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Fulton County Line



 

Tommy Stewart is known mostly for his killer dance track “Bump and Hustle Music” but has in fact spent most of his career behind the scenes as a writer and arranger. Born on November 19, 1939, Stewart was a music teacher before handling writing, arranging, and band-leading duties for a long list of artists that includes Johnnie Taylor, Candi Staton, Martha High, and Loleatta Holloway.

Stewart’s first significant contribution to the rare groove scene was his work on 1973’s The Burning of Atlanta album by Spirit of Atlanta. He wrote, conducted and produced the record, which is recognized as being one of the earliest Atlanta funk albums. The Southside Coalition, which included some of his former students, were also beneficaries of Stewart’s talents, as he wrote and produced their releases for Brown Dog.

His work for these two acts provided glimpses of his unique sound, where the party aesthetic of early disco was merged with gutbucket funk and sweeping string arrangements for a groove that was grittier than the sounds of Philly and Detroit but more refined than hardcore southern soul.

 

Of course, this formula was perfected on his self-titled release from 1976, the only soul album issued under his name. Consisting of such strong tracks like “Fulton County Line” and “Riding High,” it’s ironic that the song the album would be best known for, “Bump and Hustle Music,” was slapped on as an afterthought once recording was finished. With a little bit of time left over from the session, Stewart created a quick arrangement that was embellished by his musicians before voicing the track with Isaac Hayes’ background vocalists Hot Buttered Soul.

 

Although the album was hardly a big seller and quickly fell into obscurity, somehow “Bump and Hustle Music” gained a new life in the 80s, appearing on compilations and numerous bootlegged 12-inch singles.  Its popularity eventually led Ubiquity to reissue the album to the relief of fans, although snobbish collectors and unscrupulous sellers were unhappy at seeing one of their high-dollar items available to the masses.

 

Stewart rode out the rest of the seventies continuing to record acts in a similar vein, working in conjunction with Marlon McNichols on groups whose records met a similar fate as his: Solar Source, Moses, Cream De CoCo and Final Approach.  He currently plays jazz trumpet and is a co-founder of the African American Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra.


Tommy Stewart's Deepest Grooves


Tommy Stewart (Abraxas, 1976)


Tommy Stewart and His Orchestra (Circle, 1980)


Sil Austin & Tommy Stewart and his Orchestra
(Circle, 1981)

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