All killer funk and soul from Jazzman Records with previously unreleased recordings from Chicago’s Master Plan Inc. Find out the story below. The album is available now.
A brief history of MASTER PLAN
As told by Frederick Douglas Shorts
My first group were called The Mannequins, which was myself, Rocine Baily, Lawrence Calvin, Lou Dobbs and Otha Alexander. We were backed by our own band, with tall Joe Stevenson on guitar, Kenney Walker on drums and Tim Jackson on bass. Later on, Keith Samuals took over on bass. This was around 1967. We played school gigs & clubs in old town Chicago and recorded four songs for the label owner / producer Don Corone – although none were released).
Shortly after that we auditioned for Brunswick records using the same four songs. I then was recruited out of my group by Ray Foreman of The Visitors and I toured with them briefly. But following that, I used those same four songs to get into Jerry Butler’s writer workshop where I was assigned to the legendary producer Calvin Carter. I picked up a female singer named Carolyn Love and started doing duets, along with backing from the band members who were then known as Crystal Image.
Later on, along with Joe Stevenson, I joined T.H.E.M and soon after that Joe and I toured with the Shades Of Brown. Then, in around 1970 or ’71 we were together again, travelling with the United Cleaning Company band, which later morphed into the James Clark band and revue.
We formed Master Plan Inc. in 1974 or thereabouts. In addition to Joe and myself, the first line up were Dean Knox, Kenney Walker, Eddie Manning and Charles. Some time later, Archie Brooks and Joann Addison joined up as vocalists. In fact, the band had a few line-up changes over the next few years.
The Master Plan Story
After touring with the James Clark band in the early ’70s, myself, Joe Stevenson and Dean Knox became disenchanted with the way James handled his business. We had a few meetings and decided between ourselves to all leave. I was the first to quit. We were working in Detroit at the time and I confronted James about not getting paid regularly. He made lame excuses for the frequent delay and non-payments we were getting used to, so I quit on the spot. I told Joe and Dean that I would go back to Chicago and find some other musicians to join us and start our own band. Joe and Dean stayed with James until I was able to put together a plan to get us some work.
Upon returning to Chicago, I talked to Eddie Manning, the bass player for a band called The Fugitives. He wasn’t happy with his situation with the group he was with either. I told Eddie my plan and he agreed to join me in my quest to start a fresh new unit. Next up, I contacted Ken Walker – the best drummer on the North Side where we all lived. Ken had been in one of my previous groups and he was game to try something new. I then hooked up with a new management company – Midwest Talent – to secure some work for us. Midwest gave me the green light and co-sponsored a concert for the new band. Elated, I returned to Detroit and dropped the news on Joe and Dean, and they both quit the James Clark Band right away and came back to Chicago with me. Dean also convinced James Clark’s trumpet player, Charles, to come along too.
Back in Chicago, Eddie Manning’s mother gave us space in her home to rehearse our new band and encouraged us in every way to seek out our dream. Without Mrs. Manning there might not have been a Master Plan.
I was broke – as were the other members. All we had was a desire to be a great band. Many people helped us in immeasurable ways. My girlfriend Shirley Carter took in myself, Dean and Charles to live with her until we could get on our feet. My grandmother, Mrs. Rosella Shorts, she also let Dean and me stay with her and she fed us on the regular.
We did the concert for Midwest Talent and it was a great success. We served notice that there was a new band in town. None of our competition had a horn section so we made a big impression. Even so, Midwest Talent didn’t supply any more work so we were back on our own. To make matters worse, we soon lost our trumpet player Charles. He couldn’t stand living with people other than his own family so he went back to Detroit and freelanced while living with some relatives. Losing the trumpet was a big blow to our sound so we ran an ad in the paper for a new player. The ad was answered by Rasoul Sidik. He came right in and learned our show. We were back in business. We also lucked out on a new booking agent, Billy Vance, of Vanco Enterprises in Wisconsin.
Billy Vance booked us without ever hearing or seeing us – just on word of mouth. He booked us gigs on the college circuit and kept us working. Meanwhile, another member of The Fugitives jumped ship and joined us: enter Archie Brooks.
I didn’t really want Archie in the group. He would just be competition for me because he was such a great singer. But Eddie and Joe kept at me until I relented and accepted him. That turned out to be a great decision – Archie became my writing partner and together we wrote most of the material for Master Plan. Archie had written songs for the Fugitives but never gotten credit or payment. I encouraged Archie and Dean to join me in taking a business course to further our position. We three graduated the Free School of Business Management. There we learned how to form our own corporation, thus the name Master Plan Inc. We became a legit IL. Corporation. At the same time we continued to travel and started setting our sights on recording some of our songs.
