Mother's Finest and Beyond
by Scarlet Waters
Jerry 'Wyzard' Seay
Mother's Finest circa 1973
WWF: Mm hmm. Ok. Ok. Very very interesting. I always like hearing musicians’ take on the difference in these cultures. And I guess what I hear you saying is there was just a deeper aesthetic in terms of the appreciation of art.
Wyz: It’s just a real love of the art. They love that Black magic you know, and they know that it’s something special. I mean how could you not appreciate Miles Davis? Like the greatest jazz musician, and not just as a player, but as an artist, a creator. I mean no one is above him as far as I’m concerned, and for him to get beat up by a cop in New York City because of his skin color! And he goes to Europe and they knight him …
WWF: Right! (laughter).
Wyz: So yeah, that’s pretty much the difference! But you know, I love playing in New York too. Every time I go there, I think I play from a different level of creativity. I can go deeper, and a lot of my favorite performances were done in New York. And it goes all the way back, like I was in Vienna last summer, and went to the house where Mozart lived. It’s still kept so, like the way they keep his history alive.
WWF: The preservation of his legacy basically.
Wyz: Right, so you know Europe, with all those great composers, it goes way back to the dirt, I mean yeah, Europeans are open to music because they understand the magic and the importance of it in life.
WWF: Soooo, the music business has certainly changed. I tell you …
Do you prefer the music industry the way it is now, or the way it was back in the day? Definitely want to hear your take on it.
WWF: Wow! Wonder what was it about Philly? How did other rock bands treat you?
Wyz: As a whole … It was the same for MF with rock bands and R&B bands. Some bands are insecure about the vibe of the competition. There were so many great rock tours we did. Fog Hat hated us, AC-DC loved us. When we played with “The Who” it was time for school. Historic bands like that you cannot compete against. All they gotta’ do is play “My Generation or “Won’t get Fooled Again” and it’s over like the Vince Carter slam dunk contest in the 90s.
I loved “Blue Oyster Cult” what a vibe. Aerosmith, The Cars, Santana … they were all cool and brought their A games when we played together. Ronny Van Zant from Lynyrd Skynyrd told me that playing with MF brought out the best in Skynyrd, I thought that was cool. I write about working with other bands in detail in my book that will come out late summer. I’m giving myself that deadline.
WWF: So can I ask you, as a musician, you’ve been doing this for so long, what’s your theory on what the difference is between Europe and America, in terms of why there was just a quicker and greater reception?
Wyz: You know, I’ve come to realize that Europe is just an older country than America, like America’s a toddler compared to all the other continents. I mean what are we, 400 years old? And like Europe’s gone through it’s growing pains and it’s got a grip on the whole racism thing, I mean even though it’s still there in a way, you know it’s more of an adult type of continent where they respect things for what they are.
So there weren’t the pre-conceived notions for skin color as much you know? I remember the first time we played in Europe, it blew my mind! They knew the music already, and the response we got from the first time we played there was over-whelming, I mean holy crap! Like, I think we found home, you know!
WWF: Did you experience that, as a Black man in Europe, coming from America, did you really feel a big difference in terms of how you were treated? How you felt?
Wyz: Yeah. You know like, I was reading the Miles Davis autobiography, and Miles talks about how when he first went to France, that was the first time he felt like a respected man on stage. Because of the attention that he got as a player, and the response, and you know, the respect of it all. Yeah it’s true. It’s true. I hear it from every genre—Jazz, in Rock, even in R&B and Soul, Black artists, like once you crack over there, you have pretty much a life-long base, if you’re doing music.
Wyz: Well you know, what’s missing in today’s music world, is that we are operating on out-dated laws, and musical people are not protected anymore. The internet came out, and all this technology came out and ran us ahead into the future, but they’re operating on laws that were written for the analogue world.
ASCAP is still going to Congress to try to get them to change the laws, and the Senate is like very hesitant. They’re like ok yeah we’ll do something, but nothing’s been done and we’re suffering as far as what we should be making monetarily. It’s been cut down to almost a third, because of streaming and being able to just pull yourself up on line, and there it is. You don’t have to pay for it. This country artist, Vince Gill was like it’s blasphemous that a cup of Starbucks coffee is more valuable than a new single—you pay .99 for a new single, and a cup of coffee, $3 to $4, if it’s like a special cup.
WWF: Well, to be fair, unfortunately I think that the music isn’t as good either, but that’s probably tied into it. I mean the music business has been so harsh on artists and musicians for some many years, that the artists, I don’t think they have the same level of talent as they had back in the day with EW&F and Mothers Finest and P-Funk, The Doors, and everybody you know.
Wyz: You know I kinda feel like, I don’t wanna go off the left into politics, but I kinda feel like what’s going on now in politics is everything is being exposed about how blasphemous it is. I think the same thing happened in the music industry in the ’90’s when everything started going digital, cause like an artist did an album, and only maybe like 2 songs were good, the rest of it was like crap, and you’re paying like $14 - $15 for the CD, and you only had 2 or 3 good songs.
WWF: Yep, it’s true.
Wyz: And they were getting away with that, and making a killing. And so the people are like, you know, if I could just go rip this sucker off line, I mean??? The flood-gates opened once we went digital, and people were able to make copies and stuff.
It brought down the income through the creative world, and you know, as sad as it is, I think it’s like a lesson to learn: We gotta make better music. The whole piece of work should be amazing. I remember when I was a kid I used to buy albums for the covers and every song, there was an effort to make it worth the value—
Wyz: And I mean you would get the stuff back in the ’90’s and the early 2000’s or whatever and it was a lot of crap.
