“Godfather of Soul” American bandleader James Brown deserves credit for giving birth to funk music in the last century. Along with George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic and many others, a vibe was created that’s inspired thousands of other artists around the world.
It’s a sound that motivated KGOU-FM (106.3), the University of Oklahoma’s National Public Radio affiliate to create a new program titled, “Tonic: the Funky Groove Show”. The show is hosted by Michael Bendure on Fridays between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m.
“It’s a spotlight primarily on instrumental funk and groove music,” Bendure said. “That covers and includes soul, jazz, disco and hip hop as well.”
Bendure’s day job is OU’s Price College of Business’ Director of Communications and Events. He’s also a musician performing with alternative country outfit Heartbreak Rodeo and other bands.
“Groove music includes bop, hard bop, boogaloo and jazz organ,” he said.
Bendure’s research for the show has included reading every book on funk he could find. It’s not a large body of literature.
“The term funk originally connoted sourness or strangeness. It didn’t take off into its own genre until the late 60s into the early 70s,” he said. “That interesting and odd character is what makes it so enjoyable, unique and fun.”
Bendure favors that peculiarity factor in choosing what he plays on the show.
“I want people to hear how diverse and interesting this music can be,” he said. “Some great songs have been overlooked over the years because they didn’t necessarily fit into the mold of radio’s Top 40. Those are the kind that really excite me putting together this show.”
Bendure was digging funk in high school. Booker T. and the M.G.s, Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes were early favorites.
“This was especially in the form of movie soundtracks in 70s action films,” he said. “But it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve started isolating funk as a genre that I’m attracted to. It’s upbeat, interesting and different from the kinds of music I play in alt-country bands.”
As friends and streaming platforms educated Bendure on just how much modern and vintage funk music existed an idea formed.
“I reached out to ‘Hardluck’ Jim Johnson at KGOU and suggested it might be fun to do a podcast,” Bendure said.
The two discussed the idea over lunch.
“I told Jim I was really excited about instrumental music because those didn’t tend to be the Top 40 hits that everybody knows,” he said. “I was interested in the musicianship behind those songs.”
Serendipitously Johnson was contemplating a new show for KGOU and asked Bendure if he’d be interested in hosting one.
“That’s not at all what I was expecting,” he said. “Having a full-time job, family and two bands with a daughter in athletics I didn’t know that I’ve have the extra time to take on something like this.”
Family and friends encouraged Bendure to take advantage of the opportunity.
“It’s a combination of a journey into finding these rare B-side instrumental tracks and then sharing that with an audience who I hope will appreciate and enjoy just how fun, positive and inspiring these musicians are,” he said.
Bendure has identified thousands of instrumental tracks ripe for airing on Tonic.
“There’s a lot of material that I think will keep listeners coming back,” he said.
A recent listen to the program found it appealing on a variety of levels. The music played was fresh in its unfamiliarity and attractively buoyant. Bendure provided informative remarks about the artists between song segments. He rightly considers himself a good fit for the radio show format.
“Using a form of communication like FM radio just plucks on my heart strings,” Bendure said. “I grew up in the 80s and radio was a babysitter to me. I used to make mixed tapes using songs off the radio and pretend I was a DJ when I was 8 years old. Hearing these songs being broadcast is like a dream come true in a lot of ways.”
Bendure likes the break from listening to sound coming through his computer headphone speakers.
“Hearing this music on the radio is transcendental in a way,” he said.