Back in May when we did our Memorial Day podcast, I was sorely unaware of Junie Morrison’s music. Sure, I had heard the Ohio Players’ albums from the early ’70s, of which Junie played a seminal part; I had heard Funkadelic’s late ’70s music, particularly “(Not Just) Knee Deep” (I mean obviously, I’ve watched Good Burger enough times). But, while I was technically familiar with Junie’s contributions, up until about a month ago I couldn’t have told you who he was. Even after I heard Kanye’s “No More Parties in L.A.” Even after I heard Solange’s “Junie.” Even after I heard that he’d died earlier this year.
I like to think that I’ve made up for some lost time in the past month, however, because I’ve been unapologetically obsessed, and will spread the gospel of Walter “Junie” Morrison as much as possible. The man easily deserves as many accolades as Prince, and in many ways is very similar: Junie was a multi-instrumentalist who played every instrument on his solo albums; he joined the Ohio Players at only 16 years of age and was largely responsible for writing and arranging many of their earlier records. Matter of fact, after becoming familiar with Junie’s solo stuff from The Westbound Years, I can’t imagine Prince’s first two albums–much less his entire career–without Junie Morrison’s music.
Hell, Jheri Curl June as we know it would not exist without Junie. Give another listen to “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” with its triumphant synth line (one of Junie’s signature sounds), and tell me that is not a rudimentary form of Jheri Curl Music. Furthermore, Junie, along with yesterday’s JCJ inductee Stevie Wonder, predated Roger Troutman’s usage of the keyboard talkbox by several years. So, there you have it, folks: Junie Morrison is the unsung architect of our sacred Jheri Curl Music. Until now, that is.
By the mid-’80s, Junie, like practically every other funk and R&B artist, was making fully synthesized music. 1984’s Evacuate Your Seats is electro funk at its, dare I say, weirdest, incorporating New Wave influences with what sound like samples lifted from commercials. “Show Me Yours” is so multilayered and ethereal that you almost forget that you’re listening to a song about exchanging peeks at each other’s genitals. And that, my friends, is genius.
We’ll be back with more Jheri Curl June tomorrow. In the meantime, here are the playlists: