If you have come
to this page through a frame,
If you were anywhere near a club in the mid- to late seventies, there is no way you could have missed Jimmie "Bo" Horne and his positively charged and exceptionally catchy dance jams. Floor-fillers like "Gimme Some", "Get Happy", "Dance Across The Floor", "Spank" and "You Get Me Hot" kept you shaking your booty all night long and even if you had a rough day, you left the discotheque with a big smile on your face. What had hit you was that highly rhythmic and distinctive "happy sound", emanating from Florida, America's "Sunshine State". This positive, bouncy sound was the trademark of many brilliant records issued on T.K., Henry Stone's vast distribution and record label network. But what very few people outside the Black communities of the American south realized in 1978, when "Dance Across The Floor" topped the charts worldwide, was that Jimmie "Bo" Horne was far from a newcomer in the business. Nor did anyone suspect that perhaps he didn't feel totally at ease with being pigeonholed a "Disco artist". "I was unhappy about the fact that my records made me seem like a mediocre singer", Jimmie explained to me on the phone from his home in Florida recently. "It didn't satisfy the passion of my heart, but I was happy that it took care of my family." Jimmie, who has been in the business since the late sixties, recording several deeply soulful forty-fives for early T.K. subsidiaries like Dade and Alston, says he's always regarded himself first and foremost a Soul singer and feels that he was not given the opportunity to express that side of his talent during the Disco explosion of the 70's. But Jimmie, who's celebrating over thirty years in the entertainment industry this year, is not bitter at all. He's still very passionate about making music and unlike many other artists from the "old-school", he is active both as a recording artist and as a live performer, giving shows in both the U.S. and Europe. This is his story.
Jimmie "Bo" Horne (whose first name T.K.'s publicity department accidentally misspelled "Jimmy", an error Jimmie corrected when he was released from that label in the early 80's), was born on September 28, 1949 in West Palm Beach, Florida. An only child, both his parents were school teachers. Jimmie's dad, Jimmie Horne Sr., taught in the school system for thirty-three years, "and only missed three days", as Jimmie proudly declared. The interest in all things musical was awakened at an early age and perhaps he inherited the gift of singing from his mother Minnie who had a beautiful voice."Whenever she would be around the house, cooking or something, she sang a lot of Gospel songs", Jimmie said. "My dad loved jazz, R&B and the ballads that are called standards, you know, Sinatra ballads, Brook Benton ballads, so as a child I was exposed to that kind of music. I also heard Jackie Wilson, Otis Redding, James Brown, Sam Cooke, Little Richard, Arthur Prysock, even Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Perry Como, well, everybody out there. My dad had the LP's and he had his own stereo set, because he could make the cabinets for stereos. Music was just all around me as a child." Besides a taste for serious R&B and standards, Jimmie's dad also gave him the nickname "Bo". "Yes, that came from my father. 'Bo", which was short for 'bowlegged'", Jimmie laughed. "He gave it to me when I was just a little boy. I kept it because people in my neighborhood heard my nickname more than they heard my first name, so when I started cutting music I wanted them to know that I was THAT particular Jimmie."
Jimmie says that he knew that he wanted to be a singer from a very young age. "Yes, I did. I started singing when I was about seven or eight years old. I sang while I was outside, playing. As I got up in middle school, teachers and people around me, realized that I could sing. Then when I got in high school, I got into a glee club, which is like a choral group, where you sing in the school music program. From that, I got a scholarship in voice to go to a college in Daytona Beach called Bethune Cookman College. I attended that school from about 1967 to 1970-71, with a degree in Sociology. By that time, I had cut a couple of records for T.K., while I was studying, because I would come home on the weekends and could schedule time to go into the studio then."
