When the Doobie Brothers had released One Step Closer in 1980, I eagerly snapped up the album looking forward to another Minute By Minute, but the album was largely a disappointment to me. That had nothing to do with the two guys added to the band in the interim, Skunk Baxter’s replacement on guitar John McFee (who remains with the band to this day) and saxophonist/keyboardist/vocalist Cornelius Bumpus. In fact, one of the few bright spots on One Step Closer was a song that Bumpus wrote and sang the lead vocals on; “Thank You Love” is a breezy, jazzy tropical number that sounds not too unlike “Only A Fool Would Say That.”
Little did Bumpus know at the time, but the Steely Dan connection would get much stronger ten years later when, after the Doobie Brothers initially broke up and a subsequent move from LA to NYC, he joined Fagen’s Rock ‘N’ Soul Revue, where he reunited with Doobies compadre Michael McDonald. The Revue stint soon led to a session player role on Fagen’s Kamakirad album, where he contributed his soulfully righteous saxophone to a couple of tracks, including yet another Carribean-flavored pop number, “Florida Room” (which Fagen co-wrote with his new bride, Libby Titus).
Fagen was obviously attracted to Bumpus’ big, engaging sax and his overall versatility, and the Kamakiriad cameos led directly into a decade-long stint with the reconstituted Steely Dan band. Thus, Bumpus was one of three musicians who had been a member of both the Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan, but the only one who joined the Dan after the Doobies.
On February 3, 2004, Cornelius Bumpus boarded a flight from New York back to his native California for a performance scheduled there. But by the time the plane made an emergency landing in Sioux City, Iowa due to him suffering a heart attack while enroute, he had already expired. He was fifty-eight years old.
A sad end for a soul who had brought a ray of sunshine to music in a number of different ways to a number of well-known bands (including Moby Grape) in addition to his own solo records. “Florida Room” is one of those songs that received a nice lift from Corny.
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