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Howard Burchette Serves Up Groovy Beats And History Every Week On 'The Funk Show'

Every Saturday evening for more than 15 years, Howard Burchette has hit the airwaves in Durham with a playlist of iconic tunes and interviews with masters of funk. On “The Funk Show” on WNCU, Burchette interweaves dance-worthy songs with stories from greats like Bobby Byrd, Chuck Brown and Bettye Lavette. 

Host Frank Stasio talks to scholar Cassandra R. Davis about her research on how first-generation college students are weathering the COVID-19 pandemic.

The part-DJ, part-historian joins host Frank Stasio to share some of his favorite funk memories and the music that accompanies them. You can hear Burchette on 90.7 WNCU in Durham every Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m., or you can stream the show live on their website.

Interview Highlights

On how to define funk music:

In my opinion, the funk is R&B. R&B is soul, and they're all the same thing. … All of these different musics are just different branches of the tree that, honestly, that African Americans have created from gospel, the blues, rock and roll, rhythm and blues — which is soul music — and the funk. Now, if you asked I think six people: What is the definition of funk? They'll probably give you six different answers.




Durham native Betty Davis, whom Burchette calls the 'High Priestess of Funk.'
Credit Courtesy of Howard Burchette
Durham native Betty Davis, whom Burchette calls the 'High Priestess of Funk.'

On Betty Davis, Durham native:

I call her the High Priestess of Funk because she was out there on her own. She wasn't really played highly on Black radio back during that time because her style of music wasn't like Motown. It wasn't like — it wasn't dance music. It was pure funk.


Bobby Byrd and the Famous Flames, the group that discovered James Brown.
Credit Courtesy of Howard Burchette
Bobby Byrd and the Famous Flames, the group that discovered James Brown.

On how Bobby Byrd discovered James Brown:

[Byrd’s family] signed James Brown out [of reform school], and he slept in the same bed. He literally became his brother. They incorporated James Brown into their family group, the Gospel Starlighters. And they taught James Brown how to play the drums. … And then James Brown became the drummer in his group The Famous Flames. And they got a recording contract at King Records, which was “Please, Please, Please,” and they had James sing lead on that one. And the rest is history.

Copyright 2020 North Carolina Public Radio

Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
Amanda Magnus grew up in Maryland and went to high school in Baltimore. She became interested in radio after an elective course in the NYU journalism department. She got her start at Sirius XM Satellite Radio, but she knew public radio was for her when she interned at WNYC. She later moved to Madison, where she worked at Wisconsin Public Radio for six years. In her time there, she helped create an afternoon drive news magazine show, called Central Time. She also produced several series, including one on Native American life in Wisconsin. She spends her free time running, hiking, and roller skating. She also loves scary movies.