Category: philly soul

On this day in music history: May 15, 1982 – &…

On this day in music history: May 15, 1982 – “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle” by Deniece Williams hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #10 on the Hot 100 on June 12, 1982. Written by Teddy Randazzo, Bobby Weinstein and Lou Stallman, it is the second R&B chart topper for the Grammy Award winning songstress from Gary, IN. Co-written by New York based songwriter Teddy Randazzo (“Goin’ Out Of My Head”, “Hurt So Bad”), the song is originally written for Little Anthony & The Imperials, but instead is recorded by the female R&B vocal group The Royalettes when Randazzo is in a financial dispute with Don Costa Productions over royalty payments for the previous hits he has penned for Little Anthony. The Royalettes, who record for MGM Records have a minor hit (#28 R&B) with “Miracle” in 1965. Producer and arranger Thom Bell suggests to Williams that she record “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle”, while they are working their second album together. The track is cut at the famed Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia in late 1981, with musicians such as Bob Babbitt (bass, piccolo bass), Bobby Eli (guitar), Charles Collins (drums), and Larry Washington (percussion). Issued as a single in March of 1982, it quickly becomes a hit on R&B radio, and crosses over to the pop singles chart. The success of “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle” sends Williams’ accompanying album “Niecy” into the top five on the Billboard R&B album chart and the top twenty on the Top 200 in mid 1982.

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On this day in music history: May 11, 1968 – &…

On this day in music history: May 11, 1968 – “Cowboys To Girls” by The Intruders hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #6 on the Hot 100 on May 18, 1968. Written and produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, it is the biggest hit for the Philadelphia based R&B vocal quartet. The group are among the first acts signed to Gamble and Huff’s label Gamble Records in 1966, whose first hit is “(We’ll Be) United”, as well as recording the original version of “Together” (later covered by Tierra in 1980). Recorded at the newly opened Sigma Sound Studios in Philly (formerly Reco Art Studios), “Cowboys To Girls” features members of the rhythm section that become known as MFSB, and includes Norman Harris and Roland Chambers (guitars), Ronnie Baker (bass), Earl Young (drums), Vince Montana (vibes), Leon Huff (piano), and arranger Bobby Martin. An instant R&B classic, the single quickly crossovers to the pop chart in the Spring of 1968.  The Intruders score a steady stream of R&B top 40 hits after “Cowboys” including “(Love Is Like A) Baseball Game” (#4 R&B, #26 Pop) and “When We Get Married” (#8 R&B, #45 Pop), when they are signed to Gamble & Huff’s new label Philadelphia International Records in 1971. The group land another big hit with the classic “I’ll Always Love My Mama” (#6 R&B, #36 Pop) in 1973. “Cowboys To Girls” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: April 24, 1976 -…

On this day in music history: April 24, 1976 – “Livin’ For The Weekend” by The O’Jays hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #20 on the Hot 100 on the same date. Written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Cary Gilbert, it is the fifth chart topping single for the R&B vocal trio from Canton, OH. Following up their previous smash, the R&B chart topping top five crossover smash “I Love Music”, The O’Jays continue their hit making streak with the second single from their fourth studio album “Family Reunion”. The songs arresting dual slow and fast tempo shifts create a sensation on the dance floor and quickly becomes a favorite in clubs even before it is issued as a single. During the songs run on the charts, original member William Powell is diagnosed with cancer and is forced to retire from performing with the group on stage. However, he continues to sing with the group in the studio, making his final appearance on The O’Jays next album “Message In The Music”, released in late 1976. Powell passes away on May 26, 1977 at the age of thirty five. Powell’s stage replacement, Sammy Strain (formerly of Little Anthony & The Imperials) becomes a full fledged member of the group in mid 1977.

