Con Funk Shun

TV show ‘Unsung’ focuses on Vallejo’s Con Funk Shun band

By Jessica A. York / Times-Herald

Con Funk Shun band members are ready to let their skeletons out of the closet for a national audience.

Karl Fuller, left, and Michael Cooper, of Con Funk Shun, a 70s R&B band with Vallejo roots, tape an interview on Sonoma Boulevard Monday for cable music documentary "Unsung." A passerby looks on with interest. (Jessica A. York/Times-Herald)

And they’re not even worried. Well, not that worried.

The funk and R&B band that originated with several Vallejo High School teenagers and their friends will be the focus of an upcoming episode of the cable station TV One’s “Unsung” music documentary show.

Vocalist and trumpeter Karl Fuller, the only Con Funk Shun member still living in Vallejo, said publicity from the show would be a boon for the still-touring band. But he acknowledged an on-camera interview session Sunday wasn’t all easy sailing.

“They were asking things that I wasn’t prepared to answer — so, I didn’t,” Fuller, 61, said with a smile.

Lead vocalist and guitarist Michael Cooper said he agreed to participate in the taping knowing it wouldn’t be all “nicey-nicey.”

“Your story gets told, you get the national coverage, and you get the publicity out of it. Especially if it ends on a positive note where you’re still out there doing it,” said Cooper, 60, of Fairfield. “If you’re gone away or you’re down and out … if you just didn’t fare well … it lets people know that.

“If you ended up in prison or you ended up in jail or on drugs or on skid row, or unfortunately you died, it’s going to tell everything.”

Cooper said the episode is expected to air in the next several months.

On Monday, the two musicians, original members of the seven-member band, toured their old Vallejo stomping grounds. Trailed by a camera crew and interviewer, Cooper and Fuller visited Vallejo High, their former Sonoma Boulevard recording studio “Melody Lounge,” and two Country Club Crest neighborhood original bandmates’ homes. The sites were integral to the formation of the band, originally dubbed Project Soul, which was formed by Cooper and now-deceased Louis McCall Sr.

Vallejo High School Principal Clarence Isadore, a native Vallejoan, welcomed the hometown band with open arms Monday morning. Isadore said he has long known the band, and served as a behind-the-scenes “ad-hoc” member.

Funk and rhythm and blues fans know that Con Funk Shun is “better than ever,” long after their star has faded from the music charts, Isadore said.

“It’s great to be part of something that’s so strong,” Isadore said. “It’s just great that the funk is continuing.”

Con Funk Shun’s arc stretched from the late 1960s through the mid-1980s, including one platinum and four gold-selling albums, before members went their separate ways in 1986. Following the release of a well-received re-release and compilation album, the band reunited in 1993.

The “Unsung” series, premiering in 2008, “uncovers the hidden truth behind the fading of your favorite stars,” according to the TV One website.

“Anything that we have gone through, that we can testify about — from alcohol to drugs to good music to bad music to great times on the road to bad times on the road– we talk about it, and hopefully it will help the groups that are coming up, help some groups that are in existence right now that don’t know much about Con Funk Shun,” Cooper said. “We’re just happy to be included in it.”

Con Funk Shun, which starred at last year’s Solano County Fair, will be performing in San Francisco next month, and expects to release “Sound of Grown Men,” its first new full-length album since 1986’s “Burning Love,” by the end of March.

For additional information Con Funk Shun, visit www.confunk shunusa.com.

Contact staff writer Jessica A. York at (707) 553-6834 or jyork@ timesheraldonline.com.

 

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