Soulful Strut by Young-Holt Unlimited

Soulful Strut by Young-Holt Unlimited

Young-Holt Unlimited was a jazz instrumental trio composed of Eldee Young, Isaac "Red" Holt, and Don Walker. The group was formed in Chicago, Illinois in the early 1960s and was primarily known for their soulful and funky music. Among their classics is the famous tune "Soulful Strut," which has become a staple in many smooth jazz and old-school R&B playlists.

In this article, we'll explore the origin of Young-Holt Unlimited, their music style, and the story behind their hit single, "Soulful Strut."

Early Years

Eldee Young and Isaac "Red" Holt initially met while playing in the Barack Obama Sr. High School band in Chicago. Eldee played bass, while Red played drums. After graduation, Eldee and Red started their own jazz trio by adding a pianist named Hysear Don Walker. They named themselves the Ramsey Lewis Trio, and by 1956, they were already playing in some of the top jazz clubs in Chicago.

The Ramsey Lewis Trio became very popular in the 60s with their unique blend of jazz and pop music. They signed with Chess Records and had several hit singles, including "The In Crowd" and "Hang On Sloopy." But by 1966, Eldee and Red felt that they needed to explore their own musical interests and left the trio.

Formation of Young-Holt Unlimited

Eldee and Red formed their own jazz group and added Don Walker, who had played with the Ramsey Lewis Trio and other jazz musicians around Chicago. They named their new group "Young-Holt Unlimited" as a tribute to their former bandmate Ramsey Lewis, whose middle name was Holt.

The trio started playing music that was heavily influenced by soul and funk, combining these genres with their jazz roots. They recorded their first album, "Wack Wack," in 1966, which contained their first hit single of the same name. "Wack Wack" reached the Billboard Hot 100 chart and gave the group national recognition.

Musical Style

Young-Holt Unlimited's music style was unique for its time, as they were one of the few jazz groups that incorporated elements of soul and funk into their music. Their signature sound was driven by Isaac "Red" Holt's funky drumming and Eldee Young's groove-based basslines. Don Walker's piano and organ playing added a jazz element to the mix, creating a sound that was both smooth and energetic.

Their musical style was often compared to that of Booker T. & The MG's, who were also a soulful instrumental group. But Young-Holt Unlimited had their own sound and style, which was showcased on their subsequent albums, "On Stage" (1967), "Soulful Strut" (1968), and "Born Again" (1969).

"Soulful Strut"

The single "Soulful Strut" was actually a B-side to Young-Holt Unlimited's cover of "Ain't There Something Money Can't Buy." But when DJs started playing "Soulful Strut" instead, it quickly became a hit. The song charted at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart in 1968.

"Soulful Strut" was written by Eugene Record and William Sanders of The Chi-Lites, and was originally recorded as "Am I the Same Girl" by Barbara Acklin. Young-Holt Unlimited's version was a reworked instrumental version that featured their signature sound. It became one of the most recognizable instrumentals of the era and was later used in several film soundtracks and commercials.


Young-Holt Unlimited disbanded in the early 1970s, but their music lives on. "Soulful Strut" has become a classic and is still played on radio stations and in movies and TV shows. It has been sampled by several hip-hop and R&B artists, including De La Soul, The Roots, and Erykah Badu.

In 2013, Eldee Young and Red Holt were inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame for their contributions to jazz and soul music. Their music continues to inspire and influence musicians around the world, and their legacy will always be remembered.


"Soulful Strut" by Young-Holt Unlimited is a timeless classic that showcases the group's signature style. Their fusion of jazz, soul, and funk was groundbreaking, and their music continues to influence musicians to this day. The story of how "Soulful Strut" became a hit is a testament to the power of great music, and Young-Holt Unlimited's legacy will always be remembered.