“See, it’s a barrier between black and white, that word. We’re trying to break that barrier, like Richard Pryor. You got to smash it, to go beyond, and we feel like we bringin’ people more closer together. We’re trying to help, and I really like I love everybody… we really want people to understand. We ain’t out to offend no one. But things have got to change. And we gonna be part of that.” – Toby Davis Richards to the Detroit Free Press (February 26th, 1978)
This all-Black punk band was part of the Fagenson/Tann Productions that put three bands into the scene in late 1977-mid 1978 in Detroit. According to a February 26th, 1978 article in the Detroit Free Press, the band had recorded at least one demo, a song entitled “Crazy White Bitch”.
In a six-page booklet created to drum up business for the Motor City Revue, it states: “The only Black New Wave band in the world, The Niggers make their national debut in February with The Motor City Revue.
Trading off the explosive nature of their name, The Niggers will automatically generate curiosity, notoriety and excitement as they travel from city to city. The Niggers are much more than an outrageous name. They are a powerful music mutation destined to gain national recognition.
Combined with The Traitors and The Pigs they make the Motor City Revue the most unusual package offered in 1978.”
The band played as part of Tann-Fagenson’s Motor City Revue at Bookie’s Club 870 on March 3rd and 4th, 1978 and did shows in Boston, at Philadelphia’s Hot Club and New York’s CBGBs later that same month.
Don McAlpine of The Traitors says the band was a funk group that answered an ad in the Detroit News that producer Jack Tann had placed seeking a Black band to play punk rock. The group was given the name by the producer, and asked to copy the type of songs The Traitors were doing according to McAlpine.
After taking part in the Revue shows in the spring of 1978, the band stopped working with the Revue after a dispute about the headlining spot in the production.
As for the background on the band, the Detroit Free Press article from February 1978 stated the band was managed by a Detroit R&B producer known as Ace Jones who, wearing a turban and a black leather jacket, talked about how he, as a blues guitarist in his 40s and originally from Alabama, understands the questions about the name:
“I’ve been with these boys, keep ’em together, since they was 13. Now they are 20, 21 years old. They played jazz, they played the blues, they played waltz and polka music when I got ’em work at parties in Bloomfield Hills. They played for migrant workers, and I taught ’em Latin music.
I was nervous about the name. I asked 50 people – white and black – about it. These were my friends. A couple said, “Ace, you’re crazy.” But most of ’em said it’s time words like this that were said in private should be bought out there.
Sure, we want to cash in and go to the top. It ain’t been easy. Can you blame us? We got a gimmick. But we ain’t sellin’ ourselves-or the people-out.”
According to Ben Blackwell, Detroit music writer/archivist/Dirtbombs member/Third Man Records executive, when Jones talked about his work in Detroit, including several independent r&b sides in the 1960s, he was asked about working with this band. Jones said he did not have any of their material or know where they happened to be.
“Musically, the group was surprisingly good. The material was a cross between Jimi Hendrix and the Funkadelics. It had the feel and punch of the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” – that could have been because one of the group’s songs used pretty much the same chord changes,” wrote Dave Zurawik, the reporter for the Detroit Free Press.
If you happen to have information about the band, please let us know.