Barrence Whitfield

Barrence Whitfield
Future soul screamer and r&b vocalist Barry White was born on June 13,1955 in Jacksonville, Florida; and his family moved to East Orange, New Jersey when he was a child. Barry sang in his church’s choir and later vocalized and played drums in rock and funk bands in high school. In 1977, he entered his freshman year at Boston University; studying journalism. While in school, he worked at a record shop, Nuggets, in Kenmore Square; where his singing was heard by a friend of fellow employee Peter Greenberg (The Lyres). Soon after, he and Greenberg started a band together. Barry White adopted the moniker Barrence Whitfield so he wouldn’t be mistaken for the superstar with the same name; and Barrence Whitfield & The Savages was born. Barrence notes: “he died a long time ago. I will only say this; HIS real name was BARRENCE Eugene Carter.”
The group gained a huge local following and became known for their explosive live shows. Whitfield wails: “I stopped drumming because singing is what I really wanted to do.” Barrence has been described as a soul screamer in the same spirit as Little Richard, Wilson Pickett, Don Covay and Solomon Burke. He released his self-titled debut album in 1984 with mostly cover versions of lesser known soul and r&b songs; and then released his second album ‘Dig Yourself’ on local label Rounder Records. His music was heard by English radio DJ Andy Keashaw who then taped a Boston show for airplay in Great Britain; and brought the band to the UK for a tour. Barrence has toured widely in Europe for many years and he had supporting slots on U.S. tours with Bo Diddley, Tina Turner, George Thorogood, Robert Cray and Solomon Burke.
And back home, Barrence has earned 7 Boston Music Awards. He has contributed tracks to Merle Haggard and Don Covay tribute albums, and done two albums with country music singer/songwriter Tom Russell. In 1997, Barrence worked with New Hampshire based jump blues and rockabilly band The Movers, and he has also contributed to music scores including 2007’s film “Honeydripper.’ In the past decade, Whitfield reformed his band in 2010 and released a new Savages live album, “Savage Kings,” and again toured Europe and appeared on BBC’s “Jools Holland Show.” “Under The Savage Sky” was put out in 2015, followed by “Soul Flowers Of Titan,” in 2018. His last album, “Barrence Whitfield and The Soul Savage Arkestra: Songs from the Sun Ra Cosmos,” came out in May, 2019. This album features idiosyncratic covers of avant-garde jazz songs written by Sun Ra and completely done over by Barrence; and was recorded over a span of twenty-years! Currently, during The Pandemic, Barrence is: “staying away from the crowds, listening to a lot of music, watching great movies and singing all over the place. Trying to keep busy until we can go back performing regularly again.”
  • Barrence Whitfield and the Savages, Mamou, 1984
  • Dig Yourself, Rounder, 1985
  • Call of the Wild EP, UK Demon/Rounder, 1987
  • Ow! Ow! Ow!, Rounder, 1987
  • Live Emulsified, Rounder, 1989
  • Let’s Lose It, France, New Rose, 1990
  • Savage Tracks, France, New Rose, 1992
  • Cowboy Mambo (with Tom Russell), East Side Digital, 1993
  • Hillbilly Voodoo (with Tom Russell), East Side Digital, 1993
  • Ritual of the Savages, Ocean Music, 1995
  • Savage Kings, Munster Records, 2011, rereleased Shake It Records
  • Dig Thy Savage Soul, Bloodshot Records, 2013
  • Under The Savage Sky, Bloodshot Records, 2015
  • Soul Flowers of Titan, Bloodshot Records, 2018
  • Barrence Whitfield and the Soul Savage Arkestra: Songs from the Sun Ra Cosmos, Modern Harmonic, 2019

(by A.J. Wachtel)

Published On: December 30, 2012

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