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On this day in music history: April 19, 1979…

On this day in music history: April 19, 1979 – “The Jones Girls”, the debut album by The Jones Girls is released. Produced by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, Dexter Wansel, Charles B. Simmons, Joseph B. Jefferson and McKinley Jackson, it is recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, PA from January – March 1979. Originally from Detroit, MI, sisters Shirley, Brenda and Valorie Jones begin singing professionally in the late 60’s when they are barely in their teens. They release their first single “My Own Special Way” for local label GM Records in 1970. The group continue to record with no success. They are heard by Curtis Mayfield who sign them to his Curtom label in 1975. They release two singles which both flop, though continue to provide backing vocal support on various Mayfield productions for Linda Clifford and Aretha Franklin. Their fortunes turn in 1978 when they are hired by Motown superstar Diana Ross as back up singers. Offering the girls encouragement, the major turning point comes for them when Diana introduces them to Philadelphia International Records co-founders Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Impressed by the sisters vocal prowess, the producers sign them to their label and quickly begin work on their debut album. Gamble and Huff also have them work with fellow staff producers Dexter Wansel, Joseph B. Jefferson, Charles B. Simmons and McKinley Jackson. To launch The Jones Girls, Kenny and Leon come up with the song “You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else” (#5 R&B, #38 Pop). A major departure from their trademark lush orchestrated grooves, they construct a stripped down, funky groove laden track, powered by a literal whip cracking back beat. Topped by the sisters airtight harmonies and sung with finger pointing attitude, it creates an instant buzz when it hits the radio and club dance floors a month ahead of the album. It sells over a million copies and to everyone’s surprise, its B-side spawns another fan favorite with the ballad “Who Can I Run To”. The song receives a large amount of airplay from R&B radio, becoming a Quiet Storm classic. The songs’ status is further cemented sixteen years later when the R&B vocal group Xscape’s ad verbatim cover tops the R&B chart and hits the top ten on the pop chart. The Jones Girls’ album spins off two more singles including “We’re A Melody” (#78 R&B) and “I’m At Your Mercy” (#79 R&B). It is originally released on CD in 1993 by Repetoire and Edsel Records as a 2-fer disc with their second album “At Peace With Woman”. The album makes its CD debut in the US and Canada in 1994 through CEMA Special Markets, and is remastered and reissued in 2007 by Sony Special Markets. “The Jones Girls” peaks at number eight on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number fifty on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: April 5, 1969 – …

On this day in music history: April 5, 1969 – “Only The Strong Survive” by Jerry Butler hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #4 on the Hot 100 on April 19, 1969. Written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Jerry Butler, it is the the third R&B chart topper for the legendary soul singer nicknamed “The Iceman”. Leon Huff comes up with the initial idea for the song, drawing inspiration from the Rudyard Kipling poem “If”, recited to him by his mother when he was a child. Showing what he’s come up with to his writing partner Kenny Gamble and to Butler, the three finish writing it together while having lunch together at Mercury Records New York headquarters. The track is cut at Sigma Sound in Philadelphia on September 8, 1968 with members of the studio band MFSB. Following the chart successes of “Never Give You Up” (#7 R&B, #20 Pop) and “Hey Western Union Man” (#1 R&B, #16 Pop), “Survive” is released as the fourth single from Butler’s album “The Iceman Cometh”. The success of the record occurs at a time when it is uncommon for R&B albums to produce multiple hit singles. “Survive” crosses over to the pop chart, becoming Jerry Butler’s biggest single. The song is covered by numerous artists including Billy Paul, The Winstons, Skeeter Davis, Larry Carlton and Elvis Presley. Butler’s original recording is featured in the film “Menace II Society”. “Only The Strong Survive” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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Born on this day: March 26, 1950 – R&B voc…

Born on this day: March 26, 1950 – R&B vocal icon Teddy Pendergrass (born Theodore DeReese Pendergrass in Philadelphia, PA). Happy Birthday to “The Teddy Bear” on what would have been his 69th Birthday.

