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An exclusive interview with The Incredible Bongo Band's King Errisson

King Errisson is one of the most respected percussion players in the world. He has made his own albums, played for some of the best artists in the world, and was also the master percussionist who played in The Incredible Bongo Band. It was his legendary playing that has been sampled time and time again via the track Apache, and for that he will always be linked with the foundations of Hip-Hop.

King kindly agreed to give us some of his thoughts on what it was like to be in The Incredible Bongo Band and what he thinks about THAT track.

How did you become involved with The Incredible Bongo Band?

I met Mike Viner through my friend Keg Johnson for whom I had arranged a song for Foster Silvers from the group the Silvers. At the time I met Keg I was the number one session percussionist in the business. When Mike was doing the album for what would become The Incredible Bongo Band there was no name for the group as yet. I guess he did not like what the other person had done so he asked Keg to get me.

Had you heard the single Bongo Rock at the time?

I heard Bongo Rock when I was a boy growing up in the Bahamas. It was by Preston Epps, who later in the sixties I met in Las Vegas. We became friends while we both worked at a place called the Diamond Jim Nevada Club on Free Mount St. So yes I knew the song.

Did you know any of the other members in the band / production team?

Yes I knew every one of the guys who performed on the session as we worked together daily in the studios. I had done sessions for Perry Botkin (the composer on the IBB albums) many times in the past. In fact I do believe it was him who told Mike about me.

What were the recording sessions like? Was it an enjoyable experience?

The session was one of most fun sessions I had ever done. Mike was a great guy to work for, at least with me. I could not find any fault in him. He treated me wonderfully. In fact we became close friends and we lived within walking distance to each other and played lots of tennis in our spare time or some days before a session.

What was it like to play alongside Jim Gordon?

I had played many sessions with the great Jim Gordon before IBB so it was always like going to my classroom when I was with Jim or any of those players.

What is your favourite track that you played on with The IBB?

Apache I had played before so I knew the song very well. I played on the session for the Ventures version and it was a hit for them long before IBB.

When playing Apache could you tell you were making something very special?

While doing the song again in Vancouver Canada I knew it was special but I had no idea it would be what it turned out to be.

When did you first hear about Apache's popularity in the emerging Hip-Hop scene, and what did you think about that?

The Hip-Hop guys were already sampling my music before I did Apache. People were using my tracks from the Magic Man album and the La Bound album so I was used to it. Apache was news to me though. I use to hear Apache on the air all the time but had no idea it was as big as it got to be. One thing with session work is that when you leave the studio as its not your own album you don’t follow it like you would do your own and I had a few albums of own out at the same time. I hadn’t seen Mike Viner for over 40 years and ran into him one day in Century City Hotel and he brought me up to date and asked me to do another album for him.

Did you ever go to the clubs where the track was being played?

I visited a club in NYC once where they played Apache all night but that was the first and last time.

How do you feel about people sampling your playing?

As far as people sampling my playing I am use to it. People have sampled all of my playing for the past 45 years, even all the percussion work I did for Motown. I did 90% of Motown’s percussion work. Berry Gordy calls me the un-sung hero of Motown.

40 years on from its original release what do you think is The IBB's legacy?

As far as the IBB coming to front of the line we have to give credit to Mr Dan Forro who wrote and directed the IBB movie ‘Sample This’. I do hope I was able to help somewhat. Am still waiting for my booking.

Just always remember I am the IBB.

Regards always…KING ERRISSON

Check out The Incredible Bongo Band - Bongo Rock Album here at Mr Bongo.