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Gary Byrd & The G.B. Experience – The Crown

WonDirection Records (US) [4507WG] 1983

Gary Byrd was born in 1954 in Buffalo NY and began his DJ career there at the age of 15 at WUFO. From there he was hired on soul station WWRL-AM and launched his show, The GBE: The Gary Byrd Experience, which went on to become the longest running black radio show in NYC.

He released his debut single in 1970 entitled ‘Every Brother Ain’t A Brother’ on Real Thing Records following demand from his listeners after he performed the poem on his show. This was followed in 1972 by his debut spoken word, funk, soul album simply titled ‘Presenting The Gary Byrd Experience’. The following year he released his second single, ‘Soul Travelin, with backing band, The Jimmy Castor Bunch. Unbeknown to him, the track would go on to be sample fodder for hip hop artists such as Nas, Big L, Poor Righteous Teachers, etc.

In the early 1980’s Gary Byrd began a gospel radio show in the UK on BBC radio 1 called ‘Sweet Inspirations’ followed by a show on WLIB in NY.

In 1983 he released ‘The Crown’ with The GB Experience which became a huge commercial hit across the world. It was a spoken word/rap track celebrating African history and culture and was produced by Byrd and legendary soul artist Stevie Wonder. It was the only ever release on Stevie’s WonDirection Records. Stevie played drums, piano, synthesizer and tambourine plus provided vocals. Other artists on the track included Stevie’s ex-wife Syreeta and Teena Marie (RIP).

There are a few label variations for this release. There are two 3-track Motown promo’s which each have the same tracklisting and include an additional edited version not available on the general release. One has the artist name printed at the top of the label, the other is below the centre hole. There are also two different general releases which are easily identified by their differing track lengths printed on the label.

Following this release Gary was recruited to bring his unique style as a narrator for the BBC documetary ‘Beat This: A Hip Hop History’ which was also available on video tape.

Promo Releases [PR-128]

Side A

The Crown (Long Version) [8:43]
The Crown (Edited Version) [6:49]

Side B

The Crown (Instrumental) [10:49]

General Release Version 1 [4507WG]

Side A

The Crown (Vocal) [10:56]

Side B

The Crown (Instrumental) [10:40]

General Release Version 2 [4507WG]

Side A

The Crown (Vocal) [10:35]

Side B

The Crown (Instrumental) [10:40]

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