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Cornelius MD - Soulful Baritone

This is an interview with RnB artist Cornelius MD, conducted by Hugh J. Hitchcock on June 21, 2012.

 

[Happened to be the day of the summer solstice. -hjh]

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Click the play button to hear the interview in its entirety and/or read the transcript, which follows.

Hugh:

Okay, good afternoon. Welcome to another episode of the Funkatologist and my name is Hugh, we're talking today, I'm very honored to have with me today an artist by the name of Cornelius MD. Hi Cornelius, how are you?

Cornelius:
Hey how are you doing Hugh?

Hugh:
Very good! Do me a favor if you can speak up, I know you got that little sultry voice going on and we love that, but we've got to hear you too. So come on up, because I do not have the best of recording facilities at this point! So we'll get to that.

Cornelius:
Okay, not a problem.

Hugh:
Okay, in fact let me try the speaker phone and we'll see if that works. Can you hear me okay?

Cornelius:
I can hear you fine here.

Hugh:
Okay great that sounds good. Okay, well Cornelius like I said it's really an honor to have you with us today. I know your music, I have had a chance to work on your music a bit in the studio and your music really spans a lot of time and quite a few genres as well and it's lovely for the audience that don't know Cornelius MD. This is one of the most amazing baritone singers that we have today and sort of carrying the torch from Barry White in a way, and would you say that's correct?

Cornelius:
I would like to think that, you know but no one can take the place of the late great Barry White.

Hugh: Of course not.

Cornelius:
I’m basically just trying to keep his legacy going.

Hugh:
Of course.

Cornelius:
I‘ve had the privilege to talk with and deal with some of the original people that made Barry's career which is Tony Sepe , Ike Minns, and his band members Steve Guillory which played on his last album prior to him passing away, “Don't Play Games” and Emmets North which played for Barry for 25 years, and DeLacy White and Hence Powell , these guys currently playing with me.

Hugh:
Really, they are in your band now?

Cornelius:
Excuse me?

Hugh:
They are in your band now?

Cornelius:
Yes, they play with me now.

Hugh:
Wow, that's fantastic.

Cornelius:
Yeah. Tony Sepe had signed me to Domain Records, which the history of Domain Records with Barry White… that was the first actual label that Barry White recorded under which was called Domain Records which was owned by Tony Sepe, and I was signed also by Tony Sepe prior to his passing away. So unfortunately it didn't go as planned but the fact of the matter was I had the opportunity.

Hugh:
I'm sorry that Mr. Sepe passed away right at the wrong time. I'm sorry he passed away at all! It wasn't good timing for you unfortunately there, but you did make some connections there.

Cornelius:
Yeah, now I'm currently managed by Joe Douglas, which is the manager of the Great Frankie Beverly and Maze. So I'm Kinda keeping things in the right direction.

Hugh:
Absolutely.

Cornelius:
You know.

Hugh:
I love Frankie Beverly and Maze, I've been listening to them since this late seventies. I love them.

Cornelius:
Most of my friends they call me; I think they are calling me because they want to hear me, they trying to get tickets to Frankie Beverly and Maze.

Hugh:[laughs] Well you can't blame them for that, but it's certainly worth it catching your act as well because you give a hell of a show.

Cornelius:
Most certainly, I do what I can to keep the baritone legacy going. I do a tribute -- well actually I don't like to call it a tribute. I do “the Sounds and Music of the late great Barry White Featuring Cornelius MD”. I’ve added two other number artists and that was a favorite of mine coming up was Isaac Hayes.

Hugh:
Of course.

Cornelius:
I did that, there are a couple of guys that left a big legacy and I'm hoping when my turn comes I can leave my own.

Hugh:
Well, I think if people have the opportunity to discover your original music, they are going to find a whole other side that really doesn't have that much to do with Barry White or Isaac Hayes if you don't mind my saying, so because your original music is a whole realm unto itself.

Cornelius:
Well actually I feel blessed to be a natural baritone but at the same time I have five octaves, which, you know a lot of people find that to be very strange.

Hugh:
That's amazing.

Cornelius:
But basically I do most of my own background singing and most of my lead singing. I'd like to get to the time that I have to get some paid background to come in. I think things will be a lot better at that time but right now I'm happy with who I am and what I am. I give all the praises to The Almighty and let people know that, uh... everything comes through Him first.

Hugh:
Of course. Well speaking of what came first, I understand that you were somewhat of a star basketball player?

Cornelius:[laughs] Yeah, I played – I’m out of Indiana, I played on the first State championship. I was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

Cornelius:
I went to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Hugh: Wow.

Cornelius:
Right.

Hugh:
And did they call you Cornelius MD back then?

Cornelius:
Unfortunately they did not; they call me the Bruiser because I was a little rough with the players. And they didn't call me MD, they call me Bruiser, they still call me Bruiser when they see me.

Hugh: But they CALLED FOR the M.D.!

Cornelius: Excuse me?

Hugh: Well awesome, that's amazing.

Cornelius: I don't think they would want to call me Corny. Personally when you’re 6’6” weighing 301 pounds, it's not something you really want to offend anybody.

Hugh:
I don't think so, no but you're just a big teddy bear.

Cornelius:
They didn’t call me Corny, they call me whatever I wanted to be called.

[Apparently Cornelius misheard me when I said they would “CALL FOR the MD! LOL” –hjh]

Hugh:
I believe it. I believe it. And especially then you went into the Air Force for six years?

Cornelius:
Correct. I played basketball for the military for the Air Force.

