In 1971, when John Hurd was a senior at Badin High School, he and his band, The Revised Brotherhood, recorded a 45 rpm single called “Tragedy.” They made 100 copies that they sold mainly to friends, although some were sold at Hamilton’s Elder-Beerman department store.
The song, recorded 45 years ago this month, never was played on the radio, although it was on Hamilton jukeboxes. Hurd kept up the copyright on it, always considering it a good song.
Hurd, now 63, recently learned he has a big fan in Germany, who owns a small record company, and wants to re-release it as a single and also on a compilation vinyl LP with other little-known American bands.
“Five weeks ago, a guy in Munich, Germany, was looking for me, and so I contacted him,” said Hurd, still a Hamilton resident. “He has a record label, and so I signed a deal.”
“The guy” in Germany is Tobias Kirmayer, founder of the small label, Tramp Records. Kirmayer tracked down the song’s writer, even though he was only listed as “J. Hurd” on the record. It took about a year to find Hurd.
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“When I first heard ‘Tragedy,’ I was totally blown away by the energy of the recording,” Kirmayer told the Journal-News in an email interview. “I immediately started looking for the people behind this recording and after some research (and with the help of other people) I finally got in touch with Mr. Hurd.
“I think I need to mention that my favorite personal music style is the raw, unpolished soul sound of the late 1960s/early 70s,” Kirmayer said.
Hurd describes ‘Tragedy’ as sort-of “hippie music, but dance-able.” It’s reminiscent of songs by Sly & the Family Stone, Chicago, and — because of the way Hurd sang the song — the band Blood, Sweat and Tears.
“It’s got a dance beat to it, it’s got a nice hook, and when I sing, it sounds like David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat and Tears was singing it, because that’s who I used to imitate, when I was young,” Hurd said. “For me to sound confident in the studio, I practiced doing my David Clayton imitation.”
The compilation vinyl LP will be called “Down & Wired,” and is scheduled for release in the fall, as is the single. It also will be available as a digital download, Kirmayer said.
Kirmayer is doing his part to revive interest in soul music from that era.
“Maybe my impression is wrong, but I feel that any musical genre of the 1960s/70s (no matter if it is Rock, Pop or Country music) is still in people’s minds, except soul music,” Kirmayer said. “Very few people here in Germany and whole Europe are interested in the music of James Brown and others despite the fact that they laid the ground for the nowadays billion dollar industry of R&B and HipHop artists.”
Also, Kirmayer says, “even fewer people are interested in little known soul bands who did their thing on their own back in the 70s. However I do not care about this. I am still fascinated by the music which was created by those bands and which is equally as great as those of well-known artists. All I do is to try to help that it does not get lost in the digital world of the 21st century.”
Hurd won’t get rich from the release, which likely will be 1,000 copies, and plans to split his songwriting royalties with his colleagues who chipped in and paid for studio time way back then at Hamilton’s Taggart Bros. Studio.
Hurd sang lead vocals and played keyboards. Others featured on the record were: Jimmy Green, tenor sax; Tim Quincy, trumpet; Carl Sadowski, trumpet; Donny Hoskins, drums; Pat Kennedy, guitar; Eddy Knox, bass; and background singers Doty Antes, Andrea Joyce and Bill Fairbanks.
Nowadays, Hurd works in housing and dining at Miami University. He was a music minister for seven years at St. Paul Church in Hamilton’s Second Ward.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “When I explain it to people, the looks on their face, when I tell them the whole story, how this guy found me, and how we recorded the song 45 years ago, the look of happiness and disbelief …”
LISTEN HERE: Click here to listen to “Tragedy” by The Revised Brotherhood
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