War fused Rock, Jazz, Funk, Latin and R&B. Says Jordan, "We never thought we'd hit because we were too different. People wanted us to be like the Chambers Brothers or Sly and the Family Stone. But we just let it flow and played." (thanks, Amy - Chicago, IL)
They started out as The Creators, playing clubs in the Los Angeles area, where they became the first black band booked on the Sunset Strip. This band evolved into Nite Shift (named because Brown worked at a steel yard at night), and backed up football player Deacon Jones for a while. They had trouble keeping the band together because members kept getting drafted to the Vietnam War.
In 1969, record executive Steve Gold put the band together with Eric Burdon, who was previously a member of The Animals. They recorded 2 albums as "War with Eric Burdon" before Burdon left the band.
As Brown remembers it, manager Steve Gold said, "You guys are really a motley crew. I've got a great idea, let's just call you War." Lee Oskar says that he and Eric Burdon were riding along and saw a billboard with Yoko Ono talking peace - the direct opposite of War, which gave them the idea.
Around 1966, they had an offer to be Otis Redding's backup band. They couldn't take the gig because their keyboard player was too young to go on the road.
War spent a lot of time with Jimi Hendrix, and played with him the night he died when they jammed together at a club in London called Ronnie Scott's. Hendrix and Burdon were good friends, and Burdon was deeply affected by the death of Hendrix.
We asked the question, "On what songs did you do your best playing, or are you particularly proud of?" Here are the responses:
Harold Brown: Funk Drumming: "Slippin' Into Darkness" Most sensitive drumming with dynamics: "Seven Tin Soldiers" Pure Jam: "Low Rider" Most exact drumming: "Cisco Kid"
Lee Oskar: First Musical Eureka (Harp and Sax Blend): "Sun O Son" first War Album Inspired Melody from Harp: "City Country City" Most played harp melody: "Low Rider"
In the mid-1990s, Far Out Productions (producer and songwriter Jerry Goldstein) went to federal court and won the use of the name War. The band's original keyboardist Lonnie Jordan began touring using that name under Goldstein's guidance, and the other 4 surviving members (Oskar, Dickerson, Scott and Brown), formed The Lowrider Band. (Thanks to Harold Brown for speaking with us about War. Learn more about the Lowrider Band at lowriderband.com.)