SXSW Film Review: 'Deep City: The Birth of the Miami Sound'
South Florida’s ‘Motown’ from Overtown
By Michael King,
1:49PM, Wed. Mar. 12, 2014
“Here in South Florida, we had that grit,” says a player for Deep City Records, Florida’s first black-owned record label. Very much a DIY achievement, the label was a labor of love by two Florida A&M student musicians – Willie “Pee Wee” Clarke and Johnny Pearsall.
The partners learned on the fly, and based in Pearsall’s record shop, recruited players from Miami’s still-segregated neighborhoods: Clarence Reid, Arnold “Hoss” Albury, Helene Smith. Documentarians Dennis Scholl, Marlon Johnson, and Chad Tingle note that while Sixties soul is familiar from Detroit or Memphis, soul music was a national phenomenon, and “each city had a different sound.” Miami’s was influenced not only by pop radio, but by Caribbean sounds (and players) and horn-heavy marching bands, for a grittier, big-band soul that later underlay the Latin-based Miami rhythms.
“The Miami Sound,” says music historian Jeff Lemlich, was a product of “the scrappy black culture of the Sixties,” and would yield its brightest star in Betty “Clean Up Woman” Wright – also the straw that broke Clarke and Pearsall’s partnership. The film is breathless with black pop history, preceded by its unofficial soundtrack – “Eccentric Soul: the Deep City Label” – released by the Numero Group.
Deep City: The Birth of the Miami Sound
24 Beats Per Second, World Premiere
Thursday, March 13, 1:45pm, Alamo Ritz
Saturday, March 15, 9:30pm, Rollins
Brandon Watson, Sept. 30, 2014
Monica Riese, March 28, 2014
Richard Whittaker, Nov. 22, 2016
Kimberley Jones, Nov. 15, 2016
Jan. 20, 2017
Jan. 20, 2017
South by Southwest, SXSW, SXSW 2014, SXSW Film 2014, Deep City: The Birth of the Miami Sound, 24 Beats Per Second, documentary, review, Dennis Scholl, Marlon Johnson, Chad Tingle, Betty Wright, Helene Smith, Clarence Reid, Motown