Upon the release of “I’d Like To Touch A Star,” Steven and Sheldon Leder were enamored with soul musicians like Stevie Wonder, but more likely to be mistaken for Steely Dan. Wilson, North Carolina, although a safe distance from the coast, was well-within the event horizon of beach music’s influential reach. So between regional sets by the Embers and treks to see Count Basie in some intracoastal bowling alley, the Leder Brothers kindled a manner of music they felt made dutiful nods to all of their influences. All one-thousand of them.
Oddly, Steven and Sheldon Leder were not even the most famous Leder Brothers in Wilson County when this record (and the corresponding LP, Capitol Hill) materialized. Brothers Leon and Morris Leder got a forty-year head start, opening their own Leder Brothers enterprise in 1934, a department store which still serves the needs of the Tobacco-centric city to this day. Being recent emigrants from Eastern Europe, Leder Brothers catered to all residents, Black, White, or otherwise. Once Steven and Sheldon began demoing songs, scheduling gigs and recording dates, what better name than the reputable Leder Brothers? The name you can trust? Several of Leon’s children maintain the shop, a mom-and-pop (brother-and-sister, rather) stronghold for Wilson County residents seeking anything from Sunday Best suits to tube socks.
“We go all the way back to 1957. It’s when we organized this band. I’m one of the only original people who’s still left. These guys will quickly tell you that they aren’t that old. Don’t let them fool you, they are. We organized the band, and we called ourselves the Monitors. I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember this, but there was a radio program called The Monitor, I think it was NBC. And it was the first time that they started putting all the news on one program: the sports, the weather, the local news, the state news, the national news, all in one program. So when we heard that, we said ‘that’s what we want to do, we want to be a band that can play all kinds of music.’ Anything you want to hear, we’re able to do that. We got guys who played around James Brown for years…Clarence Carter, they’ve been all around the world playing. Our repertoire is very extensive. We could be here all day long and never repeat the same song. That’s what we’ve been doing for years, and we just love music, and we’re going to keep on doing this until we just don’t have any more air.”
Those are the words of Bill Myers, early in a PineCone-sponsored gig on Saturday, June 11, 2011 at Bond Park in Cary, North Carolina. His group, the Monitors, traveled from Wilson, North Carolina to showcase their time-tested blend of jazz, r&b, soul, and oldies to a receptive crowd at the Sertoma Amphitheatre. The band will be performing on a national scale in early July; they’ll play several dates at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
From right to left: Sam Lathan (drums), Bill Myers (saxophone), Richard “Dick” Knight (trumpet), Gerald Hunter (guitar), Mollie Hunter (vocals/percussion).
Follow the link below for an audio montage featuring several of the group’s long-time members in concert last Saturday. You’ll hear from Mr. Myers (who had a hand in the original 1960s recording of “The Love Knot”), guitar player Gerald Hunter (vocalist on “A Lover’s Question”; he led several groups in the 1970s such as the Evening Light Gospel Singers), vocalist Mollie Hunter (on “Jazzy Lady”), drummer Sam Lathan (vocalist on “More Today Than Yesterday”; he anchored James Brown’s rhythm section for a time in the 1960s), and trumpet player Richard “Dick” Knight (soloist on “Mister Magic”; this one-time James Brown band member founded Kinston’s Dick Knight and the Bossatettes in the 1960s).
The Carolina Soul website serves as a living encyclopedia of soul music made in North and South Carolina. We strive to share Carolinian songs and stories of the last half century, and we invite the input of musicians and fans. We hope you will contact us if you have information on bands or recordings from the region.