A Band Called Death is about the Hackney brothers. David, Bobby and Dannis were preacher’s sons who grow up in Detroit. It was the time Motown was popular. They used to play funk music but after they watched Alice Cooper and The Who in concert, they changed their sound to rock and roll. Their loud practice sessions were nuisance for their family and neighbors.
A Band Called Death is about Dannis and Bobby, the two surviving brothers of the trio. They talk about how they formed the band. At the start of the filming of the documentary, their mother was living in the home where they grew up. The audience was able to see the bedroom where they practiced daily. Photos of the room when it was still filled with instruments and amps were also showed.
The documentary also showed the United Sound Studios. This was where the Hackney Brothers recorded their debut album. During that time, David insisted that the band should change its name from Rock Fire Funk Express to Death.
The name became a stumbling block for the brothers. After they recorded their demos, major labels and publishing companies didn’t want to sign the band because of the name. Clive Davis, then the president of Columbia Records, was courting them but he said he would get them if they change the name.
Instead of giving up, they got their master tapes back and pressed 500 copies of their single. But because they got no label supporting them, the band remained unknown and moved out of Detroit. Dannis and Bobby formed a reggae band that earned them enough money to stay afloat. David went back to Detroit and became an alcoholic. When he was about to die from lung cancer, he gave the master tapes from Death to his brothers.
A Band Called Death is more than just about the music. It showed the relationships of the brothers and their passions. It also explored their loyalty to one another. You can feel that Dannis and Bobby are truly selfless and it was not just for the cameras.