On this day in music history: July 12, 1986 – …

On this day in music history: July 12, 1986 – “Who’s Johnny” by El DeBarge hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 on July 5, 1986. Written by Peter & Ina Wolf, it is the lone solo chart topper for the singer, songwriter and musician from Grand Rapids, MI. Undone by infighting and drug use among its members, the family vocal group DeBarge begins to implode during the making of their fourth album “Rhythm Of The Night”. Seeing the writing on the wall, their label Motown Records grooms lead singer El DeBarge for solo stardom. DeBarge works with producers Jay Graydon (Manhattan Transfer, Al Jarreau), and husband and wife songwriter/producers Peter and Ina Wolf (not the former J. Geils Band lead singer). While working on El’s album, the Wolfs are approached by film producers David Foster and Lawrence Turman, asking them if they will write a song for their comedy “Short Circuit”. The film starring Steve Guttenberg (“Police Academy”) and Ally Sheedy (“War Games” , “The Breakfast Club”), is about a military robot named Number 5 that is struck by lightning and develops a human like personality and intelligence. Seeing a rough cut of the film, the Wolfs accept the assignment and agree to write a song. The inspiration for “Who’s Johnny” comes from a scene where Number 5 expresses his dislike of being referred to by a number, and someone suggests “how about Johnny?”. When Peter and Ina present the song to El, initially he is not in favor of it, feeling that is it doesn’t really suit his musical style. When they tell him that it’s for a movie soundtrack and that it could potentially broaden his audience, he agrees to record it. Released as single in April of 1986, like the film “Short Circuit”, it quickly becomes a major success, racing to the top of the R&B singles chart, into the top five on the pop chart, propelling El DeBarge’s debut album to Gold status in the US.