Jimmie was signed to one of T.K.'s lesser known subsidiaries, Dig Records, in 1967, the same year he was admitted into college. "It was through a DJ by the name of Joe Fisher. Joe was a programmer on a radio station in my area called W.R.B.D., which was one of the hottest stations in the three counties (the city of Miami is in Dade county, Fort Lauderdale is in Broward county and West Palm Beach is in West Palm county). Joe Fisher knew that I could sing because he had seen me perform at clubs and he had put me on some of his shows. Joe had a relation with T.K. Records because, as a DJ, he would play all of T.K.'s products. Joe arranged for me to meet (label boss) Henry Stone and he also told (T.K. staff writers/producers) Willie Clarke and Clarence Reid about my singing ability. I did a show and Willie Clarke came down to see it. He brought Betty Wright with him and she and I were on the same show. Willie liked my voice, so he and Clarence spoke with Joe Fischer and decided to write songs for me. My first records came from the Willie Clarke and Clarence Reid team. My very first single was called 'I Can't Speak' and came out on a T.K. distributed label called Dig around 1969-70. It was a really deep Soul record. After that, I did a a song called 'If You Want My Love', then 'Street Corners'.
Although all three singles failed to make it to the U.S. national R&B chart, they were popular in the American South. "During that time, with segregation before integration, there were many songs that were big hits on the Black radio stations, but never came to the attention of white radio", Jimmie explained. "Often, regardless of how big your hit was on Black radio, unless you crossed over and got airplay on the white stations, the white community wouldn't even know you existed! That's why a lot of people thought that 'Dance Across The Floor' was my first song, when I had had several songs out before that. But those were only big on the Black charts. 'Dance Across The Floor' was the first record I did that crossed over to the white market... The reality of life is that the white radio stations would play a song quicker on a white artist than they would on a Black artist. It had to be five times better than an white artist's record to actually get on the white station's play list. It meant that a lot of great, Black records didn't get promoted. If the record company didn't put enough money into promoting it, then it would just be a good record, it wouldn't go any further."
After graduating from
college with a degree in Sociology, Jimmie took a job as a youth counselor, working for
the State of Florida."I did that for about four years", Jimmie said. "I
recorded too, but after a while I wanted to see if I could do it, if I could depend upon
it. That's when I quit my job and went into recording as a profession, as a full time
At Alston, Jimmie recorded a wonderful, but non-charting answer to Betty Wright's biggest hit to date, 1971's "Clean Up Woman", entitled "Clean Up Man". Like the original, it was written and produced by guitarist Willie "Little Beaver" Hale and Clarence Reid. Clarence, together with partner Willie Clarke, was the brain behind many of T.K.'s largest successes in the early- to mid seventies, including Gwen McCrae's "Rocking Chair". "They were very smart. Willie Clarke knew the importance of publishing. During that time it wasn't a normal thing to let Black artists know the importance of publishing, because publishing was where the record companies made the big money. They would only want an artist to come in and be great on stage, but not to even look at publishing or writing. If you wrote a song, then they would give you 'writers' on it, but they would never discuss with you that you needed to know about publishing; that if you're a writer, you shouldn't sell your song. You keep your songs like you do children. But when record deals were hard to come by, as a Black singer, you were just so happy to get a deal to where when you heard yourself on the radio, and you went out and did shows and you made money from it, you thought the world was a better place. But as you get older, and as I know now, it's important for you to know and understand about the business and about publishing".
The omnipresent Clarence Reid, whose name grace more record sleeve credits than anyone's ever going to be able to count, has been described as a musical genius, but also a "real nutcase", "a character", etcetera, by those who's ever had the pleasure of working with him. And they are many. But unlike some of the most famed artists on T.K.'s roster, like Gwen McCrae, KC and Benny Latimore (and although he won't admit it today, even Stax' Isaac "Black Moses" Hayes, who played keys on Reid's hilarious version of "Shaft"), Jimmie firmly denies ever having participated in the making of any of Clarence Reid's X-rated comedy albums, which Reid cut under his Blowfly pseudonym on the T.K. subsidiary Weird World. "No, I never did", Jimmie stated and laughed. "I could not imagine doing it. Those Blowfly records were about cursing and profanity. If a song like that would have come on the radio, and I would have been participating in it, it would have insulted my family. So I never did. But I was always amazed when I heard Blowfly's songs, because many times he would take the rhythm tracks from the hottest, most popular songs of the day and pick fun of them, by giving the song new lyrics. It made me laugh, you know, the songs were such great songs and they sounded just like the original. So at first you didn't notice anything, but then you heard this guy talking about the most terrible things and it made you laugh. Clarence did good with those Blowfly records."
