LeRoy Fleming, well known saxophonist of the Young Senators and Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, passed away on March 8, 2013.
Fleming was one of the original members of the Young Senators, a band formed in 1964 in upper northwest D.C., along with Derrick Davis on organ, Warren Smith on bass, Frank Hooker on lead guitar, Ronald Worthy on drums and Charles Havard on trumpet.
The Young Senators were referred to as the Emperors of Go-Go and captured the attention of critics with the single, “Jungle”.
Appearing with the Young Senators, Fleming entertained at functions for the late Governor Rockefeller and the late Senator Robert Kennedy.
In 1971, Fleming, along with his band mates in the Young Senators, joined Eddie Kendricks, who had recently left the Temptations to embark on a solo career, and recorded with him as the first group outside of Motown to record with a Motown act.
Many reviews of the Young Senators’ performances with Kendricks nod more to the success of the band rather than Kendricks’ performance including one by journalist Dennis Hunt who wrote in the Los Angeles Times on November 30, 1973 that “Eddie Kendricks’ robust band, the Young Senators, played impeccably on ‘Keep on Truckin’ and ‘Boogie Down’. These seven musicians were so good throughout the show that I often found myself listening more to them than to Kendricks.”
Jimi Dougans of the Young Senators recalls, “I met LeRoy in the early sixties during the formation of our group, The Young Senators, and we remained friends throughout the years. LeRoy was a phenomenal guy blessed with a talent to play any instrument, but was known for his unique style of blowing his horn.”
“LeRoy had a quiet demeanor, but was very fun-loving. His favorite quote was, ‘Don’t ever dooo that’! This kind of humor gave us much needed stress relief while traveling on the road. He was always a lot of fun to be around and pulled a surprise prank on us at certain venues.”
“At a point in our musical career, our band, The Young Senators, was blessed with the opportunity to tour and record with former Motown recording artist and member of The Temptations, the late great Eddie Kendricks. During that time, we performed at sold out shows throughout the country, and at certain venues, like The Apollo and Madison Square Garden, LeRoy decided he would conduct the band, and would step out from his usual position on stage, and place himself, front and center, to be seen. But, this position put him right in front our drummer, James Drumer Johnson, and although Drumer and LeRoy were close friends, Drumer wasn’t crazy about the new unplanned development, and would say, ‘LeRoy, move man, you’re blocking my view, “adds Dougans.
He concludes, “We had a fantastic musical journey, and even after The Young Senators disbanded, and LeRoy played with other bands, he always carried the spirit of The Young Senators, because he was a Young Senator for life. It was a wonderful ride! Rest in peace, LeRoy and ‘Keep on Truckin’!”
Fleming, along with his Young Senators band mates Jimi Dougans, Frank Hooker, James Johnson, Calvin Charity, Wornell Jones and David Lecraft, was honored by Former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams when he issued a proclamation that June 11, 2002 was Young Senators Day in the District of Columbia. Another Proclamation was issued by mayor Adrian Fenty on June 11, 2009, also for Young Senators Day in Washington, D.C.
In February 2002, the Young Senators were inducted into the Go-Go Hall of Fame.
In 1978, Fleming went on to join Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers and can be heard on the “Bustin’ Loose” album released that year as well as several other Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers’ albums.
With the Soul Searchers most notably, in the song “Bustin’ Loose”, you hear Brown shout, “Hey LeRoy! Gimmie some of that horn right here!” Fleming then bursts into a soaring saxophone solo. This soulful style can be heard throughout all of the songs in which Fleming plays.
This past August of 2012, the original Soul Searchers were in rehearsals and Fleming was invited to participate, but was unable due to illness.
Lloyd Pinchback, John “JB” Buchanan, Curtis Johnson and Steve Coleman, all former Soul Searchers have many memories and anecdotes of time spent sharing the stage with Fleming.
“Leroy was very outgoing and always a dapper dresser since the first time I saw him perform on stage. He had much more ‘flash and flair’ than I, and he was a party animal, to put it mildly. Leroy is well known for his ability as a saxophonist, but he also played flute, bassoon, and surprisingly the Brother was also an adept drummer as well. We shared a mutual respect for each other’s musicianship,” states Pinchback, one of the original Soul Searchers.
John “JB” Buchanan recounts, “He was a real musician in every sense of the word. Our relationship pre-dates Go-Go, all the way back to high school in the 60’s where we both played in the DC Youth Orchestra. He played bassoon and was a clarinet soloist. One of my fondest and funniest memories was hearing LeRoy play Junior Walker’s ‘Shotgun’ solo on the contra-bassoon, two full octaves below.”
“Another flashback took place on Eastern High School’s field right after the DCPS JROTC Cadet Drill Competition in 1967 where LeRoy, Donald Tillery and I hooked up for the first time to exchange notes and jazz licks. Who would have guessed that we would become the Soul Searchers’ Bustin’ Loose Horn Section 11 years later! Don’t forget that LeRoy also was a writer, singer and also played harmonica,” Buchanan continues.
Curtis Johnson, who was in touch with Fleming in January of this year, relays, “LeRoy called and said he was going to have a cabaret. This was to be one of his last gigs and he wanted to do this one just like he wanted and asked if I would work with him. I said ‘hell yeah’, just let me know what you want me to do! Leroy was fun to work with, always had a smile and was always someone I could talk to. Leroy’s soulful saxophone style was truly a factor in the go-go style of music created by Chuck Brown and the Bustin’ Loose crew, aka the Soul Searchers. He will be missed.”
“When I joined the band in 1986, I was in awe of Leroy. I was always the leader of horn sections in all of the previous bands I had performed with. Leroy was extremely kind hearted and gracious in welcoming me into the Soul Searchers. For the first time in my musical career, I found myself being led by Leroy. It didn’t take long for me to realize just how much I didn’t know about being a consummate professional musician. Through his impeccable talent, Leroy taught me the many nuances that transform a very good musician into a great musician. Musically speaking, his phrasing, tone, balance and most importantly his musical confidence revealed itself in every note that came out of his tenor sax. I often teased him that he sounded like Dexter Gordon. Leroy never ‘overplayed’, and taught me to concentrate on blending intimately to create the sweet sounds of our horn section. There were times during performances, specifically during his solo, when Leroy would just close his eyes, blow his horn and the magic that flowed out was breathtaking. After gigs I would often ask him how he came up with a particular musical passage or ‘run’. He would always just shrug his shoulders (a true sign of a god gifted musician), unable to explain his gifted musical prowess. God truly blessed us with Leroy Fleming,” reminisces “Too tall” Steve Coleman.
In addition to recording with The Young Senators, Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers and Eddie Kendricks, Fleming also released a solo project “Easy Livin’”/ “Come What May”, under the single name, LeRoy, on Dream Machine Records which was produced by Fleming and Al Johnson.
Services will be held at Albright Memorial United Methodist Church located at 411 Rittenhouse Street, N.W. on Friday, March 22. The wake will be held from 9am to 11am at which time the funeral services will begin.