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On this day in music history: March 19, 1974 -…

On this day in music history: March 19, 1974 – “For The Love Of Money” by The O’Jays is released. Written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Anthony Jackson, it is the thirty sixth single release for the R&B vocal group from Canton, OH. Together since 1958, The O’Jays finally achieve major success in 1972 with the album “Back Stabbers”. Of all the groups that Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff work with, the duo use the R&B vocal trio’s soulful and forceful voices to deliver many of their “message” songs about relationships, brotherhood and morality. Gamble and Huff continue using these themes as they work on new material. “For The Love Of Money” is inspired in part by a passage taken out of the bible, in the book of 1 Timothy 6:10 which states “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” From that verse, Gamble and Huff’s song warns of how greed can lead people to compromise their integrity, and do harm to themselves or others in the process. The basic track is recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia on October 3, 1973, with members of the studio collective MFSB playing on the track. Rather than regular bassist Ronnie Baker, playing on the session is Anthony Jackson. A virtuoso “man for all seasons”, Jackson goes on to make his reputation with numerous musical legends including Roberta Flack, Steely Dan, Quincy Jones, Chaka Khan, Paul Simon, and Pat Metheny to name a few. During the session, engineer Joe Tarsia notices that Jackson has a wah wah pedal plugged in with his bass. Tarsia records the bass and drum tracks both dry, and with an Eventide phase shifter fed into the signal chain. When Gamble and Huff hear the track with the phasing added, they decide to keep it on the finished track. They also give Jackson a co-writing credit for coming up with the insidiously funky bass line that is at the foundation. Shortly after, The O’Jays record their vocals at another session. While mixing the song, Gamble adds additional echo to the bass during the intro before abruptly shutting it off, leaving it in the final mix. Running nearly seven and a half minutes, it is edited down to under four minutes and released as the second single from “Ship Ahoy” in early 1974. “For The Love Of Money” is an immediate smash on the dance floor and on radio, with its powerful message and groove. It also receives a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group in 1975. In time the song permeates popular culture, being covered by various artists, and The O’Jays’ original version being widely sampled on rap and dance tracks. The song is also re-recorded in a medley with Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City” by singer Eddie Levert’s sons Gerald and Sean with their group Levert, Queen Latifah and Troop for the film “New Jack City” in 1991. “For The Love Of Money” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: March 18, 1974 -…

On this day in music history: March 18, 1974 – “You Make Me Feel Brand New” by The Stylistics is released. Written by Thom Bell and Linda Creed, it is the tenth single release for the R&B vocal group from Philadelphia, PA. By 1973, The Stylistics are one of the top R&B groups, having ridden a string of back to back hits beginning with their first top hit “You’re A Big Girl Now” in 1971. Nearly all of the group’s hits are written by producer, arranger and songwriter Thom Bell and lyricist Linda Creed. The narrative of “You Make Me Feel Brand New” is about a man expressing gratitude to his woman for all of the many blessings she has bestowed upon him, and how her love rejuvenates him emotionally and spiritually. The track for “Brand New” is recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia with members of MFSB providing musical support, and The Sweethearts Of Sigma (Linda Creed, Barbara Ingram, Evette Benton and Carla Benson) providing additional background vocals. Unlike many other Stylistics singles that featured only lead singer Russell Thompkins, Jr.’s distinctive falsetto voice front and center, “You Make Me Feel Brand New” also features baritone Airrion Love sharing lead vocal duties. The contrast in vocal timbres provides a unique point and counterpoint to each other. The song originally appears on The Stylistics third album “Rockin’ Roll Baby” released in November of 1973, with the LP version clocking in at nearly five and a half minutes. When the song begins receiving airplay as an album cut while the title track is climbing the chart, Avco Records decides to issue it as a single right after. The single version of “You Make Me Feel Brand New” is remixed, slightly sped up and edited down to under five minutes. This newly remixed version is also included on the groups next album “Let’s Put It All Together” in May of 1974. A multi-format smash, “Brand New” hits the pop, R&B and Adult Contemporary charts at virtually the same time. The single peaks at #5 on the R&B singles chart, #6 on the AC chart, and spends two weeks at #2 on the Hot 100 in June of 1974, unable to unseat Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods’ “Billy Don’t Be A Hero” from the top spot. Over the years, “You Make Me Feel Brand New” has not only become one of The Stylistics’ signature songs, but a pop and R&B standard and a staple of the Quiet Storm radio format. The song has also been covered numerous times over the years, with versions by Babyface, Boyz II Men, Rod Stewart & Mary J. Blige, Ronnie Milsap, Norman Brown and Larry Carlton. “You Make Me Feel Brand New” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: March 2, 1977 – …

