On this day in music history: July 11, 1980 – …

On this day in music history: July 11, 1980 – “Wide Receiver”, the fifth album by Michael Henderson is released. Produced by Michael Henderson, it is recorded at United Sound Studios, Sound Suite in Detroit, MI, Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, PA, The Record Plant and Allen Zentz Recording in Los Angeles, CA from March – June 1980. A talented and highly versatile musician from an early age, Detroit native Michael Henderson establishes his reputation as a first rate bassist before even graduating from high school. At sixteen, he’s hired as a touring musician for Stevie Wonder as well as doing session work. In 1970, Henderson meets jazz icon Miles Davis during a gig backing Stevie at the Regal Theater in Chicago. Highly impressed with the young bassist, Davis jokingly but seriously tells Wonder, “I’m taking your f*cking bassist!”. Joining Davis’ band, Michael Henderson plays on several seminal albums recorded during Miles’ “electric period” including “Live-Evil”, “Jack Johnson”, “On The Corner”, “Get Up With It” and “Agharta”. Henderson leaves Davis’ band in 1975 to focus on a solo career after the trumpeter is side lined by health and substance abuse problems. The same year, the bassist records with jazz drummer Norman Connors, writing and singing the hit “Valentine Love” (#10 R&B). The following year, Henderson scores another major hit with Connors with the classic “You Are My Starship” (#4 R&B, #27 Pop). He is then signed as a solo artist to Buddah Records, releasing four albums and scoring more hits including “Be My Girl” (#23 R&B) and “Take Me I’m Yours” (#3 R&B, #88 Pop). In 1980, Henderson begins work on his fifth solo album. Along with friend and guitarist Ray Parker, Jr., Ollie E. Brown (drums) and Sylvester Rivers (keyboards), the album also features a young background singer from Detroit named Cheryl Norton. She goes on to greater fame during the 80’s as R&B singer Cherrelle. Primarily known as a soul balladeer from his previous hits, the new album marks a pronounced shift in that musical direction. Along with guitarist Randall Jacobs (later a member of Was (Not Was)), the bassist comes up with the up tempo and ultra-funky “Wide Receiver” (#4 R&B, #42 Club Play). Sporting a wicked back beat, references to NFL football and teaming with sly and humorous sexual double entendres, the song is an instant smash on R&B radio, though some stations actually ban the record for being “too suggestive”. It spins off two more singles including “Prove It” (#27 R&B) and “Reach Out For Me”. Out of print for many years, “Wide Receiver” is remastered and reissued on CD in 1997 by EMI/The Right Stuff Records, and is reissued again briefly by UK label Superbird Records in 2010. In 2014, it is reissued by Funky Town Grooves Records, featuring five additional bonus tracks. “Wide Receiver” peaks at number six on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number thirty five on the Top 200.