Like black Western film star and singer “Bronze Buckaroo” Herb Jeffries before him, Mike Mann and his group Cowboy Soul want to make sure history doesn’t forget the black cowboys.
Singer/guitarist Mann, along with vocalist Ted “T Coop” Cooper, guitarist Mark “Markie D” Drummond, drummer Tracy “Bone” Hill and bassist Keith “Beefy Keef” Washington, will bring their mixture of country western music and contemporary pop and soul to Marina del Rey for a concert at 9 p.m. Friday, December 29th, at the Warehouse Restaurant, 4499 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey. Tickets are $10.
Formerly known as Mike Mann and the Nightriders, Cowboy Soul describes its sound as Sheryl Crow meets Al Green, or Clint Black meets Lionel Ritchie with a sprinkle of Red Hot Chili Peppers funk and rock.
Cowboy Soul views itself as a new fusion of sounds attractive to both those with roots in country music and those with roots in Motown.
The group recently released its new CD, Mike Mann Presents…Cowboy Soul, which compounds the storytelling of country music, the rhythm and har- monies of soul and the power of rock.
Lead vocalist Mann hopes audiences come away with more than just the novelty of a black cowboy group.
“The real objective of a Cowboy Soul show is to make our audience members aware of the history of black cowboys and their contributions to the western frontier,” says Mann.
“Black Cowboys played an incredible role in the real West,” says Mann. “Riding the range and driving the cattle to market was not easy work, or anywhere as romantic as depicted in mov- ies or television. And even though the black cowboy worked hard, proved he was qualified and really helped build the West, this era is now one of the most forgotten periods of African-American history and achievement. If black cowboys still rode the trails today, Cowboy Soul is what their trail songs would sound like,” Mann believes.
The group also hopes to bring country music to a larger audience than the rural white demographic that Nashville has traditionally been able to penetrate.
Mann, a former on-air radio personality and current day radio commercial and jingle producer, came up with the idea for the group after he was offered a country-western role in a local theater production.
He was also influenced by author William Katz and his book, The Black West.
Thus far, Cowboy Soul has performed with R&B crooner Brian McKnight, comedian Sinbad, rockers New Riders of the Purple Sage and the late Los Angeles-based bluesman Harmonica Fats.
The Autry Museum of Western Heritage, the California Country Music Association, the National Final Rodeo Party, the Real Black Cowboy Film Festival and the Watts Third World Arts Festival are among the special events Cowboy Soul has played at over the past few years. In addition, a Cowboy Soul song was used on the FOX television show, Trauma Center.
Mann was born and raised in the small town of Clinton, Iowa on the Mississippi River and he grew up playing harmonica and guitar.
He traveled around the country for years as a radio announcer before getting in touch with his country roots, he says.
The Nightriders began as a trio and later expanded to six members. Mann changed the name due to confusion over its meaning and to get more “to the heart of who we are as a band,” he says.
Some people mistakenly believed that the name Nightriders had something to do with the Ku Klux Klan, Mann says, while in actuality it was a term for slaves who had to get up and run away in the middle of the night.
A black cowboy to the bone, Mann named his son after black Western star Herb Jeffries. In addition to starring in Westerns, Jeffries later sang with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and currently performs locally each Labor Day weekend at the Sweet & Hot Music Festival in Westchester.
Information, (310) 823-5451.