It’s tough to equate the innocent faces on the cover of Together Forever: The Music City Sessions" – a youthful R&B quintet awaiting their moment in the spotlight backstage at the Sportsman Club in Oakland circa 1970 – with the powerful and accomplished sounds this remarkable compilation contains. Barely into their teens at formation, the Two Things In One ploughed a capable – and omnivorous – musical furrow from the get-go. To be sure, there were plenty of bands splicing pop, rock, soul and jazz at the time, most of them following in the footsteps of funk’s greatest pied piper, Sly Stone. But there is an organic, unselfconscious aspect to this particular aggregation that makes them unique. As bass player Johnnie Tucker likes to point out, “Guys were bold, man!” "
Growing up in the working class environs of Richmond, California, across the Bay from San Francisco, the group’s members shared what was to become a lifelong passion for music. Michael Griggs, Marciel Garner and Michael Jeffries had formed the Soul Distributors in elementary school, but it was Garner’s subsequent musical friendship with Johnnie Tucker and jazz protégé Kevin Burton that brought all five together as the Two Things In One in 1969. The young combo quickly made a name for themselves locally, grabbing the attention of R&B dee jay Bob Jones, who assumed management and got the group signed to Ray Dobard’s Music City imprint. The ensuing singles ‘Silly Song’, ‘Together Forever’ and ‘Over Dose’ all enjoyed healthy airplay in the region, as the Two Things In One opened for such heavyweights as War, Funkadelic, the Sylvers and Earth, Wind & Fire, as well as headlining their own, frequently self-promoted, performances. In many cases, the teenagers blew away more seasoned musicians with their remarkable energy and chops, topped with the expressive lead vocals of Jeffries.
Between May of 1971 and July 1973, the Two Things spent an inordinate amount of time at Music City’s no-frills studio in Oakland, recording a swathe of strong originals, such as the psychedelic ‘Confusion’ and ‘You’re No Good’ and the funky chant ‘Let’s Get It Together’, alongside compelling arrangements of outside material such as ‘Walk On By’ and the Allmans’ ‘Dreams’. In the summer of 1972, Burton left for a lucrative road gig, to be replaced by Richard Meyer, and the band later added a horn section, but Ray Dobard’s ruthless exploitation cast an ominous pall across the Two Things In One’s developing career, and the lack of remuneration eventually forced them to desert him. In truth, the act never fully recovered. Its members would later work with Sly, Tower Of Power and Maze, amongst others, and today, with the release of “Together Forever” – the vinyl edition of which comes on blood red wax – the original quintet is reuniting to bring some much-needed old-school funk and soul chops back home to the Bay Area. If they sound even half as dynamic as they do on these vintage recordings, it’s going to be a hell of a show.
By Alec Palao