on how I was introduced to Motown by Kentucky Fried Chicken

I know what you're saying.

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Yes, it is.

In 1988, KFC released a 3 volume set of cassette tapes called The Motown Showcase Special Collection. It was the 80s, KFC was still Kentucky Fried Chicken, and no one had heard of Rodney King yet. And in case you're not from The South, it was still The South, and KFC could get away with putting out a promotional item that smelled of chicken and racism. 

 

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for realz.

 

I told you it was KFC. I Googled the tapes and could find no info on how this promotional collection came to be. Gee, I wonder why. I have a feeling somebody at KFC headquarters said, "you know what people who enjoy fried chicken like? Motown." Okay, maybe it didn't happen that way, but YOU KNOW IT DID. And you can still get the tapes on Ebay. They exist. I recall transferring my volumes onto blank mixtapes and titling it "JUST MOTOWN." Yes, I did because that's how I rolled with my Emerson fake Walk-Man because I was too poor for Sony. 

They coudn't re-release the collection today. After the Mary J. Blige/Burger Kind racist ad, people need to be able to eat their chicken and listen to Motown without feeling like the KKK Grand Wizard. Honestly, I've never understood the link between fried chicken and African Americans. Fried chicken is universally delicious, no matter your race, religion, or status. Some type of fried chicken is served in almost all corners of the globe, including Japan, China, and Korea – so what makes it sterotypical African American food? In the days of slavery, fried chicken was made in both the plantation kitchen and in slave quarters, so why isn't the stereotype a fat white guy eating it? Still, ask anyone – they would tell you this KFC collection is racist.

 

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mmm…smell that crispy Motown sound!

 

I'm not sure who gave me the tapes. I was a music snob from early on and it took me awhile to put the KFC tapes on. I mean, they said Kentucky Fried Chicken on them and I knew that was all kinds of wrong. Then I succombed and played the tapes. My mom had played The Supremes and Little Anthony and the Imperials when I was little, but the KFC collection blew me away. I loved what I discovered on those tapes. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Jimmy Ruffins, Rare Earth, the Miracles, Edwin Star, and omigosh – Jr. Walker. 

"Shotgun" is still one of my favorite songs. How can you not love a song that starts with a shotgun blast and "I said shotgun. Shoot 'em 'fore he runs now"? The song is about getting a shotgun and going to listen and dance to the blues. 

 

The KFC Motown collection was the jumping off point that got me interested in Aretha Franklin,  Dusty Springfield, and later, Amy Winehouse, Adele, and Sharon Jones. AND OTIS. Go listen to some Otis Redding right now. I'll wait. I'm only going to briefly mention that Bruce Willis was on the Motown label in the 80s. The first cuts off the collection are your basic Supremes and Temptations, baby steps toward the later Motown full sound with horns and backbeat. It says volumes that artists today are still trying to replicate that sound. I love it. 

 

Comments

  1. oh gurlll, you went ol’ school on this song! I could do do the mashed potato to this (and I’m not talking KFC mashed potato or the kind you make with heavy cream)!

  2. We loved these takes! It’s my first memory of hearing Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, and the Temptations! For the life of me, I don’t know what compelled KFC to make this collection but it was a great anthology.

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