, saxophonist, factory worker, union leader and father of two. In the fall of ‘67, he built a music studio in his basement and began inviting neighborhood youth--who might otherwise be tempted by the city’s burgeoning gangs--inside his home to express themselves through music. Mr. Nunn promised investment and belief in their talent if they offered discipline and hard work. To great response, they came, alone and in groups, dreaming of a future as professional recording artists. As a result, Mo Do Records (as in “I’m broke, I need some mo’ dough”) was born.

Surrounded by these domestic tones, William’s fifteen-year old son, Bobby Nunn, himself an aspiring singer, was ripe for dreaming. He got together with his sixteen year-old buddy Eugene Coplin and after school the teen duo—now known as Bob & Gene-- lost themselves day after day writing and singing love songs. As Bobby says, “We’d see groups like the Five Stairsteps come to town and how the girls would react when they started singing, boy, and that was it, we knew we had to sing too.” The boys dedicated their friendship to perfecting their vocal harmonies while composing original tunes and with the help of some of Buffalo’s finest jazz and funk musicians, fresh Bob & Gene 45's, beginning with ‘67’s “You Gave Me Love”, soon followed. Regional radio play propelled the boys to local fame and over the following four years they routinely performed while assembling enough material for a full-length album. But by ‘71, Mo Do, like so many local business ventures at the time, simply ran out of dough. The LP never came to be.

Fast forward three decades to 2001. Record collector, DJ and New York soul music historian David Griffiths stumbles across a now rare Bob & Gene 45 whose sticker hints at an “upcoming album If This World Were Mine”. Curious, Griffiths places one call after another when finally, an elderly William Nunn happens to pick up the phone. An eventual meeting ensues and, stunned, Griffiths finds himself entrusted with boxes of disintegrating Mo Do reel-to-reel tapes. “It was crazy on so many levels,” Griffiths states. “You had these intensely emotional songs, mixed with this lo-fi quality, that in a way represented so much great music from so many cities that were never really heard by anyone.” Deciding these tapes needed to be heard, Griffiths (with the Nunn family’s blessing) brings them to Brooklyn contemporary soul/funk powerhouse Daptone Records. What you now hold in your hands, 36 years after its intended release is the tender, re-mastered result in its entirety: Bob & Gene’s If This World Were Mine…

Laced with achingly lush soul ballads as well as funky, Five Stairsteps-esque dance numbers, If This World demonstrates Bob and Gene’s mature songwriting and vocal prowess. With lyrics surely aimed at a “special someone” as well as their ailing community, the twelve songs here are pleas for love and hope during a time when hatred and despair wrapped Buffalo’s bleak horizon. Still involved in the music business today, Bobby Nunn would eventually leave Buffalo, settle in California and work with folks such as Rick James. Gene Coplin still lives in Buffalo and is a practicing minister. The two remain friends and feel lucky to have had an environment like Mo Do to call home. As Gene says, “It was home for our hearts.” True, Mo Do will go down in the history of soul music as one in a million failed record labels. And though, sadly, the late William Nunn never got to see his labor of love come to its ultimate fruition, If This World Were Mine. . . is indeed testimony that his spirit lives on.

 

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Bob & Gene