Local DJ and record store owner Marty Key went for almost a decade without playing it. Despite being a popular record among the soul crowd with an instantly recognizable beat, the highly collectable 45 stayed in its sleeve. Until recently.
“I actually felt weird playing the song,” Key says from his shop on Broad Street. ”Now, it’s kind of in rotation again.”
That song, which you might hear at Marty’s next gig, is a funky protest anthem called “Impeach the President,” recorded by The Honeydrippers, featuring veteran soul singer Roy C.
Veteran soul singer Roy C, on the phone in this undated photo (Photo courtesy Carolina Records/roycmusic.com)
The track, recorded in 1973, remained obscure until ‘80s hip hop producers started borrowing from it, eventually making it one of the most sampled songs ever. The tune’s trademark snare can be heard in songs by Janet Jackson, LL Cool J, Nas, Dr. Dre, The Lonely Island, Run-DMC and others. While the music is perennial, political winds have brought its lyrical content back in season. With the administration of the current resident of of the White House under federal investigation, the 44-year-old lyrics of “Impeach the President,” about then-President Nixon, are blooming again.
Behind the walls, of the White House, there's a lot of things, that we don't know about.
Some people say that he's guilty (that he's guilty). Some people say "I don't know." (I don't know)
Some people say, "give him a chance." (Give him a chance)
Aw, some people say, "wait till he’s convicted." (Till he’s convicted)
The song’s timeless appeal isn’t lost on its singer and producer, Roy C, who considers Richmond a second home. The 77-year-old has enjoyed a long career, scoring some minor hits in the ‘60s, “Shotgun Wedding,” and “Don’t Blame the Man,” before carving out a niche in the southern soul market that can’t get enough of him. He also manages himself and owns his own label, Carolina Records. The artist, formerly known as Roy Hammond, talks about his career, his work ethic and why he won’t sing that song when he performs at 63Thirty5 Restaurant on Saturday, April 15, at 9 p.m.
Richmond magazine: Why do you think your music has endured?
Roy C: Well, because I took time to learn music, to the best of my ability, you know. A lot of musicians, they just know two chord changes, that’s all. … I had to train my musicians years ago. The first group I had was 14- and 15-year-old white kids. I used them to record “Shotgun Wedding,” and if you listen to “Shotgun Wedding,” you wouldn’t believe a group of white kids did it. I can’t read music, but it’s by ear. I would teach them, then I would go in the studios and do it. The second group I had was a group of black kids [The Honeydrippers], high school students. That’s the group that recorded “Don’t Blame the Man” [and “Impeach the President”]. They turned out to be great musicians. I credit it to their listening and asking questions.
RM: Did you skip over “Impeach the President” during the last eight years of your concerts?
Roy C: I performed it on record, but I don’t do it on stage. I think it would make a hit if it were [re]released … with what we got goin’ on now with this president.
RM: Do you think you’ll ever perform it again?
Roy C: Ah … if I could get a good band, yes. If I could get a good band. Because [they're going to] have to be able to play it; the drummer did a fantastic beat and findin’ a drummer to do that beat, you know. … A lot of drummers can’t do that today.
RM: You manage your career, you perform concerts and you manage your own label. Do you ever get tired?
Roy C: No. You know, it’s strange when you do something that you like … diggin’ ditches I don’t like, but when you doin’ things you like it doesn’t bother you too much. I wouldn’t want to work three nights a week. I could do two.
Roy C takes the stage at 63Thirty5 Restaurant, 6335 Jahnke Road, on Saturday, April 15, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10-$40; find them here.