The WestMob Band
“So James, where do you see your New JB’s ten, fifteen years from now?”
This was the question posed by Donnie Simpson to the legendary Mr. James Brown on a 1993 live broadcast of BET’s VIDEO SOUL. Glancing back at his newly acquired group comprised of eight brothers and one sister (also known as the West Family), Mr. Brown responded, “I can see them running their own record label, calling the shots…, they’re ready right now!!” Spoken out of the mouth of the “Godfather of Soul” and into fruition comes WestMob Entertainment.
The group was not always tagged as the New JB’s. It was started in Washington, D.C. in the late 70’s by four of the elder siblings. Known as Mass Extension, the group performed throughout the Washington Metropolitan Area and by 1981 the four were joined by three more siblings and adopted the sound of the city, GO-GO Music. The group perfected the sound but strived to stand out from the rest. They sought to bring class and appeal to what many considered a rare and primitive type of music. Their style was unmatched. Not only did they introduce the Go-Go world to syncopated music and rich vocal harmonies but they also had a flair for showmanship and the unexpected. Going so far as to performing two to three hour outdoor concerts in 80 degree weather in all White Tuxedos, which at that time was practically unheard of. The streets were talking about Mass Extension, and crowds often showed up to the performances just to see what they were going to do next.
The group never let their audiences down, always finding a new way to bring the WOW factor. Whether with their light shows, sound effects, or their carefully coordinated outfits, the “pretty boys” of Go-Go always aimed to please.
In 1985 the group wrote, recorded, and released what was quick to become a local hit, “HAPPY FEET” on the Future Sounds record label (by this time, the two youngest siblings joined in on the act). It took the group to local “Go-Go” royalty but they had no idea what was waiting for them outside of the city limits. Breaking its way onto the Billboard, “Happy Feet” worked its magic all the way to Europe. Not only bringing international acclaim to the group but it also brought attention to the D.C. sound and sent the Go-Go world into a frenzy. Island Records rushed to D.C. to sign the group and any other reputable Go-Go group. It sparked a movement. “Happy Feet” took Go-Go to unprecedented heights and in 1986 the motion feature “Good to Go” was released. Unfortunately, due to a rift between management and the record label, the group was not able to fully enjoy the benefits of the uproar they created. Although the experience left a sweet but sour taste in their mouths, they were determined to re-invent themselves.
In 1987 they joined the MCA family, but this time as producers. They did have success with their production of “Better World”, by Omar Chandler of the Rob Base, “Joy and Pain” fame in 1989. However, they still longed for the stage and soon began their grind. In 1992, following the release of their go-go driven remake of the Sly Stone classic, “Thank You”, the group caught the attention of the “Godfather of Soul”. James Brown happened to be in D.C. to receive the key to the city when he heard a ten minute mix of the song and immediately flew the group to Georgia for an audition. He was so impressed that he signed the group on the spot. With this new found attention as the New JB’s, the family got something much more valuable than the opportunity to perform with the music’s hottest acts at that time; something more valuable than the instant respect that comes with being the coveted group of James Brown. They got the chance to learn the music business from one of its greatest pioneers. Lessons learned that will surely make WestMob Entertainment one of the premiere record labels in the industry…Just as James Brown predicted 15 years ago.