‘Star Bird’ took full flight in the mind of Leroy Franklin before he’d even recruited the musicians to realize the track in the studio. In 1981, Franklin drew upon the talent he knew in San Antonio to put together a one-shot studio band and booked them for two sessions.
The pool of talent he drew on was deep. At the time, he was working in Mel Waiters’ crack R&B outfit, Mel Production Band, who were known for their tight, funky sound and outstanding live performances. Some San Antonio’s Latino musicians also factored into the ‘Star Bird’ session including conga player, Alonzo “Tibo” Gonzales, and a horn section whose names have been lost to time. Dissatisfied with the first horn section Franklin had hired for the session, legendary studio engineer Manny Guerra told him he could call up a ‘ringer’ of a horn section that day, “but it’ll cost you 50 bucks.” Franklin never met the horn section, but you can hear the exemplary results for yourself.
With Guerra at the controls, Leroy Franklin and his hired guns launched into the soaring, funky groove that is ‘Star Bird.’ Jeanine Love’s soulful vocal lays down a stone message while the band keeps one foot in the Funk and the other in the spiritual. When Love didn’t show up to cut her vocal for the B-side the next day, ‘Star Bird II’ was born. With hip hop still in it’s infancy (“Rapper’s Delight” less than two years old),
Franklin’s excellent anti-drug rap over the instrumental track to ‘Star Bird’ may be the first hip hop single recorded in Texas.
While ‘Star Bird’ played well locally, it never broke onto the national scene. Leroy Franklin continued his studio work, cutting an unfinished session with Mickey Foster of the legendary Mickey and the Soul Generation, and recording another single under the name Chinook. Seeking a more stable income, Franklin stepped away from the music business in the mid 1980’s. While he’s never returned to music professionally, Franklin plays often and keeps his chops well-honed.
After almost 30 years, the genius of ‘Star Bird’ shines brighter than ever.