When it comes to Oakland’s history of boogaloo, there are many stories to be told. Its history has a beginning shrouded in mystery, and its evolution continues to be written to this very day. One such story has to do with a group called Derick and Company.
Yes, Derick and Company was that group you took notice of. They would typically come out in 5x beavers, vests, gloves, dickeys that you could slide in. But you didn’t take notice because of how they dressed. You took notice because they had a reputation. Their talent show record was impressive. Stringing together multiples wins in places such as Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley, Sacramento, and Emeryville.
They were in a league of groups that are still talked about today.
Our story takes place during the summer months in 1977. Derick’s group decided to travel to Sacramento to compete in a talent show. They arrived to an auditorium that was filled to capacity, in the presence of nine other groups. They arrived ready to do battle, at high noon.
Now imagine if you will, coming onto a stage with a thousand screaming occupants of all ages. Add to that the bright lights, the electrified atmosphere, and that feeling of joyous excitement. It is not for the faint of heart, or for those that experience stage fright. For a Boogaloo group out of Oakland this was what it was all about. When Oakland groups performed you knew it. It was like nothing you had ever seen before. The months, of practice rolled onto a head of a pin. Where you feel as if, you are the master of your craft, unveiling the mysteries of the universe. Boogaloo was a symphony of movement mastered by few, practiced by many. It was never meant to be a dance that you could learn in a few months. All the dancers in Derick’s group spent hours, days, years perfecting their craft.
The group performed to “Superband” by Kool and the Gang. Their performance was greeted with screams and cheers that can only be expressed by the exuberance of youth. They screamed loudest for Derick and Company. They turned it out. Announcement came over the loudspeaker. The winner is……….
But wait………..there is another group calling foul? Who is this group dressed in baggy pants and apple hats? Was this the group that was locking? Oh yes someone answered, they came up from the south. One of the members was visibly upset. He was arguing with one of the event organizers.
This is unfair he proclaimed. They came late and should not have been allowed to perform he complained. We want a dance off, let the crowds decide who is the better.
Yes, most dancers that performed in those times were outstanding at group work. Most dancers, however, did not do so well with a challenge. With the exception of groups that locked. Lockers were good at their craft. They could solo at the drop of a hat. They could accomplish what most could not when it came to group and solo routines. But this locking group had never faced dancers from Oakland before.
They did not know, nor did they recognize, the name of Derick and Company. They had no idea what was in store for them.
The promoters decided to let the crowd pick the winner. Both groups came back on stage. The locking group came out firing on all cylinders. Free styling to a funk beat is what they knew. It came naturally to them. The crowd was pleased with what they saw, but now it was Derick and Company’s turn.
Derick and Company in 1977 consisted of five members. Derick Lovings, Melvon Bullock, Curtis Richardson, Paul Reid, and Amelia. All the members were seasoned dancers in the art of Boogaloo. The creep, robot, back sliding, the swoop, dime stopping were just a few of many of the moves that Derick’s troop would employ when solo’s were called for . The difference between most groups from Oakland, and elsewhere, is that in order for you to be a member of an Oakland group? You had to know how to solo. On that day, during the face off, the crowd got a treat. Not one, not two, but all the members of Derick and Company came out with their own solo. The crowd never expected to witness Oakland Style Boogaloo. With Derick’s advanced robot moves, and Melvin’s animated boogaloo, the crowd went wild! Curtis started dime stopping with some more robot, and when Paul came out back sliding? It was over. Derick and Company won the dance off.
The Ripple Effect.
A few years later a group appeared on Soul Train dressed in baggy pants and apple hats. They were not locking. They had one guy that did the back slide; there was another that did the robot. Strange. This group looked real familiar. Was this not the group that Derick and Company beat in a dance off a few years back? A member of Derick and Company’s Paul Reid remembered seeing this group perform on Soul Train.
Paul noticed that variations of certain moves, looked similar, to what Derek and company had done in Sacramento in 77. Weren’t these guys locking two years earlier?
Paul thought it was odd. Here is a group that has no history. They come on the scene locking, then a little over year goes by and here they are doing what appears to be an Oakland routine with modified moves. This group even laid claim to creating the moves they were using in that performance.
Could this have been a contributing factor, as to why Oakland’s history vanished by the 90’s? You have to wonder if this group that appeared on Soul Train, ever considered that there would eventually be a backlash of inquiry about their claims. Especially since Boogaloo had a deeper history that began in the mid 60’s.
Paul is not the only one that noticed what was happening to Oakland’s history. In 2004 Charles Powell, Kerney Mayers, Will Randolph, and others stepped forward to tell Oakland’s story in a public forum. Since then many more dancers from the 70’s movement have awakened to spread the word about Oakland’s Boogaloo movement.
There were so many groups in Oakland, some only lasting weeks, others lasting a few years, and there are a few that have not yet written their final chapters. They wait in the wings to strike once again before they make their final journey into that endless night. Derick and Company was among the groups to be counted as some of the greatest to come out of Oakland. It is clear that Oakland’s legacy lives on but its vast participants have dwindled. A few embers still remain; every so often do those embers glow bright. Every so often will a horn blow from the past, only to enlighten those embers with the righteousness of truth.
I would like to thank Paul Reid for sharing this story. I am certain that we will hear more from him in the near future. Thank you Paul!