Following the release of three more, non charting singles on Alston, Henry Stone decided that cross-over success had eluded Jimmie for much too long and brought him to work with Harry Wayne Casey (KC) and Richard Finch of the Sunshine Band. KC, who co-wrote Jimmie's first single for 1975 "Don't Worry About It" with Clarence Reid, incidentally received his start in the business with the aid of Reid. Reid co-wrote and co-produced one of the Sunshine Band's earliest hits; "Sound Your Funky Horn" in 1974. "Henry felt that KC was writing the kind of commercial material that was needed to break an artist in the crossover market", Jimmie said. "The R&B songs that Willie and Clarence were writing never made the white Pop charts, because of the lyrics. Don't get me wrong, they were good lyrics and lyrics that people wanted to hear, but they were lyrics that were traditional, R&B, Soul lyrics. KC was writing songs that talked about; 'I want your love, gimme some'.. Very repetitious songs, songs that didn't really talk about 'I wanna do this, I wanna do that'. His were about 'it's your love I need, I need me some sugar', songs that a little child could hear and you would not take offense to them. So, they were simple songs, but they were simple songs that had a dance beat, a Disco beat."
KC & The Sunshine Band were at this time on the verge of world wide chart domination with "Get Down Tonight" just around the corner, KC and his bass-playing partner Rick Finch had furnished T.K.with one of its biggest sellers (George McCrae's "Rock Your Baby" in 1974), so its hardly surprising that the Horne/Casey/Finch collaboration, which began with "Gimme Some" and was followed by "Get Happy" and "Don't Worry About It", paid off immediately. Jimmie remembers the sessions, where he was backed by the Sunshine Band, well."KC and Finch were really easy to work with because they were young guys, excited about the fact that they were riding the waves of a music that was coming in at a time when they knew how to create that. And being around exciting people only made you enjoy what you did. But when you said 'let me put this particular rhythm and blues vocal run on it', that's when they would tell you, for business purposes 'no, don't do that, that'll make the music too sad'. They interpreted feelings as sadness."
"Gimme Some" went to #47 R&B in the U.S. in the summer of 1975. Not long after, Jimmie found himself not only being presented with a Gold Award in Spain, various awards and recommendations in Germany, Switzerland, Brazil, Island, Canada, South Africa, Austria, Great Britain and Chile, but was also appearing on now legendary U.S. television shows like "Wolfman Jack", Mike Douglass Show" and "Diana Shore". It was at this time that Jimmie began to realize that there was little room for his soulful endeavors, that he had been labeled a "Disco artist". "If I could have chosen, I would have liked to continue working with Clarence and Willie. And work with KC too. That way I could have had the best of both worlds. It bothered me that songs like 'Gimme Some' didn't really highlight me, what I could do with my voice. It made it easier for me to get paid, but it didn't show my quality as a singer, as a performer. They were songs that were easy to sing, songs that a person with a not-so-good voice easily could sing. It wasn't like when you hear a record by Luther Vandross or James Ingram and you'd said 'ohh, no one can sing that song like Luther.. or like James'."
In 1978, Jimmie's first LP "Dance Across The Floor" was released. It included his previous hits and the title track, which was issued as a single in March that same year, was a smash, reaching #8 R&B and #38 Pop in the U.S. It was also a huge success in other parts of the world. Jimmie toured Europe, went to South America and received a Gold Presentation in Madrid. Although he obviously has mixed feelings about the song -and the entire Disco era-, he says he appreciates what it did for his career. "I have a good feeling for 'Dance Across The Floor', only because it brought me to the attention of the world. 'Gimme Some', 'Dance Across The Floor', 'Spank' and 'Is It In', they all made me money and gave me the opportunity to go to Europe and see people love me. To meet people that could not speak a word of English, but who knew all the words to my songs... Those who knew a little English called me 'the gimme some man' (laughs). I recall when I went to Germany and performed with 'Dance Across The Floor'.. Guys would jump up on stage and say 'ich liebe dich, ich liebe dich' (I love you, I love you). It was a great feeling, I'm telling you. I had read about all these places growing up, and there I was, actually in those places.. and people were loving me for what I was doing... Many times when I go back to Europe, 'Dance Across The Floor' is what they want to hear. Even after all these years! It's good in that way. It's not painful for me to think about how I was pigeonholed as a 'Disco artist', or that people still don't know that I can do so much more. I learned from my mistakes and that is nothing to be sad about. My biggest mistake was that I didn't really realize the importance of making music a business. Now I do. Now I know that in music, it's 75 percent business, 25 percent performance and you can put a 150 percent into the 25 percent, to make those 25 percent exciting. Now I know that."
Nearly all of the material on Jimmie's two albums on Sunshine Sound (KC's, T.K.-distributed label to which Jimmie was transferred from Alston around 1976-77), were penned by KC & Rick Finch. One exception is the often-sampled and remixed "Spank" (which earned Jimmie a double Gold Award in Johannesburg, South Africa!). It was written by trumpeter/songwriter/singer/dancer/arranger Ron Louis Smith. Ron, whom I discovered that Jimmie too regard as an unsung hero of the Miami music music scene of the 70's, was one of the original members of the Sunshine Band and an excellent horn player. Ron recorded only one LP in his own right, "Party Freaks (Come On)", which came out on Sunshine Sounds in 1978; an LP entirely written and produced by Smith himself. Backed by the Sunshine band and with the keys supplied by T.K. artist Timmy Thomas (remember "Why Can't We Live Together"?), it's must-have if you're into Disco-Funk, as it's full of catchy tracks, like "The Worm" and Come On And Do It". (It normally goes for a very humble sum of money on flea markets, record conventions and shops that deal in used vinyl.) But despite KC's liner notes which read ".. He's going to be a giant star", the record sadly sank without a trace shortly upon release. "In my view, Ron was the most exciting member of the Sunshine band and a pioneer of that group", Jimmie pointed out, before disclosing little known details of KC & The Sunshine Band's history. "Ron could play all those high octaves. When the Sunshine Band first came out, Ron Louis Smith put together a horn section that just blew you away. The original horn section were a powerhouse! Now, not a lot of people know this, but the Sunshine Band came out of a band called the Ocean Liners, which was formed by Ron Louis Smith and his brother Jerome Smith. Jerome did all those hot guitar parts on the Sunshine Band's records. The Ocean Liners were the hottest band in Miami and KC asked for the privilege to be a part of that group, because he loved Soul music. Anyway, as KC gained acceptance in the Ocean Liners, and Rick Finch joined, that group transformed into the Sunshine Junkanoo Band. Once they got to T.K., that's when they made the name change to KC and the Sunshine Band. The reason why there's very few who know the real story of how the Sunshine band began is in my own impression that everything was so focused around KC. I believe it was done that way because of segregation. During that time, a white guy in front of an all-Black band was something that white radio would buy. KC was a little reluctant about it because he felt that the Black music world, the R&B audience, would not accept him. He didn't know that Black people will accept you if they like what you're bringing."
In 1979, "Goin' Home For Love", Jimmie's second LP on Sunshine Sounds was issued and generated another club-favorite, "You Get Me Hot". The next year, "Spank" was re-issued in a new and remixed 12" version. The financial problems, which were to bring T.K. out of business, were starting to show. When Jimmie's final T.K. forty-five and 12" "Is It In" (perhaps his funkiest effort to date) hit the streets, the bankruptcy was imminent. Some put the blame on Disco for T.K.'s downfall, because Disco, not R&B, had been what carried the label in the mid-to late seventies. It has been suggested that the decision-makers at T.K (and other record companies as well) failed to pick up the signals that the demand for Disco was rapidly decreasing. Instead they continued to press and ship one million units of a Disco record, thinking they had a platinum hit. But when the record only sold some ten thousand copies and the retailers shipped the remaining unsold 990 000 back, T.K. was left with a huge debt and sky-high piles of useless vinyl. "It had gotten to a point where the company just needed to fulfill obligations", Jimmie commented. "T.K. underestimated the fact that they were responsible to the artists for their livelihood and they overestimated the market, they overestimated how the record would do. They shipped out platinum on many records, like stuff on KC & the Sunshine Band and Peter Brown. The record would do OK, but it wouldn't sell as many as they had estimated."
