SM PIER — Lovers of California funk may not be familiar with The Lowrider Band, but they sure know their signature sound.
That’s because the group is comprised of the creators behind such classic hits as “Spill the Wine,” “Slippin’ into Darkness,” “The Cisco Kid,” “Why Can’t We Be Friends” and “Lowrider.”
Those tracks are associated with the platinum-selling group War. But after failing to win a legal battle over use of the name, four of the five remaining members decided to push on with The Lowrider Band moniker.
Members include Howard E. Scott, B.B. Dickerson, Lee Osker and Harold Brown (Charles Miller was murdered in 1980 and Papa Dee Allen died of a heart attack in 1988).
Original keyboardist Lonnie Jordan continues to use the group’s name War and runs the group with entirely new members
The Lowrider Band will take the stage tonight during the Santa Monica Pier’s Twilight Dance series.
“Actually, I’ve been trying to get them for a number of years,” said René Engel, who organizes talent for the dance series. “Just their scheduling has never worked out. I actually was thinking — I wanted to open the season with them this year. It was going to happen one of these years.”
The musicians who created those unforgettable hits play an eclectic blend of funk, Latin music, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll and jazz. The band had its beginnings 48 years ago here in Southern California in Long Beach when teenage drummer Harold Brown met then-bassist Howard Scott at a gig and found they were the same age. When they decided to form a band together, Scott switched to guitar, and his nephew B.B. Dickerson came on as the bass player, Brown said. War was born.
“Howard’s father, or godfather, B.B. Dickerson’s father and my daddy, they used to take us to our gigs,” Brown said. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve stuck together for so long. We’re like a family. We knew each other before we were married.”
The fourth original member, harmonica player Lee Oskar, met them at a gig one night in North Hollywood.
“He just asked to join and he did,” Brown said.
Brown is now joined by Lance Ellis on saxophone and flute, Chuck Barber on vocals and percussion and Telvis Ward on vocals and keyboard. Brown is a drummer and vocalist, Scott plays guitar and does vocals and Dickerson plays bass and does vocals.
While Brown has written songs since he was 7 and he, Dickerson and some others have written several songs for the band, Brown said the main songwriter is Scott.
“I grew up in Long Beach,” Brown said. “Scott grew up in Compton. B.B. Dickerson grew up in San Pedro. Lee Oskar is from Denmark. That’s why we have such an eclectic sound. They [fans] wanna know how do we play the music Latinos love so much … . All the music that we recorded, so many people have recorded our music.”
Though Engel tried to book them for years, the Lowrider Band was not the intended act for tonight’s performance. Lila Downs, the original act, had an emergency appendectomy Aug. 23 and is still recovering. The Lowrider Band was a quick replacement for this second-to-last Thursday concert.
“They just seemed to me the best bet… ,” Engel said. “Lila just got home from the hospital yesterday [Aug. 24]. We’ll try to invite her back next year.”
Opening the concert at 7 p.m. is Very Be Careful, a Los Angeles band known for its traditional Colombian Vallenato music. Colombians from all walks of life listen to Vallenato music and it is guaranteed to get people dancing. The Lowrider Band goes on at 8:15 p.m.
“If this concert were part of the regular season … even as The Lowrider Band, people would figure out who they are, and attendance would have been gigantic,” Engel said.
While many of its members have spent almost 50 years in the music business together, Brown himself being 63, Brown knows the music transcends all generations.
“Once they know the songs we’re playing … and we’re the actual people that recorded it, we’re gonna have a whole lot of fans,” Brown said. “You can tell that we’re seasoned musicians, I suppose. We never play it the same way twice. We don’t play it like a cover band. We can do what we want ‘cause we wrote the song! Our music — you can listen to it, it’s gonna take you back. Our music crosses generations … and it crosses all nationalities.”