Carl Bean on Disco and Gospel
KMG: Is there a relationship to some kind of spirit in disco music in that time, in the 70s, do you think?
CB: Well it is if you really listen to the back beat of disco it is the rhythm of the Black shout. Period. It is. They basically took rhythm that you hear in the Black shout, the time of the church, that time signature that is used when the Pentecostal church would talk about—if you hear someone in there and they say “shout time”, they’re talking about that rhythmic pattern that became disco that was done with the drum. You hear that in a Black church all the time. You just didn’t hear it with brushes, you heard it with regular sticks. You heard that rhythm with the brush often in jazz but you heard it muted. But there was nothing new about that in Black rhythms at all. So most of us that were successful— that’s why I think that most of us were recruited out of Black gospel music. Thelma Houston was a gospel singer prior, I think she came from the Art Reynolds Singers here in California, who was one of the earliest groups to have a gospel song across pop before "Oh Happy Day". They had a version of “Glory Glory Hallelujah Since I Lay My Burden Down” earlier than “Oh Happy Day” as I remember it. Teddy Pendergrass came out of the church I think, from his history, as a young boy. Sylverster, myself, certainly Izora (Armstrong) and the Tons*, they both came out of the church up in the Oakland area.
* Two Tons of Fun (Izora Armstrong and Martha Wash, aka The Weather Girls)