- Joyce 'Baby Jean' Kennedy and Mother's Finest bring the funk to the Plex
Cruising into their third funky decade, Georgia-based rock band Mother's Finest have kept a firm hold on what works best — jamming from a cool blend of musical styles, wailing on the vocal mics, and embracing each other with the same positivity as ever.
"We found so many other foundations from which to build relationships," says founding member and co-lead singer Joyce "Baby Jean" Kennedy. "The music was the firmest foundation, but we also grew to love each other as friends and as people. Spiritually, we had a lot of common ground, you know? I think there was an element of spirituality that brought us together in the first place. The music just happened when we all got together and brought forth whatever creative energy we had. Staying together was easy for us because we really liked each other and we loved what was happening. Work was fun."
Kennedy and Glenn "Doc" Murdock first started playing together in the Fort Lauderdale scene in the 1970s, building a fan base with the core of band around Florida before moving to Atlanta. There, they hooked up with innovative studio drummer B.B. "Queen" Bordon, whose punchy, Bonham-eqsue fills and transitions propelled much of the funky sound.
"B.B. was one of those cats who had all of the elements we wanted," says Kennedy. "I don't think he knew how tough he was [laughs]. He could play the shit out of a drum fill. He had a lot of ability and skill. And he still does."
Mother's Finest made a minor splash in 1976 with its self-titled debut (released on RCA). It was their second album, 1977's Another Mother Further (Epic), that broke through to mainstream rock radio with such hits as "Mickey's Monkey" and "Baby Love." A 1979 live album featured clever renditions of Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love" and a wild version of Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride."
Through the late '70s and early '80s, Finest went through a series of ups and downs, touring the South and elsewhere, opening for Top 40 hard rock acts and headlining club and theatre shows. Although they've never officially broken up, the band did take a few extended breaks, including a seven-year hiatus in the early '90s and a few years off in the early 2000s.
The sound of the band these days hasn't strayed far from the guitar-heavy, bass thumpin' blend of hard rock, soul, and deep funk — equal parts Zep, James Gang, Sly & The Family Stone, Funkadelic, and Rufus.
The lineup is almost entirely intact as well, with vocalists Kennedy and Murdock up front and Boosty-esque bassist Wyzard and guitarist Moses Mo in the rhythm section. Long-time guitarist John Hayes and newly added drummer Kerry Denton round out the current roster. They recently released a live double-album Right Here Right Now: Live at Villa Berg.
"We make it look easy, but there's a lot of work that goes into our songs, arrangements, and what happens on stage," boasts Kennedy. "We don't take ourselves for granted and we don't take things lightly.
"Getting 'new' new fans is a really tough thing without radio support," she adds. "We haven't had radio for a while because they tend to stay away from a band that's been together for as long as we have. It is a shame, because we truly feel we have something strong to offer. We don't rely on what we used to do. We constantly inject newness to it and try to balance the modern digital world with the self-contained music. We don't want to lose the identity of a self-contained band. We're not a hip-hop band; we're a rock band fused with funk and an element of metal, you know? And we don't want to lose that."