Vaughan Mason, the musician and producer whose influential disco-funk singles — most notably his 1980 roller skating anthem “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll” — have been sampled by dozens of artists ranging from Daft Punk to a Tribe Called Quest, died Thursday of natural causes at the age of 69. Mason’s son Baron confirmed the musician’s death to Rolling Stone.
After a stint as a music manager and studio engineer, Mason — as Vaughan Mason & Crew — signed with Brunswick Records in 1980 and, in an effort to capitalize on the roller skating craze sweeping the nation, recorded the roller rink anthem “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll,” a not-so-veiled homage to Chic’s hit from the previous year, “Good Times.”
“I bought a Billboard magazine for the month of July and looked across every chart — pop, the Hot 100, the R&B chart, the dance chart, then club and radio play, and then 12-inch dance sales — looking for whichever song appeared in the top ten of each of those charts,” Mason admitted to Electronic Beats in 2015. “Whether I liked the song or not, that’s the song I was going to pick as a model for a new single. ‘Good Times’ fit those criteria.”
Over the ensuing decades, “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll” has been endlessly sampled and interpolated. Jimmy Spicer flipped the track for his 14-minute rap opus “Adventures of Super Rhyme (Rap)” in 1980, early-Nineties hip-hop artists like Digital Underground, Too Short, Heavy D and De La Soul all leaned on the funk track, while later electronic artists like Daft Punk (“Da Funk”) and the Avalanches (“Electrified”) would bring it to life again. R&B group 112’s 1996 hit “Only You” with the Notorious B.I.G. also lifted Mason’s bass line.
“In 1978, I was working in a record shop, but was in a big rut,” Mason told Soul and Funk Music. “So I borrowed $7,000 from friends and my first recording, ‘Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll’, was done within a few days. I made 10 acetates which got a lot of record company interest and it was soon a hit. I got to the stage where I was opening up for Prince and Rick James, and Slave even opened up for me.”
Vaughan Mason & Crew released two more singles — “Roller Skate” and “Jammin’ Big Guitar,” the latter Mason admitted was heavily inspired by Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” — before he linked up with singer Butch Dayo. In 1982, the duo released their Feel My Love EP that, while unsuccessful upon release, became a beloved artifact for crate-diggers and disco-funk fans. The EP, which would be reissued in 2019, contained beloved songs “Party on the Corner” and “Feel My Love,” the latter experiencing a resurgence in popularity in 2018 after it soundtracked a viral meme.
Mason would later record and perform under the name Raze and scored a minor dance hit with 1987’s “Break 4 Love.” According to his son, Mason changed his name to Raze on the belief that since he was changing genres by recording dance music, he needed a new name. He would later call this one of the biggest regrets of his career. Mason also served as producer on records by Doug Lazy, Barbara Joyce and Spyder-D, including the latter’s “Smerphie’s Dance,” and wrote a book entitled The Music Business Bible in 2016.
“I tell musicians and people all the time: steal the feel,” Mason told Electronic Beats. “Making money in the music business is not about the music, it’s about the feeling people have from what you’re playing, and what you’re playing will get to people faster if it moves like a record they know.
“To this day, it’s human nature that if you hear something new, especially if you’re a dancer who just goes to clubs and wants to dance, you want to feel that same vibe,” he added. “And that’s what letting a song feel like a hot record which is out already — almost like a remix to the damn thing — does. People will stay on the dance floor and think, ‘Yeah, I like this.'”