WWF: Yup! Well my dear you have certainly achieved quite a few milestones in your life, you’ve played with Stevie Nicks who is one of my favorite, favorite singers and went on SNL with her, Mother’s Finest has been inducted into GA’s Music Hall of Fame, I mean so many amazing things, I want to know what is the thing that you are the most proud of?
Wyz: The whole piece of work. Like, as I write the book and I look back, and you know my editor told me to go back to the first thing—I was going to start writing my autobiography from 17 years old, but she said no, I want you to go back, and start from the year you were born. I did that, and now when I read through that stuff, and she was right-on because it really paints the picture completely, for you to see that it was a life, it wasn’t just a period of time.
Every step led to the next step, and you know, I made some bad decisions, I
I made the best decisions I can and even when they weren’t good decisions, I was able to recover and learn a lesson from the bad decision I made and move on.
made some great decisions, and all in between it was a life just like we all live. You just try to make the best decisions you can and I’m really proud of the fact that I held on to do what I believed in. I made the best decisions I can and even when they weren’t good decisions, I was able to recover and learn a lesson from the bad decision I made and move on. So I’m so proud of being able to hang on with all the ups and downs you know?
WWF: Oh I agree with you. Mother’s Finest’s longevity and strength of spirit is so inspiring. So amazing! So you wanna tell us a little bit about this book? We would love to push whatever you have on WWF—do you know what the title is and when it’s gonna be released?
Wyz: You know I had a title, but I’m gonna have to re-work it. I was just speaking to a really good friend of mine and he was saying he didn’t like the title. He said it sounded arrogant. Cause you know I wrote the song Baby Love for Mother’s Finest and it starts out with “there is no other” and that’s what I was gonna call the book, I mean every time I meet people and I say I’m from Mother’s Finest they go “there is no oooooother!”
That was the thing you know? They would know everything by us. And I was gonna call it “The Best” but he was pretty much right on point when I stopped and thought about it. You know it sounds like I’m talking about “I am” whatever, but it’s definitely a book about a normal, average life, and like I was saying, making decisions and going from step to step. The book is really cool; to me, I am having the time of my life going back to re-learning adjectives and nouns, and semi-colons, (laughter).
You know writing is like driving; when you learn grammar, it’s like getting your license. You learn when you gotta slow down, when you gotta go fast, stop, when you yield the right-of-way and all that kinda stuff. My editor is really
good, and I was blessed to meet her, and we fight a lot! But the writing always rises up after the fights. I love that. So yeah, I’m determined to make it something not like those cheesy albums from the 90’s and early 2000’s with only 2 or 3 good songs on them.
I want it to be great from beginning to end and my early years are just as exciting as my high-light career years and even in the end years when I was in India following a spirituality I’ve always been in. All the moments are equally the same you know?
WWF: So tell us what is the significance of the sun tattoo on your shoulder?
Wyz: Oh! I got that in Holland, in Amsterdam, There is this tattoo parlor where everybody goes; Flea from the Chili Peppers, his tattoo is from there, I mean they go all the way back, I think even John Lennon got a tattoo from this place,
Me: Oh wow!
Wyz: He had actually retired, and he told me I could come to his house because he went from being a tattoo artist to being a painter, and he does art still, but uh, I went to his house, and I had an idea about what I wanted. I wanted something that was kind of East Indian, something bold that will stand out so that when you see it, it really means something you know with thick lines and everything.
We saw that picture of the sun, and there’s no mouth, only the eyes, but it’s an old Indian symbol of solar freedom and I said yeah let’s do that. The other tattoo that’s on my right shoulder, I only have those 2 tattoos and I got mine way before the trend came along, the other one is a Dragon, which is
my Chinese astrology.
WWF: Ooooooh yes!
Wyz: And the dragon is holding the MF shield.
WWF: Oh that’s so awesome!
Wyz: Yeah you can’t see all the details sometimes cause my skin is so dark, but you know what’s so cool about that tattoo? Sometimes it embosses up and it’s like it has a life of it’s own, and the lines get thicker, then some days it’s just flat lines and it just lays there, so you know I wonder about that a lot.
WWF: Have you met any artists that you would consider to be highlights of your career, maybe a brief story about the meeting?
Wyz: Pete Townsend … one of my favorite songwriters. We met on The Who tour in 76’. Larry Graham … he’s a hero for me… we toured with Graham Central Station in the late seventies … Uber Funk- . Little Richard … the architect of rock and roll … meeting him was like meeting a relative- I already knew him. James Brown … for better or worse I’m always hard core JB fan - I was in his band for a community service gig in Augusta; when he was getting in trouble with the law- crossing state lines with a firearm … I write about that
also in my book, its too long to get into here. Chuck Berry …. Another king … stuff of legend. I played bass for him at a gig at Clemson University- it was surreal. Tina Turner … what can I say- I love Tina unconditionally - and the closer you get, the better she looks.
Chris Squire … bassist from the band YES, another hero for me. That sound of the Rickenbacker with roto-sound strings changed the bass world. There’s endless more.
WWF: (laughter) Oh Wyz, thank you so much! I have enjoyed speaking with you. Thank you so much for giving us your time and just thank you for all the music, thank you so much for you all’s creativity, what a blessing, thank you for the inspiration, I really appreciate you.
Wyz: Thank you for what you’re doing. I wanna hear some of the other stories from the players that you talked to, I know it must be great, I am just glad to be a part of it.
WWF: Awesome. Awesome. Alright keep doing what you’re doing. I can’t wait to read your book. Much love and take care.
Wyz: Ok all the best to you!