In the summer of 1979, Petersburg funk band Trussel made it to the #23 spot on the Billboard charts with their song, “Love Injection,” an infectious disco groove that became a national hit. The song was especially popular in gay bars in New York City, like Paradise Garage and The Loft, where pioneering DJ Larry Levan made it a nightclub staple.
It was the first song released from their 1980 album of the same name, and Trussel’s first release on major label Elektra records. “Love Injection” showcases the band’s ability to lock in on a disco break and grind it out for eight sweaty minutes. It’s one of the few purely disco numbers that the band recorded in its short-lived existence; the rest of their discography is rooted primarily in the style of 1970s funk and soul.
Trussel was formed in 1973 by a cadre of Virginia State University students. The group formed their own record label in 1975 called Bridge the Gap Records, and released their first two singles on the imprint. Their first single, “Bicentennial Boogie,” helped boost their profile regionally. The B-side, “How Many Tricks in 1976,” was a political song that expressed the undercurrent of paranoia in the United States at the time. It was released in the fallout of Watergate, and just after the fall of Saigon, when trust in American politicians was at an all-time low.
The band caught a break shortly after the release of their second single. They were tapped to be the backing band for 17-year-old Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King, who would go on to release the disco hit “Shame” in 1977, which reached #9 on the US billboard charts. She would become an even bigger star in the 1980s with her albums I’m in Love and Get Loose. The band performed with her shortly before her breakout in 1977.
Trussel was then signed to Elektra in 1978 and released three singles and a full-length record on the label, but declined the label’s offer for a second album. The band had wanted the cover of Love Injection to feature a picture of the band but Elektra refused, opting instead for a drawing of a butterfly and a flower, presumably because the label didn’t want black faces on the cover of the record. This led to a dispute that prompted the band to leave Elektra shortly after the release of Love Injection.
Trussel broke up in the early 80s, and “Love Injection” remains their standalone hit, but their legacy as a regional powerhouse lives on today. Their DIY ethic and quality songwriting is strongly representative of the Richmond region’s reputation for producing outstanding musicians.
The will to create culture where there is none has been a consistent feature of the area’s arts landscape, and musicians and artists routinely produce high quality work with scarce resources. Almost 40 years later, Trussel remains one of the regions best known exports.
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