Dayton is one of the funkiest places on planet Earth.
Trust us, all that funk is a good thing.
In the 1970s and 1980s, southwestern Ohio —particularly Dayton’s west side — was known for its stable of funk bands whose influence can be heard in hip-hop, house and other musical forms popular today through sampling, covers and remixes.
David R. Webb is leading a team preserving the legacy of funk music, Dayton funksters like Ohio Players, Steve Arrington’s Hall of Fame, Zapp, Roger Troutman, Faze-O, Heatwave, Sun, Slave and Lakeside included.
Webb, founder and CEO of at the Funk Music Hall of Fame & Exhibition Center, says he is awaiting final approval from the City of Dayton for the facility at 113 E. Third St. in downtown Dayton’s Fire Blocks District.
Funk legend George Clinton recently visited the center.
We caught up with Webb, a Dayton native who definitely wants the funk.
What superpower would you love to have?
I would love to have Superman’s powers, along with the ability to see into the future. If I could be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound to move our city and our youth towards a brighter future, I would do so. Sometimes it takes what seems like superpowers to move our society to a better place when it comes to how we treat one another and how we prepare our children for their lives ahead.
What do you love about life in Dayton?
I have always had a fascination for history and understanding how we got to where we are today. Dayton has a rich historical heritage that many people don’t know about. We know about the big things – the Wright brothers, the Dayton (Peace) Agreement and some of the famous people who have come from here. But many people have no idea of how we have influenced the country and the world through our spirit of innovation. In spite of the many challenges that our city faces, I also love the fact that Dayton remains the type of town in which you can safely raise your family.
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What would you do on a perfect date in Dayton?
You know, this question put me into a kind of a dreamy mode because there are so many answers I could give. A perfect date for me would start at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, because I’m such a history buff. That would be followed by lunch on the Courthouse Square, just chilling and listening to live music. At that point, if we are really feeling one another, which I assume we are because this is the perfect date, we would end up at the riverfront, people watching, enjoying the night lights and making plans for the next perfect date.
What would you change about Dayton?
I would change the perceptions that people have about Dayton. That includes people who live here and those who don’t. I would encourage native Daytonians and those who have relocated here to learn about and take pride in our heritage. I see myself as having a role in this re-education of people by establishing a nonprofit organization that will give back to this community which has given so much to the world.
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What should people know about Dayton?
People should know that Dayton has something for everyone, and that we are literally the crossroads of America. You can explore and learn about the area on a modest budget or through elaborate unrestrained resources and feel that you used those resources well.
What’s your favorite spot in Dayton?
My favorite spot is 113 E. Third Street, which is tied to the Courthouse Square. I am able to see the future of a revived downtown Dayton there, and what we can become once again.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I have several and I can’t believe I’m telling you this. Superman’s kryptonite! One of them is my famous homemade spaghetti sauce. It is so good, I have people requesting that I fly into town to make it! Another is a good steak. I’m a sucker for good seafood and anything related to the arts. And, the guiltiest of guilty, is a homemade German chocolate cake.
Why did you decide to settle in Dayton?
Initially — I had no choice because I was born here. But when I did have the choice, I chose to settle in Dayton because we have it all. We can have all four seasons in one week. We have entertainment and education. We have sports and history. We have something for everyone in Dayton. Life in Dayton can be boring if you lack the imagination, interest or motivation to enjoy what the area has to offer.
How did you get involved with your nonprofit?
My interest in music, history, community involvement and motivating young people were really at the heart of my involvement. Talking to other musicians who were part of the Funk music phenomenon really got me going. Through those conversations I came to understand that so many people were unaware of how Dayton musicians had influenced the world of music. Young people were completely oblivious to how much of the samplings of the music they were grooving to every day originated from Funk. That art form is still giving to musicians and listeners, and the artists who created it should receive recognition and celebration. This is a grassroots, community movement that allows us to house and showcase Funk music’s contributions. We are teaching others about the innovation within Funk music and how it has influenced the city, the country and the world.
What was the most challenging part of that?
Surprisingly, the most challenging part has been keeping up with the national and global interest sparked by our efforts. The love for Funk music is so contagious, and has created lifetime fans from so many places, that when people hear about this movement they want to get involved in some way. They are anxious to see the facility, to contribute to our collections and to participate. There are only 24 hours in a day, and we are doing all that can be done in that time to make sure that we have our I’s dotted and our t’s crossed before the doors are finally opened.
What inspires you about Dayton?
The history of the city of Dayton inspires me most. Our spirit of innovation and creativity are very inspirational.
If you could change or bring one thing to Dayton, what would it be?
We were such a magnet for people in the past, and I believe that we can be again in the coming years. I would bring back that community pride and “can do” spirit that has long sustained us as a community.
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
In 10 – 15 years I believe the lights will brighten once again in the Gem City. I believe The Funk Center will be a part of those bright lights. I see structures built and more business ventures opening to create that magnetic glow that will continue to draw people to the area.