Summer has returned to southern Rhode Island today after a brief flirtation with autumn. I’m all about the fall season myself, but a number of friends have been pining for a little more summer, and I don’t begrudge it to them.
When I was coming over the Newport Bridge (formally known as the Clairborne Pell Bridge) this morning I noticed that there is as cruise ship in Newport Harbor. We get them quite often at this time of the year. Most of the time they’re headed for cruises of the Maritime provinces of Canada. I took one of those cruises myself once, and it was a memorable trip.
There is the possibility however that the ship is headed for the Caribbean, and one of the most frequent ports of call on those voyages is Nassau, in the Bahamas. That brings us neatly to today’s record, which came out of the Bahamian capital in 1971.
Not much is known about the Beginning of the End, and they didn’t leave a whole lot of music behind. The group was led by the three Munnings brothers whose father owned a successful nightclub called The Cat and Fiddle where the brothers had the opportunity to see and perform with some of the great artists of the day including legends like Count Basie and Nat King Cole.
Leroy Munnings played lead guitar, brother Frank was on drums, and the youngest, Raphael, played keys and sang lead. When the band assembled in Nassau in 1969 they were joined by Fred Henfield on bass. It took awhile for the Beginning of the End to come up with their sound, but when they did it was a funky gumbo of rock, R&B, funk, jazz, and Latin music.
By 1970 the band was ready to record. A Munnings uncle lent them $2,000 to cover the cost and off they went to Criteria Studios in Miami to cut their record. What emerged from that session, recorded live in the studio, was “Funky Nassau” along with a B-side called “Gee Whiz It’s Christmas.”
The band took their record back to Nassau where it sold more than 5,000 copies in two weeks. Uncle Percy was thrilled to get his money back so quickly. Then things got serious when one of those 5,000 copies ended up on the jukebox at the Elks Club in Miami, where it was heard by Fred Hanna, the PD at Miami radio station WMBM. Hanna borrowed the record from jukebox, got it on the air, and really got the ball rolling.
Hanna sent a message to the band back in Nassau telling them that they had a hit. They returned to Miami where they met record distributor Henry Stone, who had a label called Alston Records that was affiliated with Atlantic Records. Stone released the record on his label, and before long “Funky Nassau – Part 1” was smash, reaching #15 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #7 on the Billboard Black Singles chart.
All told, the Beginning of the End recorded two albums. They never again reached the heights that they had with “Funky Nassau.” They only played one show outside of the Bahamas, and that was at the University of Miami in 1971. The band may have faded from memory, but the song never has, appearing in movie soundtracks and in dance clubs around the world to this day.