When discussions about black rock bands arise, acts like Living Colour, Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys, Mother’s Finest, and of course, Funkadelic commonly stand at the forefront of conversation. One band that’s often omitted is Xavion, six guys out of Memphis, Tennessee who released their album, Burnin’ Hot, on Mirage Records in 1984. The band was managed by music executive Tommy Mottola, mentor to the likes of Carly Simon, John Mellencamp, and Mariah Carey. Xavion was straight up ‘80s rock, with booming drums, synthesizer accents, screaming guitar, leather and latex outfits and big hair. Add to that the fact that some of the band members looked like they’d spent quite a bit of time in the gym, and you had a mashup of Mötley Crüe, early 1980s Prince, and Full Force.
The band enjoyed success with the singles “Get Me Hot” and “Eat Your Heart Out,” and thanks to their reputation for high energy performances, they toured with The Barkays, The Romantics, Sly & the Family Stone, and Hall & Oates. They’re also known as the band that broke ground in the video arena, becoming the first black rock band to get airplay on MTV.
Although the band enjoyed quite a bit of success, unfortunately it was short-lived. The band split and in later years lead singer Dexter Haygood struggled with drug abuse and wound up homeless. He was living out of his car when he was a finalist on the debut season of the music competition reality show, The X Factor. There is a happy ending to the story, however. Although Haygood was eliminated from the show, his appearance helped reunite him with some of his former bandmates who had no idea he was in such dire straits. These days, Haygood splits his time between Las Vegas and Memphis writing, recording, and performing.
Montrose Cunningham is a Dallas, Texas-based, independent funk/rock/soul artist and devoted music aficionado, with a Master of Science degree in Marketing. When he isn’t digging through the crates–digital and analog–he’s jamming with his band or hanging with his daughters, sometimes at the same time. Purchase his release Inertia at www.cdbaby.com/cd/montrose, follow him on Twitter @MontroseC and check out his blog, Daddy Rock Star.