The BlackLites R&B ShowBand
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The BlackLites R&B ShowBand

Syracuse, NY | Established. Jan 01, 1972 | SELF

Syracuse, NY | SELF
Established on Jan, 1972
Band R&B Jazz


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"History Of the BlackLites R&B ShowBand"

Style: 1970s R&B

When: 5:30 and 7 p.m. July 1 at Labatt/WAER/New Times stage

Band members: Emmanuel Atkins and Rick Woods, guitar; James Spivey bass; Michael Jackson drums; Donald Ransom, keyboards; Eddie "Wall Street" Brown percussion and vocals; James Patterson, Rod Little and Jerry Patterson, vocals; Dave Vertoski, saxophone; Rich Raccullia, trombone; Ken Case, trumpet.

Discography: "Try to Understand," single (1975). The band is working on a CD now, and hopes to release it this summer.

History in Syracuse:
The Black Lites started in 1972, merging musicians from Syracuse's east and south sides. They toured the New England states from 1977 to 1978, and were offered a contract by Boston producer Maurice Starr. However, they had a five-year deal in Syracuse they could not break. In the interim, they had recorded the song "Candy Girl" for Starr.

After his Boston company could not get them out of their Syracuse deal, they heard a Starr-produced band by the name of New Edition sing "Candy Girl" on the radio. They went their own ways after that. But in 1999, Syracuse common council member Mike Atkins, brother of guitarist Emmanuel Atkins, convinced them to reunite for Juneteenth. "There were 15 of us on stage," says Brown. "Six of us decided to take it from there and still play."

Bialczak writes:
From The Post-Standard on Feb. 15, 2005:
The original members of the Syracuse R&B band The BlackLites circle the keyboards of Donald Ransom. Lead singers James Patterson, Jerry Patterson and Rod Little begin to harmonize. Guitarist Emmanuel Atkins joins in.
The late January rehearsal at the Two for One Tavern, the South Avenue bar owned by Atkins' father, Joseph Atkins, had officially ended when the full band performs the last notes of the raucous Kool & the Gang R&B standard "Celebration."

Then an inkling makes the brothers Patterson and friends break into an impromptu version of "Try to Understand."

The BlackLites hadn't performed the song for about a quarter century. But the time seems right, and the sweet harmonies are so crisp it makes it easy to imagine what it was like back in the days BlackLites members fondly call "old school."

"It gives me goose bumps," Atkins says. He is talking about the joy of performing their old song, but he might as well have been describing the feeling of the BlackLites still reminiscing, too.

"Try to Understand" was a BlackLites original out on a vinyl 45. In the mid-1970s, disc jockeys Rick Wright and Jim Martin used to play the song regularly on Syracuse AM station WOLF (1490).

Yet they never made it big nationally.

"We shared loaves of bread and three dollars' worth of lunch meat," James Patterson says.
In 1978, that got old. The singing stopped for The BlackLites. They remained silent for 21 years.
"We took 20 years off to have babies and get day jobs and important things like that," Atkins says.

In 1998, Atkins' brother, then Syracuse Common Councilor Mike Atkins, decided the young people of Syracuse needed to see an example of that all-for-one bond that made The BlackLites special.

So the band reunited for the 1999

Juneteenth celebration, keeping their day jobs. James Patterson is a corridor aide for the Syracuse School District; Jerry Patterson manages a Taco Bell franchise; Ransom drives a truck for the Syracuse Department of Public Works; Woods is head of maintenance at Onondaga Hill Middle School; Little works in environmental services at Hutchings Psychiatric Center; Emmanuel Atkins is a Syracuse firefighter.

Some of the originals had moved. To keep the big stage show, the originals enlisted Michael Jackson on drums, Jimmy Spivey on bass, and a horn section of Dave Vertiski, Larry Judkins and Gene Roberts.

Atkins says he thinks the band's message of unity is reaching the younger generation, and that helps keep the band together in its second time around.

Go ahead and brag:
Brown: "We try to entertain with our showmanship. We enjoy what we're doing. And we try to make people happy and feel good. Playing jazz fest is a blessing in disguise. We've been looking since 1999. Frank Malfitano knew us when we started."

What other Central New York musicians would you recommend? Brown: "AfterFX. And we respect Ronnie Leigh."

If you could be anybody else for a day, who would it be? Brown: "Earth, Wind & Fire! We have always centered our style around them. We met them in the past. We've always respected Earth, Wind & Fire." - Mark Bialezak Post-Standard


Still working on that hot first release.



The BlackLites started in the late 70's like most of the top funk bands. Growing and performing the same hits that made the old school artists who they are today! They guided us and groomed us to the show piece band we are today. The BlackLites toured Boston for a short period and produced and wrote music and they almost got signed under Maruice Starr umbrella, but contractual obligations couldn't close the deal. Our shows are high energy funk and jazzy riffs blends. We've opened for all types of venues and artists that are still going today. We can rock 60,000 plus down to an average small night club. We'll bring the funk, the whole funk and nothing but the funk from the 70's and 80s along with our originals!

Band Members