The Stretch is a seriously sleazy, psychedelic funk jam recorded by the Detroit Sex Machines around 1970. Screeching Hammond organ, lip-curling guitar licks and a wild brass section are layered on top of hummingbird drum fills and liquid-fingered bass excursions during this five-minute freak out. And all the best funk touchstones are clear to hear; James Brown, The Meters, Sly & the Family Stone, Booker T & the MGs.
It’s hard to believe but The Stretch and the Sex Machines’ only other single, The Funky Crawl, were both pretty much forgotten until a connoisseur and collector of deep funk 7”s rediscovered them, recognised their brilliance and rereleased them back in 2001.
The other incredible thing about the Detroit Sex Machines’ is that they were just kids. Literally. Curtis and Ted Dudley’s father, Ted Dudley Sr was a drummer who worked at the Ford plant in Detroit. He and his bandmates stored their equipment in the Dudley family basement between gigs. Without Ted Sr’s permission, his sons would come home from school each day and teach themselves to play the instruments before he got back from Ford. Ted Jr took the drums, while Curtis took the bass.
Before long this rhythm section was joined by other neighbourhood kids on whatever instruments were going spare and they would jam around James Brown numbers for as long as they could. One day Ted Sr returned home from work early and walked in on one of these sessions. He remembered, “I wasn’t really mad after I found out how good they was. I said, ‘Hell, y’all sound better than we do”.
Ted Sr was so impressed he got the band a string of gigs at bars around the city. At the time Ted Jr was 14 years old and Curtis was just 13. On a couple of occasions Ted Sr also booked the band, now named the Detroit Sex Machines after James Brown’s latest hit, into TCB Studios to get the kids’ sound on wax. The Stretch and The Funky Crawl were the remarkable results.
It’s not clear what caused a young band with so much potential to stop at just two singles. But at least, by sheer chance, The Stretch, a funk masterpiece spawned from illicit, teenage basement jams, has been saved from obscurity. And damn is it funky!