For three generations the Bostics have been doing what they do best; writing, playing and producing some mighty fine music. From Blues in the 1950’s to working with some of the biggest Rap artists of today, the Bostic family has undeniably covered a lot ground.
William Bostic Jr., born in Richmond, CA. in 1946, has been a dedicated musician as far back as he can remember. William, or Bill as he’s also called, may never have had a national hit but with his band Western Union he became almost legendary in the Bay Area. He has played shows at military bases all across California, performed at clubs from Richmond to LA and released two highly overlooked 45’s in his own name, on his own independent labels. Today, he spends most of his time managing his son, musician and producer Sam Bostic.
Bill’s uncle was jazz saxophonist Earl Bostic who played with several of the greatest in his genre and had a hit with “Flamingo” in 1951. Bill’s father, William Bostic Sr., also played the sax. He made his name playing with Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and several other Blues cats from that era. Sam Bostic, son of Bill Bostic Jr., and a multi-instrumentalist, has been active in music since the mid 1980’s playing with his own bands and making beats for among others E-40 and Tupac. Three generations deep the Bostics are still at it. The following is an interview with Bill Bostic Jr.
What did it mean to you growing up that both your uncle and father were successful musicians?
As a kid I used to go out and watch them play all the time. By fifth grade I formed a group. We did a talent show and I was hooked. (Laughs) I can’t remember the name of the group but we did that song “For Your Precious Love” by Jerry Butler (and the Impressions, 1958). I was the lead singer and when we got off the stage the girls were all around us like bee’s to honey. That really put me in the groove, man. That got me going. From then on it was all business.
When I got to high school I had my own group where I traveled around the Bay Area. I had a nice 8-piece band. The band was called Western Union but most of the time we were booked under my name. We did a lot of fairs and little stuff like that throughout the state. I was like an opening act for Ike & Tina Turner. Also Bobby “Blue” Bland. For a while I worked with another group called Sons of Champlin. The bandleader Bill Champlin later went on to play keyboard with the band Chicago. I also worked with a guy named Jessie James (aka James McClelland). At that time he was on 21st Century Records. I did a lot of background vocals and stuff like that for him. It was after that I started the Scorpio label. That was my first independent label.
Who do you count as your inspirations?
I was pretty much inspired by Smokey Robinson and James Brown. I really liked the energy James Brown gave in his show. I watched the real old school folks do their thing. I used to go to Sweet’s Ballroom in Oakland when I was around thirteen years old. Mr. Sweet used to let me and my brother in the back door. We would wait ‘til the musicians pulled up in their tour busses. We would go and get their clothes and bring it in to their dressing room. We were around people like Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke all the time like … All those cats. We were right there with them, man.
Do you have any stories about meeting any of these people?
I was with James Brown more than any of them. I was sort of a valet for him. James Brown had his clothes made by the same tailor that made Elvis’ bellbottom suits with the high collar.
James would let me open for him with a few from my rhythm section whenever we were local. Once we were on like a little 7-city tour around the Bay Area, we made it from Fresno to Richmond. In Richmond, while James was performing, he jumped off the stage and split his pants. My dad used to own an upholstering shop so I had to take James Brown’s suit home and sew it up. When I got home I told some of my friends in the neighbourhood that I had his suit at my house. Some of them came over and tried it on while doing the James Browns routines like dancing on one foot (Laughs).
Why did you choose the name Scorpio for your first label?
Because I am a Scorpio! The Scorpio label was really just a test to see if I could make a record and that’s why there’s only one release on the label. After Scorpio, I started the SOR (aka Sound of Richmond) label and I was going to get a bunch of guys from Richmond together and produce them. I got more serious after I recorded that Scorpio record.
The main label in Richmond was Music City. Did you work with any of the artists on the label?
I used to go out with a group named the Casanova Two. They were on Music City. We would open up for them because they were the “stars” at the time. We used to do a lot of military bases with the Casanova Two back in the day. We would go and play all the army, navy and air force bases. They paid well. It’s like a little circuit and once you get tied in with them you really can make a nice chunk of money.
Did you have distribution for your Scorpio / SOR labels back then?
I would do a lot of the distribution myself. I would get on the phone and I would sell directly to the shops and one-stops. A one-stop is where the record shops go and buy their stock. The people working there would tell the shops what was happening and what was hot on the radio. There was a one-stop over in Oakland that I used called Music People. They distributed a lot of my stuff for me.
Is it the same band plays on your two 45’s?
No, the band that’s playing on the Scorpio stuff there were some younger kids that kind off fizzled out. They were like high school students and they were good but they went their different ways after they graduated so I had to get some new musicians. The group that played on the SOR stuff was my regular band.
What can you tell me about the Western Union band?
That was my band. We used to co-host this television show. It was called The Jay Paytton Show and it was on Channel 20 out of San Francisco. Jay Paytton was a MC here in the Bay area. He was fortunate enough to have a TV show. It was something like Soul Train. We were co-hosting it and then there were different Bay Area artists on there. Every Sunday we were on TV so we became some kind of little Bay Area stars. People got used to see us. We had a really good following. I brought my son on the show and that was the first time he performed. He was 9 years old. He did that song “Skin Tight” by the Ohio Players.
I actually wanted to ask you about your son because besides his solo projects he has also produced tracks for several rap artists, right?
Yeah, we did that “Sprinkle Me” by E-40 and “Me Against The World” by Tupac. We’re working on the new E-40 album right now. I am not involved with the actual production but I take care of everything else. We have a building where we have our record label set up with a recording studio, the offices and a rehearsal space. Most of the time now, we usually do the tracks here at our studio and then my son takes the tracks to E-40’s place. We had a studio ever since 1990 but I have been in music since 1963.
William Bostic is currently working on putting out some of his unreleased tracks that he recorded during the time he had Scorpio and SOR labels. Something to look forward to!