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The CodeTalkers: A Language of Funk and Fun

The CodeTalkers don't look like your everyday jam band. But don't let the dark suits they wear in concert fool you. The Atlanta-based trio doesn't take itself too seriously, despite the formal attire.

Bobby Lee Rodgers, the CodeTalkers' lead singer and guitarist, describes the band as "a kind of combination of old-school rock 'n' roll with jazz influence, and we do a lot of improvisation and a lot of original material."

If the CodeTalkers isn't urging you onto the dance floor with a funky beat, they're nudging you in the ribs with some offbeat image in their lyrics.

"I always admired Duke Ellington because he [said], 'I play music so I can do hijinks,'" Rodgers says. "And I just thought about that and I was like, man, the humor in music is where it's at, you know?"

The CodeTalkers' latest album called Now showcases the trio's blend of funk and fun. True-to-life songs like "Ike Stubblefield," about an Atlanta organ master, carry the humor on the CD.

"Every time I play this tune I start cracking up," Rodgers says.

He learned his tunes from the Bible / and his Momma told him what he could eat, / so he jumped up on top of his organ / and drove it down Peachtree Street. / He's got a bird named Stanley / that stands on his shoulder and screams...

I gotta learn to play like Ike Stubblefield! / I gotta learn to play like Ike Stubblefield! / I gotta learn to play like Ike Stubblefield! / I gotta learn to play like Ike Stubblefield!

The CodeTalkers came together seven years ago: Rodgers on guitar, Ted Pecchio on bass, Tyler Greenwell on drums, and guidance from Col. Bruce Hampton -- a veteran bandleader and guru-like figure in the Southern jam band scene.

The CodeTalkers' songs reveal a wide variety of styles and moods and are neatly arranged and sculpted.

Rodgers' guitar -- played through a spinning speaker that's normally used for an organ -- helps set the band's sound apart.

"Yeah, it's an old Leslie cabinet ... and you get all the noise and crackle with it, which is what I love, you know? I love the distortion...."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ashley Kahn
Ashley Kahn is an American music historian, journalist, and producer, as well as a regular commentator on Morning Edition.

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