Hugh:
Wow, that's quite impressive, quite a list of service there.

Okay, well then, you know, I’ve heard -- I think I've heard pretty much the whole spectrum of your music going way back including some tracks that almost reminded me of like the Parliaments and I don't mean the Parliament-Funkadelic, I mean the " I Just Want to Testify” Parliaments, you know like Motown Sound.

Cornellius:
Well, you know back in the day everybody was trying to emulate somebody, and I guess I was no different coming up.

Hugh:
Well.

Cornelius:
And that I basically found my own, and my own calling happen to be a calling and they had a they had a gentleman by the name of Barry White standing in the way. So that made it very difficult.

Hugh:
So you're saying that you were a baritone and your own right and you wanted to stand up and more or less be that star, but there were people like Barry White, who kind of already took that niche.

Cornelius:
Well, actually in my search from the Baritone’s respective, I've noticed in the history of Baritone, there has only been one at a time. There was a guy that I first remember was Arthur Prysock. He was a baritone and there was no other baritone at the time. Then Isaac Hayes, there was no other baritone at that time, and then there came Barry White and there was no baritone. But I'm hoping right now its Cornelius MD and no other baritone!

Hugh:
Well, yeah I think it's about time man. Step up and you know that's what we are trying to do here, just make people aware of you.

Cornelius: Well, that has been my motto for the last couple of years; it's not what you know or who you know. It's who knows you.

Hugh:
Exactly.

Cornelius:
So I'm trying to make that happen and hey you know I appreciate you having me on your show that you even give me this opportunity to talk to your listeners. I think that's great.

Hugh:
Well, thanks it's really my pleasure and my honor. Now let me ask you about, you had a song out about four years ago called “Step Baby”. Now excuse my dogs it's getting a little crazy, I'm sorry for that.

Cornelius:
No, it's okay.

Hugh:
I'm going to move over here.

Cornelius: Yeah it did very well in the UK but it never really took off to the United States basically because I didn't have a distributor nor a promoter to back it here. Sold it to this company that distributed this overseas. So it got some airplay over there and it did very very well. It was on the charts. And I think that the United States would have done just as well, if there wasn’t so much politics into it there’s a lot of politics to the market here. They promised me if I come over there, I'll never come back to United States, but I'm an American, I'll always be an American.

Hugh:
Wow, that's very strong and you live in Washington DC too. Right? A patriotic man here.

Cornelius:
Good, very right. You know I fought for the red, whit and blue that’s the way I’ll go as well.

Hugh:
Well, that's fantastic, it really is and you know there is a lot of back and forth on that, but you know I feel the same way too.

Cornelius:
That's good.

Hugh: I really do, this is my country, man.

Cornelius:
I keep trying getting me over there, not that they are trying to get me to do a tour over there. And I haven't said yes and I actually haven't said no and depending on the length of the tour but I've may end up doing it and coming back home.

Hugh:
Well, you know you should probably look into that just to expand your horizons most of it that song Step Baby by the way is a very very cool song. We'll have that on the website for people to listen to if there is a YouTube if it or something, I'll stick it on there.

Cornelius:
Okay not a problem, I'd like to have you play it, play it a lot of time.

Hugh:
Yeah your arrangements over the years have changed a bit but they've always had a very solid arrangement to your tracks, your original tunes that you put out.

Cornelius:
OK. I consider that a compliment.

Hugh:
Well, of course it is. You know this is the kind of stuff and I'm not trying to date you or anything but a lot of the stuff reminds me of the funk that we did in the 80's me and my gang you know back in the day.

Cornelius:
Right. Right.

Hugh:
Can you tell us a little bit about who you used, or not used, but who you worked with when you produce that material.

Cornelius:
At that particular time the rhythm section that I'm using was the late great Barry White’s rhythm section.

Hugh:
No wonder! [laughs]

Cornelius:
Steve Guillory, Emmet North, DeLacy White, Ward, someone with Ward as the last name. But these guys were Barry Whites original rhythm section on the road. I used them for that particular song and we can kind of did a thing on that.

Hugh:
That's amazing and I think that really just says it all right there about why I personally feel that your arrangements are so tight, because when you've got Barry White's band doing your tracks it's got to come out kicking and smokin’, you know what I'm saying? So that's amazing, and that also is a testament to your level of artistry as well.

Cornelius:
Thanks.

Hugh:
Well, there is no thanks about it it's just a fact. You know I'm learning and I'm meeting a lot of artists and learning these things about them and part of what we are trying to do here at the Funkatologist is bring these facts to light so that people know about these artists and their connections and their influences and things.

So that's what this is about, and… well i think we've probably spent about enough time here of Mr. Cornelius MD's time today. So I think we will bring this to a close now and maybe we'll have you back another time but you have a website at www.corneliusmd.com

Cornelius:
Correct.

Hugh:
So people can tune in there and we'll have that posted on the website as well and there are things on YouTube you can look up and you got a new song coming out which I believe it's called “Lick it and Stick it”. Is that correct?

Cornelius:
That is true.

Hugh:
Okay [laughs]. OK So that's a new tune and it sounds good, I heard it, it's a great tune that's coming out. So watch for that, and Cornelius thank you so much for being with us today.

Cornelius:
Thank you for having me on the show today.

Hugh:
It's been a great pleasure and we'll talk to you again soon.

you can buy Cornelius MD music tracks on Yahoo music, here is the url: http://music.yahoo.com/cornelius-md/tracks/


 

 

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