It’s been a while since I typed out this interview and Keb has emigrated to the Philippines. However, I’d still recommend spending your Saturday nights at Mme JoJo’s. Dave Crozier has taken over Keb’s spot and joined DJ Andy Smith at Lost & Found.
Once you’ve got used to the Scottish accent, and believe me, when I first met Keb, I made him spell out his address over the phone, you can get some entertaining stories from a couple of decades of record collecting and djing out of him. Anyway, one afternoon we sat down for a cup of tea and this is what he told me:
Well my favourite story, I suppose, is Richard and Edna Miner. I used to deal with a guy called Richard Miner from Miami, or just outside Miami. I had never met him. I was in Britain and this was the late seventies, early eighties and I was buying Northern Soul records from him. You know, I’d say “post me the list” an then I’d phone up and send the money and the records would arrive. Anyway, about 1986, 87, I heard that he died. I thought “oh, fucking hell, that’s a shame. I bet his wife got the records and doesn’t know what to do with them.”
So I had the phone number and phoned up.
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry to hear that your husband is dead. What are you doing with the records?”
“Ah well, you come over here, we don’t know what to do yet. My son is taking the death very hard.”
So I fly out to Miami. I had a good bit of money saved up and I actually sold a few records to get money to go.
And I arrive at my motel and phone them up straight away.
“Is that Edna Miner? It’s Keb Darge, I’ve come over from Britain.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, we ain’t ready for you yet. We haven’t had the air conditioning on. You call back tomorrow. It’s a bit awkward just now.”
So I call back the next day.
“Oh, we ain’t ready for you yet. We haven’t had the air conditioning on.”
This went on for a week.
I’ve flown over from Britain, I’ve been sitting in a fucking hotel in Miami for a week, enjoying the beach and all that, but I want to look at records…
Now eventually I phoned her and
“Ok, you come over now. We’re ready. You come over to the house, here’s the address.”
So I go to the house and the door opened and this old lady says: “You’re the boy from England? Well, come in. Welcome to our fine estate.”
So I go in and the son is lying on the sofa, passed out, with a bottle of fucking Whiskey in his hand.
“Never mind him. He’s taking it bad since his poppa died. He’s been drinking. We’ll take you to the warehouse soon. Would you like a soda?”
“Oh, yes, please. Can I have a Coca Cola, please?”
So she goes away and comes back with a fucking shotgun.
“You try and steal any records boy, I’ll blow your fucking bowels off. We know what you fuckers do. You throw them out the window and hide them and come and get them later. Well, we got dogs. We got dogs! You ain’t gonna steal nothing!”
“I’m not gonna steal fuck all! I just want to buy some records.”
“Right! Well, you remember that! I’m taking my gun with me. Here’s your soda.”
So I get into the car with her and we drive to the warehouse and it was a fucking great big warehouse. Sweltering heat. And there were guard dogs, about five wild rabid dogs running around the warehouse in case anyone tried to steal records. So we go in and she’s got a pistol with her. She’s about sixty-five years old and she’s got a pistol!
“Here you go now. And don’t go downstairs. Downstairs is where the good records are. Stuff you want is upstairs.”
There were two floors. Downstairs, I sussed out, was all original Suns, like Elvis and all that, and that was a lot of money then and is a lot of money now. There was a lot of rare stuff. Ten inches, 78s, 45s – original 50s stuff. Worth a fortune. The toilet was next to them. So upstairs I go and there has been no fucking air conditioning on at all.
I was there for about three or four days. One time I went for a shit. She came with me. This is true! I’m sitting, having a shit there and she’s sitting here with a gun on her lap and the Elvis Presley records are behind us. And then, maybe a day later or that night, I’m upstairs digging through these cardboard boxes and this fucking great big thing goes “wishhh” up my arm and I think “fuck me, it’s a scorpion!” And she wakes up, the gun comes up and I think I’m gonna die. But, no, I didn’t die.
Anyway, three days later she gives me a plastic basket to put my records in and there were only about eight records.
“You ain’t buying many records. What’s wrong with you?”
“Oh, have you had someone from Britain through here recently?”
„Well yeah, we had that Mark Dobson (which is Butch the top Northern DJ and Tim Ashibendi (who was a big dealer back then) through here just a week ago.
“A shit! Was that when I was phoning up?”
“Yeah, I didn’t want to tell you that. And you know, we’ve been dealing with that Tim Ashibendi on the mail for almost ten years. We’ve invited him over here out of the goodness of our heart. And not once, not once, did he have the decency to tell us that he was a nigger! If we had known that he was a nigger, we wouldn’t have had him here. We don’t have niggers in these parts.”
So we go back to the house and I’ve got my basket. The son has woken up.
“How much do you want to pay for these records?”
“Three dollars each.”
Her wig comes off, bangs onto the floor; she runs into the kitchen, comes back with the shotgun.
“I ain’t working my fanny off for no fucking three dollars a record!”
The son stands up, punches her, knocks his mother out.
“I’m really sorry, sir! I’m really sorry! I hope my mother has not given you a bad impression of our fine estate. Look, these you can have for three dollars each but this, this one, I want twenty dollars for. I know that one is a rare record in your country.”
“Oh, thanks very much mate!”
And I shoot off out. That was it.
I wasn’t into funk at that time, I just was into Northern. And when I met DJ Shadow which was about fifteen years later, and I was just yapping to him about record hunting stories, he was like:
“Fucking hell, the worst one I had was – I went to this couple that was a mother and her son in Miami and she was mad.”
“Was that Richard and Edna Miner?”
“Did you get anything?”
“Yeah, I got thousands of great funk records!”
There are some things about Keb Darge that you might know and a lot more that you probably won’t. First of all, he is very passionate about the music he plays. The genre “deep funk” got its name from a night by the same name which started together with Snowboy. When he was much younger, Keb got beaten up rather badly. He was well impressed by the other guy’s technique and this started his interest in martial arts. Having seen how he handles his swords, burgling his house might not be the smartest move. While you won’t hear much funk from Keb these days, Lost & Found at Mme JoJo’s is still the way to spend a Saturday night in London – unless you are a purist who doesn’t like his Northern mixed with Rock-a-billy or, for some bizarre reason, you really hate “Surfin’ Bird”. Did I mention that he’s probably a better dancer than you’ll ever be?
It’s hard not to lose count of the amount of compilations which he has put out together with people like Pete Rock, DJ Shadow, Lucinda Slim, Paul Weller or his lovely wife Little Edith. Listen to them.
Photos and interview (c) Tim Schnetgoeke / www.schnetgoeke.com