Rhythm Machine

Rhythm Machine were an American soul-funk septet from Indianapolis that released a self-titled album on Lulu Records in 1976.

Members: James Boone (bass, vocals), Maurice Puckett (guitar, vocals), Robert Dycus (drums, vocals), Donald Harris (tenor/soprano saxophone, vocals), Maride Williams (alto/soprano saxophone, vocals), Hopie Monroe Bronson III (piano, strings, vocals), Dennis McNeil (congas, bongos)

Honing their chops on the Midwest live circuit, Rhythm Machine entered Kalamazoo’s Sound Factory and cut the 1975 “Whatcha Gonna Do / Freakish Love” single. Released on the band’s own Rodan label, the a-side alternates brisk 3/4 horn charts with soft, wah-soaked verses. On the Mayfield-esque flipside, a heady stream of percussion pummels along a Dmin tonal plane as brass charts flare and descend amidst an urgent vocal delivery.

Greenlighted by hometown indie Lulu Records, the band convened at Des Moines’ Trident Studios to lay down their sole album, Rhythm Machine, in 1976. The spiraling keyboard spaceship depicted on the cover hints at the grooves within.

Tongued sax heralds “Thought My Love Was Fine” — a synth-illuminated slow groove that teeters on a Dmin/G progression. Each instrumentalist is allowed sufficient space to move between the chanted chorus, most notably Bronson and Pucket. Running through keys both slow and fast, Bronson‘s Rhodes glistens like black-lit diamonds along the middle. Later on, Pucket‘s guitar leads ooz with the faintest tinge of fuzz before brass darts back to the forefront.

The wiggly Rhodes/sax into to “You Got Action, You Got Me” rolls directly to a series of wah-charged/brass-infused verses in low Gmaj. As the chorus slowly iterates in unison, the words “action” and “satisfaction” are whispered with spooking persistence. Stepping into “Lil’s Place,” percussion-rolled wah-flashes break through crowd noise as the band commence another low-down syncopated bedrock of chants and clipped brass.

The lovelorn anticipation of “Brenda and Me” is presaged with an ivory-laced flow of mood-setting maj7/sus4 tonalities. Throughout the song-proper, words of invitation and promise are delivered with high-registered faith and hope amidst a cushiony Fmaj7/Emin backdrop. As acceptance fuels excitement, ivory meshes with wah-strings and harmonies in a wind-wave to the sunset.

Proving that no structure is too confining for spirited players, the Cmaj7th breeze-along “Can’t Do Without You” overflows with glistening keys and snare/tom precision, respectively, from Bronson and Dycus. The metronomic, sun-synth softness of “You Make Me Feel Right, Think Right, Do Right” graces the proceedings with further candlelight appeal.

Long commanding three-figure prices as a rare collectible, Rhythm Machine has since been reissued twice in the 21st century.


  • “Whatcha Gonna Do” / “Freakish Love” ‎(1975)
  • “The Kick ‎(Pt. 1)” / “The Kick ‎(Pt. 1)” (?)
  • Rhythm Machine (1976)

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