ATLANTA'S pride and joy, Mother’s Finest, went down in history as the ultimate upstaging act. Touring with the likes of AC/DC, Aerosmith, The Who, and Black Sabbath, the firing-on-all-cylinders band has a history of stealing the show, and after 45 years as a group, they’ve still got it.
Fusing hard rock with soulful funk, founders Glenn Murdock and Joyce Kennedy won fans all over the world with their earth-shaking vocals and raucous concerts. The band returns to Savannah before performing two sold-out shows in their hometown for the One Mother to Another Anthology performance.
We spoke with Murdock and Kennedy about the band’s early days, hitting the studio again, and inventing their revolutionary sound.
What was your early vision for the band? What were your goals?
Murdock: It was a transition from doing cover stuff to doing original music. Everybody wasn’t doing that then. When we played, everybody was into doing covers, and everybody wanted you to do covers. You couldn’t really get a gig unless you did covers. We had to fight through that, and it was sort of this revolution. With the covers, we’d make it our own, so to speak. After that, one thing led to another, but we didn’t set an intention...it wasn’t just “We’re going to make a record.” That was the last thing on our minds. We wanted to do originals, and we got approached. It was a survival thing. We weren’t exactly living in the streets, but pretty much. We were basically homeless, for lack of a better word. We were a traveling band.
How did you ease your audiences into the originals from the cover sets?
Murdock: Force! It was force. They understood, too, the audience. That’s what was happening—everybody was trying to make that transition. Everybody was in agreement—“Okay, we gotta play some of this stuff, but we’re also going to play some of our originals.” And it worked out.
Playing those classics is helpful for writing, too—you see what the audience reacts to, what moves them.
Murdock: We had to play those, and doing originals, they had to sound similar to what was going on in the music world. We would feed off of the cover stuff we were doing, and we were innovative with our covers. We were doing Joe Cocker, Beatles, Yes, besides the P-Funk stuff and James Brown. We integrated those types of rhythms and sounds into our own music to be instep. We weren’t too weird—just weird enough!
Your live show is the stuff of legends. Were you always a high-energy player?
Murdock: Yeah, that was always me. The turn we took kept us amped. We like to play up-tempo, play a little louder than usual, push buttons, move things. We were not just sitting there making the sounds but getting some reaction as a band in our sort of rock/funk-type of music we were inventing. We didn’t actually know it at the time, but we were inventing a type of music which was a hybrid between the rock and the heavy funk.
What kind of music were you writing before writing for Mother’s Finest?
Murdock: We weren’t into writing...it’s sort of hard to explain what the atmosphere was back then, especially for Georgia, coming from Chicago.
The whole thing was standards or blues. Stuff on the radio had to be related to what you were playing. When we got together, we were doing original material just to be creative.
The live performances, that’s what we were most into—the way we dressed and looked and played, the equipment we used, it was all geared toward being the best live band. Sly & The Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, that’s what it was in those days. It was about working and people wanting to see you and wanting to see you play. And Joyce and I came from Chicago, and it was all about live presentation, show bands.
When you and Joyce met, did you know you’d found a musical partner you’d play with for most of your career?
Murdock: Yes and no. We were both in the music business, and we both actually made records. I was with a doo-wop/jazz group, and we had a record out. When we met, we were definitely talking about singing with each other. We were going to see these show bands that would consist of a girl group she was part of, and I was singing and DJing—not record DJing, I was introducing bands with a band behind us. Then it developed into us doing stuff together and it was all good after.
You released Goody 2 Shoes & The Filthy Beasts two years ago—that was your first studio album in quite some time.
Murdock: That was our crowdfunding record. Somebody gave us the idea of crowdfunding and said we'd be perfect for it. We weren't really hot on the idea, but thought it just might work and we took the chance. We got enough money to make a record, and then got a European deal.
Joyce, what was it like returning to the studio to record that album?
Kennedy: Recording is always a challenge, and it's always new, and I'm never really completely happy because I feel like I should have at least forever to do everything! But it was cool, a huge challenge...you go back over and talk about what you could have done better, we could have done this and the end result was a pretty good record.
Looking back at your discography and what your fans connect with, how did you approach writing this album? Were there particular sounds or feels you were going for?
Kennedy: We can rock awhile. Our fan base is awesome, so there are certain things we can't get away from doing—"Baby Love," "Piece of the Rock," "Truth'll Set You Free"—depends on where we are. When you have an audience, they want to hear their favorite songs and it's hard to bring in new songs. We have to sneak it in usually, and we make sure the classics are there.
We have this show coming up in Atlanta at the Buckhead Theatre, we put out this anthology record, which is pretty much songs from every album we’ve done. Two days are already sold out! I look forward to the audience...it’s not as hard of work as it used to be. The base is still strong, and the beautiful thing is we start to pick up new ears and new heartbeats. We have fans bringing their children and still rockin’ after all this time.
Getting back to your question, we try to sound as modern as it is authentic to us. We try to keep the sound of the band from the ‘70s and ‘80s with new sounds. We went digital, ProTools. We try bring a modernism into the sound to stay relevant. I’m not going to sing any different. I let the song tell me what to do with it.
You mentioned playing music from the anthology album. What was it like looking back at your career like that?
Kennedy: I look back at my career almost every day, to be honest. I try to find inspiration and solace in having been in the business for so long and trying to accept where I am at this point and what I’ve done in my career.
A lot of people say, “We don’t know why they were never as huge as they could be—everybody loves them, but they never really got huge!”
It’s a big thing to swallow when we work as hard as we do, but sometimes when you create your own lane, it’s a bit difficult, especially during the times we came about in the ‘70s.
We were a multiracial band. It was a difficult doing rock music. I had to accept the idea that that was the biggest hurdle in our whole career, but we stood the test of time and came out stronger. You spiritually realize that you are always exactly where you’re supposed to be.
From the time you’re born, it’s set up, and there’s nothing you can do to change it. And in that respect, I am all good.