A little rock-and-roll trivia for you: What band heralds itself as the first 'black rock band'? If your answer was Living Color, you're way off and probably need to google the name Black Merda, the essential Detroit psychedelic band to which the designation belongs.
Formed in 1969, Merda merged a wah-wah guitar tone with massive amounts of Motor City attitude. Shockingly ahead of their peers, the band members were dressed to the nines in posh furs and flowing scarves well before P-Funk and releasing records so full of sonic soul, it's no wonder that the MC5 arrived shortly thereafter. The band's demise occurred after just four years of making music; they broke it off in 1972, but managed to release two sweltering LPs first. Black Merda's self-titled debut, on Chicago's Chess Records, was released in 1969, finding its way into cult-classic status. But the follow-up, Long Burn the Fire, is often forgotten, as the group was humbled after a short stay in California and record-label woes.
But nothing stays dead, of course. Recently, hip-hop pinup boy Ja Rule sampled the Merda song "Lyin'" for the opening track of his 2005 Exodus record, proving that the history carved by these four pioneers is not forgotten by the forerunners of the current musical climate. Reunion shows in and outside of Detroit have further driven home this point, as does Folks From Mother's Mixer, a new compilation of Black Merda tracks on Funky Delicacies.