Al Sharp was born in Khartoum, raised in Cairo and has lived for a long period of his life in Stochholm, Sweden. However, he cites Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and James Brown as his inspiration. As such Al Sharp named his band the Funky Flames after the Godfather of Soul’s Famous Flames.
Can you tell me how you started with music?
I have always been interested in music. I used to play the oud, the guitar and other instruments. I went to study at the art academy in Prague. I started with music when I finished art school. I met an american promoter in Germany where I had moved. We went to Copenhagen on tour and then we ended up in Sweden. There I met my x-wife and got married. We were travelling all over Scandinavia. It was my group so I did all the bookings and payed all the musicians. I had a contract with different agencies. There were mostly local musicans in my band but I also had Jamaican Tony Ellis as guitarplayer and American trombonist Melvin Price with me for some periods of time. My band also toured in Germany and played shows in Monrovia in Liberia and Abidjan in Cote d’Ioviore in West Africa. We had a good tour. I didn’t have all my musicians with me though. Only my guitarist. I hired a 9 piece orchestra in Monrovia.
You recorded two 45’s for Polydor with the Funky Flames and later ”gently is my love” which was on a 45 release on Four Leaf Records. What can you tell me about that song?
It’s probably the song I sold the most of. It was a mix of reggae and rhythm ’n blues. I got inspirted when Bob Marley and Johnny Nash visited Stockholm. We got to hang out together. That’s when I started mixing reggae and rhythm ’n blues. All of my recordings I did it at the Europa Films studios in Stockholm. I had a Yoguslavian arranger. He wrote all the music for me. He wrote all the arrangements for the horns, the guitar, bassdrums. All of it. I just had to write and lay down the vocals.
The arranger on the Polydor release was Leslie Coard. He was tenorsax player. He was from the West Indies. I first met him in Germany and then later in Stockholm. He passed away some years ago. I also worked with Buzz Nelson who used to play with the Hollies I think. He was a bass player.
At one point I met this Finnish group Soul Set. The leader was (Seppo) “Paroni” Paakkunainen. He was a very famous saxplayer. That was when we went on the tour together. We represented Finland at the World Youth Festival in Sofia (in Bulgaria) in 1968.
Were there any other Soul bands around in Scandinavia at that time in the late 1960’s?
I was one of the first ones who really started a soul band in Sweden and Scandinavia. I started my band in 1967 or ’68. I kept it going for 20 – 25 years. I was doing well with the music. I was famous in Sweden. I used to do only 45 mins shows. I never played all night. I never did any James Brown cape-like routines but I would swing the mic around, play some tambourine and things like that. We always wore suits on stage. When I started to get tired of nightlife I got back into being a painter.
Al Sharp currently splits his time between Brazil and Sweden.