I was going to call in sick this week. I’ve been down with some evil thing for a few days, and I’m sure the boss would have understood. After all, I never take sick days. And that’s the point. I have written this column week in and week out, foul weather and fair, for well over six years now and I can’t recall missing a week. If you search for “Soul Serenade” on the Popdose website you can find over 300 entries in this series. So ill health be damned. I’m going to tell you about Peaches & Herb.
They were both born in Washington, D.C. Herb Fame (born Herbert Feemster) starting singing as a child. Eventually, he took a job in a record store, which is where he met Van McCoy, who introduced him to an A&R guy by the name of Dave Kapralik who signed Fame to Date Records, a Columbia subsidiary. Meanwhile, Francine “Peaches” Barker (born Francine Edna Hurd) was singing with the Darlettes. When they got a deal with Date Records they changed their name to the Sweet Things.
McCoy produced two singles for the Darlettes, but when they didn’t go anywhere Kapralik had the brilliant idea of teaming Peaches & Herb to record as a duo. They released their first single in December 1966 but “We’re in this Thing Together” wasn’t getting any traction. Then a DJ in St. Louis flipped the record over and “Let’s Fall in Love” became Peaches & Herb’s first hit.
“Let’s Fall in Love” was an American songbook standard, written in 1934 by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler and recorded by luminaries like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and the Four Aces. The Peaches & Herb version made it to #11 on the R&B chart, and crossed over to the Pop chart, reaching #21.
The next two years saw Peaches & Herb have a string of hits including “For Your Love,” and “Love is Strange.” But Barker got tired of the touring life so Fame got himself a new Peaches in the form of Marlina Mars, who had been a member of the Jaynettes, for live performances. Barker still sung on the records though and even made some solo records for Columbia under the name Francine Barker.
Fame retired in 1970 and became a D.C. cop. He decided to get back into the music business six years later but once again he needed a new Peaches. McCoy recommended Linda Greene, and the most successful Peaches & Herb era began. At first, they recorded for MCA, and McCoy produced their first album for the label, but only one chart single came out of it, the ironically titled “We’re Still Together.” I guess it depends on what your definition of ‘we’ is.
Then they moved on to the Polydor label MVP and things started to happen. The album 2 Hot went gold and “Shake Your Groove Thing” streaked all the way to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. The follow-up single from the album was a little something called “Reunited,” which went triple platinum and topped both the R&B and Pop charts. There were several more hits for Polydor including “I Pledge My Love” before the duo moved on to the Entertainment Company, where they released their seventh and final album in 1983.
Fame retired again and again went into law enforcement, working for the U.S. Marshal Service. Greene and her husband Stephen Tavani released three gospel albums. But Fame couldn’t stay retired, and while still working at the Marshal Service he revived the Peaches & Herb name in 1990, this time making Patrica Hawthorne the fourth Peaches. But they only ended up doing a few shows and didn’t record together.
Despite the fact that the Fame and Greene version of Peaches & Herb had sold nine million records for Polydor, Fame was not as well off as he should have been. He sued his former label and won the unpaid royalties he was entitled to. Now financially secure, he opted to put the money in the bank and keep working at the law enforcement job he loved.
By now you see a pattern, right? Yes, there was a fifth Peaches. She was named Miriamm and she became part of the duo in 2002. This is the pair that you see on PBS fundraising specials like Rhythm, Love & Soul that still air periodically. Sure enough, there was a sixth Peaches, Wanda Makle. That duo was planning to make an album in 2008 but it didn’t happen, and Peaches number seven, Meritxell Negre came over from her home in Barcelona for the gig.
This time there was an album as Fame and Negre released Colors of Love in 2009. It was the first Peaches & Herb album in more than 25 years. But eventually, Fame returned to number six and the Peaches & Herb that are touring these days are Fame and Makle. Stay tuned for further developments.