“I went toward the stage hoping to get his attention and some respect,” says drummer Harold Brown of the last time he saw former bandmate Lonnie Jordan, performing in 2009 at the Canyon Club with a new version of their ’70s funk band War. “He [Jordan] strutted around like Mussolini. I wanted to throw one of my shoes at him. But I would have had to leave with one shoe.”
A San Diego native and longtime resident, Jordan is War’s sole original member. The group will issue its first full-length in nearly 15 years, War.Com, in early 2012, with the first single “Bounce” set for release next week. However, “Lonnie Jordan does not own the name War,” says Brown. “Back in 1979, [War’s] manager and producer Jerry Goldstein and Steve Gold, his former business partner, went and trademarked the name behind our backs. A corporation called Far Out Productions owns the name. Lonnie Jordan is only an employee for hire.”
Brown and Howard Scott cofounded their first funk band in the ’60s, soon adding Jordan, Lee Oskar, and B.B. Dickerson to the lineup that became War. Record producer Jerry Goldstein hooked them up with former Animals singer Eric Burdon, and their song “Spill the Wine” became a radio staple.
After splintering through the ’80s, they regrouped for the 1994 album Peace Sign, featuring singer Jordan with Harold Brown, Lee Oskar, and Howard Scott, though they were still under the management of producer Goldstein, who owned the War trademark. All but Jordan filed a lawsuit to gain control of the name in 1996, but failed. Brown, Oskar, and Scott quit War to form the Lowrider Band (named after their hit “Low Rider”) with returning cofounder B.B. Dickerson, while Jordan opted to stay with Goldstein.
So why did Goldstein only hire Jordan for a new War? “It’s cheaper for him to use nonunion and side musicians,” says Brown. “He would have to pay us all equally.”
The group was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, which is what prompted Brown to attempt a connection with Jordan that night at the Canyon Club. “It was to no avail. But, on my way back to the table, there just happened to be two pieces of pie...you can guess what took place next.”