On this day in music history: March 2, 1977 – “Teddy Pendergrass”, the debut solo album by Teddy Pendergrass is released. Produced by Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff, Gene McFadden, John Whitehead, Sherman Marshall and Victor Carstarphen, it is recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, PA from October 1976 – January 1977. Teddy Pendergrass drops out of the public eye for more than a year, following his departure from Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes in late 1975, leaving fans and music critics to wonder if the singer had made a mistake by leaving the group that had made him a star. During this down time, Pendergrass leaves Philadelphia for California to contemplate his next move, even fielding offers from other record labels who are eager to sign the R&B star. Eventually, Teddy decides to re-sign with Philadelphia International Records as a solo artist. Label co-founders Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff set about the task of writing and producing Pendergrass’ first solo effort. Gamble and Huff along with P.I.R. staff producers and writers Mc Fadden & Whitehead, Sherman Marshall and Victor Carstarphen all contribute material to the project. The album is one of the first to feature the second line up of Philly International’s house band (including bassists Jimmy Williams, Michael “Sugar Bear” Foreman, keyboardist Ron “Have Mercy” Kersey, guitarist Dennis Harris and drummers Charles Collins, Karl Chambers and Keith Benson) after the departure of MFSB mainstays Norman Harris, Ronnie Baker, Earl Young and Bobby Eli. Any doubts about Teddy Pendergrass’ ability to make it on his own are quickly erased upon the release of his solo debut. A mixture of soulful ballads and uptempo dance floor ready tracks, the album quickly establishes Pendergrass as a solo superstar and sex symbol. It spins off two singles including “I Don’t Love You Anymore” (#5 R&B, #41 Pop, #7 Club Play) and “The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me” (#16 R&B, #102 Pop). The album tracks “You Can’t Hide From Yourself” and “The More I Get, The More I Want” both become major fan favorites and both receive heavy play in discos and on R&B radio. “You Can’t Hide” is later sampled on The D.O.C.’s “Portrait Of A Masterpiece” and “If I Had” by D’Angelo on “Devil’s Pie” and by Mobb Deep on “Cradle To The Grave”. First released on CD in 1993, the album is remastered and reissued in 2008 as part of Sony Legacy’s “Total Soul Classics” reissue series. “Teddy Pendergrass” peaks at number five on the Billboard R&B album chart, number seventeen on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: March 2, 1974 – …

On this day in music history: March 2, 1974 – “Mighty Love Pt. 1” by The Spinners hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #20 on the Hot 100 on March 23, 1974. Written by Charles Simmons, Joseph B. Jefferson and Bruce Hawes, it is the fourth R&B chart topper for the Detroit, MI based vocal group. The trio of songwriters are introduced to each other by producer Thom Bell during sessions for The Spinners second album for Atlantic Records. “Mighty Love” is the first song they write together. The track is recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, PA in the Fall of 1973, with members of the studios house band MFSB. Issued as the title track and first single, “Mighty Love” hits immediately, racing up the R&B and pop singles chart simultaneously, sending the accompanying album to Gold status. The song is also featured on the soundtrack of the Spike Lee directed film “Crooklyn” in 1994.