T.K: went out of business in the early 80's and many of its stalwarts faced huge financial problems; Gwen McCrae and Clarence Reid have both said that they experienced some of the hardest times of their lives at this point. For Jimmie, it was a wake-up call that maybe he hadn't been paying as much attention to the figures and numbers side of his profession as he should have. "My mistake, again, was getting more involved as a singer. I hadn't really cared about understanding why I didn't get a royalty statement in six months.. I didn't take that with the kind of focus that I should have and it has cost me. I didn't know that you should have a good entertainment lawyer. When the company collapsed, I had to go to work and take care of all the responsibilities that the record company had taken care of prior to the demolish of T.K.. When the company collapsed, it put my own responsibility back on me. In the early 70's, I would get what was called a 'draw' from the label. That would take care of your bills, your personal obligations. But after T.K. collapsed, I started to market myself and my name was out there enough to where I was my own agent, I was my own best salesman and I knew how to go out and promote myself. I had to go out and start paying bills and start doing shows which I normally wouldn't do."
Jimmie co-wrote his first post-T.K. single "You're So Good To Me", which came out in 1983 on Sunnyview, an independent label (owned by Henry Stone). Sunnyview is perhaps best remembered for releasing the hip-hop classics "Jam On It" and "Jam on Revenge (The Wikki-Wikki Song)" by rap/electro group Newcleus in 1983. "Rock It In The Pocket" (on F.H.L. Records) was followed by "Let's Do It" (on Sunnyview), a track Jimmie, although uncredited, wrote the lyrics to. It was produced by Rick Finch and Dave Crawford. Jimmie's stay at Sunnyview, like its existence, was brief. "Henry was distributing Sunnyview through Morris Levy, the gentleman who was investigated by the FBI." Levy was also the man who purchased T.K., buying troubled companies with strong catalogues was his specialty. After a 12" ("Show Me How Much") on former Stax boss Al Bell's California-based Edge Records, a new remix of "Spank" was released in Germany, where it sold close to 20.000 copies.
Throughout the remainder of the 80's Jimmie continued to perform in the U.S. and abroad, sometimes with his old buddies Timmy Thomas, Gwen McCrae and Anita Ward. In 1991, he recorded an album in Italy entitled "'Bo' Horne '91" and in the mid-nineties he signed another deal, but very few heard the result. "'I Wanna Be Your Lover' came out on a label called Rhythm Drive in 1995. It was an independent company and after they put my record out, they realized that they didn't have the money to really, really compete with the majors. They didn't have the money to do what they needed to do in terms of promotion and it was a brand new company, so they didn't really know what they needed to do either. But the company was gracious enough to come back to me and say 'listen, let us tell you that we don't know and we don't have the money, but let us not stop your career'. So, it was an amicable settlement. They let me out of the contract and then I swam and fished for myself." On this album, for the first time, Jimmie was able to really showcase his talent as a songwriter, as he co-wrote every song on the album, except the two covers. Also, on "I Wanna Be Your Lover", the balladeer who had been hidden in Jimmie for so long, got a chance to shine. "Yes it did. I did a song called 'Spend The Night', which was like a Jimmie 'Bo' Horne-ballad with a taste of Barry White. And another song called 'Only One', plus a version of the Teddy Pendergrass song 'Wake Up Everybody'."
Currently in the studio with Rick
Finch, Jimmie is excited about his forthcoming record which he promises will contain a
little bit of everything. "I'm gonna do more R&B, but I'm also gonna do what I
call R&B/Dance music. Others would maybe label it House, but I call it R&B/Dance
because that's what House is to me." The new album is scheduled to be released around
Christmas or early next year. Keep your eyes on these pages for more information.
© Maria Granditsky