“Whenever you’re ready” to feel some soul and get a dance groove on, look no further. As a young lass of junior high-ish age, I was looking for something for my feet to feel–and found it in Major Lance (yes! it was his real, true given name) and his smooth, Latin-inspired Chicago 1960s soul.
Every day after school, I’d flip on my first introduction to Major Lance–the film Shag, featuring Bridget Fonda, Annabeth Gish, and Pheobe Cates, which is set along the boardwalk of Myrtle Beach, 1963, when four friends were looking for one last hurrah before marriage or college.
Pudge wanted nothing more than what I wanted; to move her feet and dance. And for years, as she danced across the screen to Major hit “Monkey Time”, so too, did I. It took me a couple of years to finally track down this tune and claim myself owner (give me a break: pre-interneting pirates and ordering items from across the globe through one or two clicks), but in those early days, it was plenty enough to fast forward to the best bits and stand attention when the Major spoke to me.
Lance, who empitomized 1960s Chicago soul and was an integral performer for the Okeh label, had a string of hits in the 1960s–most written by one of the greatest music men in American history, a one Curtis Mayfield. My favorite tune, “Monkey Time”, dropped in 1930, placing #2 on the US R&B charts and #8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The bass in the tune, as well as the Latin backbeats, were classic of the pair’s hitmaking potential, with vocal harmonies supported by The Impressions, a genius match. And the hits would keep on coming, even after Lance and Mayfield ended their collaboration. Unfortunately, Lance was plagued by heart disease and would ultimately fall early in life–aged 55, more than a decade ago.
But, there is in no way a chance his delicious blend of Northern R&B meets Soul meets pop crossover tunes will ever see a similarly short fate; and I will be shagging my way across my living room floor for always, just as I did in those days as a seemingly awkward 13 year old with a love for feet fluttering beats.
You can gobble up Major Lance doing an incredible live TV performance of “Monkey Time” in 1963, and of course, you ought to check out a few frames of what introduced me to his greatness, Shag: The Movie.