As the 1960s transitioned to the 1970s soul music began to transition too. The sweet sound of Motown soul began to give way to something deeper, something harder, something funkier. Of course, funk had been around for awhile, primarily in the form of James Brown who had already been putting forth the funk for a number of years. But suddenly he began to get some company.
In the early ’70s, Brooklyn was a hotbed of musical activity. There was even a “Brooklyn sound” and one of its proponents was a band called the King Davis House Rockers. The band recorded a couple of singles, 1967’s “We All Make Mistakes Sometimes” and “Rum Punch” in 1972 but they went nowhere. Three members of the band, guitar player Richard Thompson, and sax players Bill Rissbrook and Carlos Ward did go somewhere, however. Somewhere else. They formed a new band that they called Madison Street Express.
New players were drafted to fill out the lineup including bass player Louis Risbrook (who later took the name Jamal Rasool), percussionist Dennis Rowe, drummer Terrell Wood, and vocalist Barbara Wood. The new band hooked up with a producer named Jeff Lane and made a deal with a production company called Roadshow Records. Their first recording was “Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied,” a song that was written by Billy Nichols.
Roadshow shopped the record to a number of labels and found a taker at Scepter Records. Scepter, however, didn’t think much of the Madison Street Express moniker and suggested that the band change their name to Brooklyn Transit Express. In August 1974, Scepter released “Do It” and it quickly shot into the Top 10, ultimately peaking at #2 on the Pop chart will simultaneously topping the R&B chart.
As you might imagine, Scepter was most interested in continuing their relationship with BT Express. They agreed to an album deal and even gave Roadshow their own imprint within the company. The band’s first album reached the top of the R&B chart and hit #5 on the Pop chart. The album spawned the smash single “Express” which was also an R&B chart-topper while reaching #4 on the Pop chart. Disco was beginning its ascendency and the BT Express records were in the mix.
BT Express released an album a year beginning with that 1974 debut. While the albums continued to be successful on the R&B charts, their success on the Pop chart began to diminish with each release. The band went through several lineup changes and faced a challenge when Scepter went belly-up in 1976. They made a distribution deal with Columbia Records but began to get lost in the shuffle of the much larger company, which had many other acts to promote.
After five years, BT Express decamped from Columbia and made a final album for Coast to Coast Records in 1982. There was a single for Earthtone Records that year and they eventually wound up their career recording for a label owned by their manager, King Davis. All-in-all, BT Express placed eight singles in the R&B Top 40. In addition to “Do It” and “Express” other chart singles included “Give It What You Got,” “Can’t Stop Groovin’ Now, Wanna Do It Some More,” and “Shout It Out.” Six of their albums reached the Top 40 on the R&B chart, the first two making it to #1.