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B.T. Express, Funk and Soul Group in the 1970s

BT Express

Introduction

B.T. Express was one of the funk/disco/soul acts who enjoyed a string of hits during the 70s music era. The Brooklyn, New York-based group, formed in the early 70s music era scored four Top 40 hits the Billboard Hot 100 during their heyday: “Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied),” “Express,” “Give It What You Got,” and “Peace Pipe,” which became huge R&B chart smashes as well and have become oldies music favorites. They went off the charts for a while until they staged a mini-comeback in the 1980s with minor R&B hits. B.T. Express recorded for different labels (Record Shack, Earthtone, and King Davis), but weren’t able to duplicate their earlier success. They disbanded in the late 1980s.

Fun Facts About Brooklyn

Did you know the hot dog was created in Brooklyn? 

It is believed to have been invented by Charles Feltman in Coney Island in 1867. Nathans, one of the leading hotdog producers in the world, was later opened by one of his employees. The first hot dog, called “dachshund sausage,” is said to have been sold by German immigrants from New York food trucks in the 1860s. Around 1870, Charles Feltman opened his first hot dog stand on Coney Island. He sold over 3,600 Frankfurters in a bun that same year. And in 1880, sausage vendors began offering white gloves in St. Louis so customers could hold hot sausages; eventually, they ran out of gloves and instead handed them out on white bread. By 1893, hot dogs had become a famous baseball field treat. 

Did you know invented by Leo Hirschfeld in Brooklyn?

Tootsie rolls were invented by candy store owner Leo Hirschfeld, who moved to Brooklyn from Austria in 1884. His daughter always asked him to make sweets for him. Wanting to make out of what he had, he used ingredients in his own house: sugar, cocoa, and butter. Kids in the neighborhood liked the candy, and Hirschfeld decided to sell his invention. Thus, the birth of the Tootsie Rolls.

Did you know credit cards were first issued in Brooklyn?

The first credit card was issued in 1946 by John Biggins of Flatbush National Bank in Brooklyn. He offered his Charge-It program to allow local Brooklyn stores to provide credit to their customers. American banker and inventor of Charg-It, the predecessor of bank credit cards, Biggins founded Charg-It in 1946 while working at National Bank in Flatbush in Brooklyn, New York. 

Did you know Brooklyn was once the coffee capital of the world? 

By 1906, the Arbuckle Brothers coffee factory in John Street roasted about 25 million pounds of coffee monthly. This is more coffee than was roasted in any building in the world then. Nicknamed “The Coffee King,” John Arbuckle pioneered coffee manufacturing and marketing, roasting and grinding locally, packaging coffee, and marketing it across the United States. 

Formation and early success on the charts

The origins of B.T. Express came from King Davis House Rockers, a Brooklyn, New York dance band that became part of the “Brooklyn sound” during the early 1970s. Three of King Davis’ members — Richard Thompson (guitars), Bill Risbrook (tenor sax), and Carlos Ward (alto sax) — went on to form Madison Street Express along with Louis Risbrook (bass), Dennis Rowe (percussions), Terrell Wood (drums), and Barbara Wood (vocals). 

Madison Street Express then met with producer Jeff Lane who also became a member. He helped the band sign a record deal at Roadshow Records where they recorded “Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied),” which was written by Billy Nichols. They shopped the record to several labels until they found Scepter Records, who accepted it and decided to distribute it as a single. It was also Scepter who also suggested that they change their name to B.T. Express (short for Brooklyn Transit Express). Production company Roadshow became Scepter’s subsidiary label and would release some of B.T. Express’ material.

“Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied)” became the group’s first hit, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B singles chart. It also charted high on the dance chart at #8, proving its big crossover success. It sold over a million copies and was given a gold disc. The album, also titled Do It (Til You’re Satisfied) went to the top of the R&B albums chart and #5 on the Billboard 200.

The group followed “Do It” with another single “Express,” written by the entire group themselves. It reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 both on the dance and R&B singles charts apiece. “Express” is also included on the album Do It (Til You’re Satisfied).

Other chart hits came in with “Give It What You Got” (#40 pop, #5 R&B) and “Peace Pipe” (#31 pop, #3 dance). Both of these track are included in their album Non-Stop, which went to #19 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on the R&B album chart.

After the hits, later career and disbandment

Like many other groups, B.T. Express experienced lineup changes. Leslie Ming and Michael Jones were brought into the group as the new drummer and keyboardist, respectively. Brook became an Islam convert and began using the name Jamal Rasool. However, Ming as well as songwriter Nichols soon left. Besides the lineup change, Scepter Records was experiencing a rocky financial status. So the group had a wider distribution deal with a major label Columbia Records. It could have been their chance to go back to their former success, but since the members had their own separate projects already, they found it hard to focus on the band’s production.

Under Columbia, the group had a few more minor hits throughout the late 70s and early 80s: “Can’t Stop Groovin’,” “Energy to Burn,’ “Shout It Out,” and “Stretch,” among others. They went on to record for other labels Record Shack, Earthtone, and King Davis, but it’s clear that they weren’t able to resurrect their previous success, along with the fact that disco was experiencing a decline in popularity (not to mention a backlash). B.T. Express disbanded in 1984. After the split, Michael Jones — who had used the Muslim name Kashif which Jamal had given him — experienced success as a solo performer, producer and songwriter during the 80s.

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