In the early '70s, Mother's Finest was consistently the biggest draw at the Electric Ballroom in Atlanta. That was the place to be.
In those days, nobody else in Georgia was playing heavily funkified rock 'n' roll, with big shredding guitars and a rhythm section that pulverized with volcanic precision. George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic were in Detroit, their over-the-top heyday still a few years away. Sly and the Family Stone was a California-based R&B crossover group that made catchy singles.
Mother's Finest broke down all sorts of barriers and made no apologies. For one thing, the band was multiracial like the Family Stone — daring, perhaps, in the racially-charged Deep South of the time.
But singers Joyce Kennedy and Glenn Murdock, the husband-and-wife team that built the original band around themselves, so believed in the visceral power of what they were doing, and were so good at it, they supercharged millions around the globe and generated a cult following that lasts to this day.
The young Prince was a devoted early fan of "Baby Love," "Mickey's Monkey," "Love Changes" and "Nigaaz Can't Sing Rock 'n' Roll."
Mother's Finest may not be a household name — the band had a couple of gold albums in the '70s, but never achieved superstar status — but their legend looms large. In the day, the general consensus was that the sound was "too rock for black radio, and too black for rock radio."
Instead, the band absolutely killed on the concert circuit, tearing the roof off one sucka after another as bill-sharer with the likes of Aerosmith, AC/DC, Ted Nugent and even Earth, Wind & Fire. Mother's Finest earned the unofficial title of "The Most Dangerous Opening Act in the World."
Murdock, Kennedy, guitarist Moses Mo Moore and bassist Wyzard Seay are still the core of Mother's Finest, re-united a few years ago after a lengthy stretch of inactivity (John Hayes plays lead guitar, and the current drummer is Dion Murdock, Glenn and Joyce's son).
The band performs Friday, Nov. 1 at Coach's Corner, just a few days after arriving Stateside from a trip to Scandinavia, where they are considered gods (and goddess) of rock 'n' roll.
It took only a week or so for Mother's Finest to reach its goal of fully funding a new album (the first in 10 years) through a fan Kickstarter program.
The band was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2011, along with Toni Braxton and Kenny Leon. A lengthy video biography, with clips of vintage and red-hot live performances, played just before their induction.
"After watching that video, I should be tired!" Kennedy said at the podium. "But I'll be damned if I get tired of rocking."
Not long afterwards, she reflected, to an interviewer, about the legacy of Mother's Finest. "The Smithsonian museum created a section for African American bands who created a genre, or mixed a genre, like Mother's Finest mixed funk and rock and soul together and it was one of a kind," Kennedy told the website funkatopia.com. "And they called it funk rock. They started talking about somebody who really started something, and moved the whole movement along, and our name came up.
"The beautiful thing about all this is, sometimes your notoriety comes in a different shape. Ours has come because we were the first to do what we were doing. It wasn't really about 20 million or 40 million sales, but it created a path that a lot of bands are still trying to travel.
"It has put something in people's hearts and minds that will last for a long, long time."