Meanwhile, on the west side of Chicago, we ran into a female singer called Joann Addison and inducted her into our show. She became the opening act for us and travelled along with the group. Later on, we made Joann a fully-fledged member of Master Plan Inc.
After a lot of time together on the road, we started to tire of each other’s company and friction eventually caused us to split. We did record some music in Minnesota before splitting up, however – more about that later.
On the split: Eddie had gotten romantically involved with Joann, which was a big source of the friction. Eventually, Joann went her separate way. By then, Eddie and I didn’t get along well anymore so he also quit the group. Next, Kenney left, and then Rasoul and Joe. Dean, Archie and myself refused to give up though, even when Joe quit. The three of us pooled our money and rented a warehouse type of space to live and woodshed practicing and writing songs. Dean brought in his cousin Dennis on trumpet, and Archie picked up the guitar. I also approached Greg Poindexter, a bass Player we encountered while competing with his band, Speed Limit 25. He joined up and also moved in with us. We ran another ad – this time for a new drummer – and big Al brown answered. Greg and Al learned our music and we were back in business.
Enter Gary Jackson…
I met Gary while auditioning for Brunswick records. He had had success as a writer in the past, as he had co-wrote Jackie Wilson’s hit ‘Higher & Higher’. Gary now wanted to try his hand at management so he took us on as his first clients. We stayed with Gary for over a year even though he didn’t secure any work for us! We left him when he and his partner conspired to rip us off after we recorded some music at Brunswick. I pulled the plug on our deal when I discovered they weren’t playing fair and I took a lot of flak from the group because they wound up blaming me that we didn’t get our recordings released. We had another shake-up and had to regroup once again. Archie found another bass player, Vic Buford. I managed to get Kenney Walker to rejoin but Dennis left, and then Dean left too. Enter the Agguire brothers – Greg & Rudy. They also brought a new sax player with them named Dez. Greg had also brought in our first ever keyboard player – Melvin Robinson.
Our new group was the biggest and best incarnation of Master Plan Inc. yet. We met Pop Staples and started rehearsing at his studio and we even got to open for the Staple Singers – but only just one time because unfortunately everything started to unravel again. We did record some music before disbanding though. I financed a session at Ed Cody’s United Sound Studio and we recorded what I think was our best work – ‘Something To Be Done’. I didn’t have enough money to promote the record so I distributed it by hand to a few retail outlets before becoming discouraged. The group broke up for good after nothing ending up happening with the record, and finally we all went our separate ways.
The Minneapolis sessions with David Z
Sometime, around 1974 or ’75, while working a club in Minneapolis called Dick’s Jetaway, we
decided to record a few songs to shop to record labels. Although some of the band members didn’t want to invest in the recording sessions, we took a vote and the majority decided to go ahead with the plan. There was a popular Minneapolis group at the time named Haze, who had made a decent record so we went and used the same studio where they recorded. Dean Knox, Archie Brooks and myself wrote material for the session. I don’t remember the name of the studio, but I will never forget the engineer, David Rivkin. He taught us some tricks to get a good mix. Later on in life, Dave went on to worked with Prince. Prince renamed him David Z.
Anyway, we recorded five songs in one night after finishing up at the club. We recorded from around 2am until about 10am. By the time we finished, everyone was asleep besides Dean, Archie and myself. But we got through it all. The next week, we mixed the songs in another all-nighter session. In the end we had amassed a bill for sixteen studio hours. It would have been even more but David liked working with us so he trimmed off some of the studio time. Even so, our bill was something like three grand. The guys didn’t want to invest that kind of money. They hit the roof and refused to pay. We were able to pay off about half of the bill with cash from Dean, Archie, Joann, Tall Joe and myself, but we left Minnesota owing at least fifteen hundred dollars – and without our master tape.
With the gig at Dick’s over, we returned to Chicago. There was still bad blood in the band that carried over from the trip – some harsh words and some fisticuffs. We didn’t see much of each other for a while after that. Dean was living with Archie and it put pressure on Archie to move. I was still living at home with my mother. Things got pretty tight so we decided to regroup and rent a place together. Dean and I scraped up the money to pay off our session bill and I travelled back to Minneapolis to pick up the tape. After I got back home, we found a new bass player and a new drummer. Archie picked up the guitar and started playing in place of Tall Joe. Joann moved away and got married.
Our nucleus – myself, Dean and Archie – continued to woodshed with the new cats, working on a new show presentation and some new songs. From this came the new incarnation of Master Plan. We decided to go forward and record all new songs, which meant that the Minneapolis sessions were left buried away in my mom’s basement.