Soul Serenade: Curtis Mayfield — Keep On Keeping On

Curtis MayfieldCurtis Mayfield was 14 years old when he joined the group that would become the Impressions. He was born in Chicago in 1942 and by the time he was seven, he was singing in the church’s gospel choir with a group called the Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers. Mayfield became friends with Jerry Butler in high school and in 1956, he joined Butler’s group, the Roosters. The other members of the group were the brothers Arthur and Richard Brooks. Two years later, the group changed their name to the Impressions and added Sam Gooden to the lineup.

The Impressions had an early smash with Butler singing lead on “Your Precious Love” and it was enough to motivate Butler to leave the group to start a solo career. Mayfield followed him and co-wrote and played on Butler’s solo hit “He Will Break Your Heart.” But Mayfield wasn’t interested in being a sideman and soon returned to the Impressions who had replaced Butler with Fred Cash. It was the classic Impressions lineup of Mayfield, Gooden, and Cash which signed with ABC Records and released a string of hits which began in 1961 with “Gypsy Woman” and continued with “I’m So Proud,” “It’s Alright,” “Keep on Pushing,” “Amen,” “We’re a Winner,” and “Choice of Colors,” which would be the last hit that Mayfield recorded with the Impressions.

After 14 years with the group, Mayfield left the Impressions to start a solo career. That is where Keep On Keeping On, the new box set from Rhino Records begins. Rhino has lovingly collected Mayfield’s first four solo albums to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the start of Mayfield’s solo career and to mark the 20th anniversary of his death. The set begins with Mayfield’s first solo album, Curtis, which was released in 1970 and reached the Top 20 on its way to becoming a Gold Album. Curtis includes the hit singles “If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go,” and “Move on Up.” In addition to its commercial success, Curtis was one of the most influential albums of its time, inspiring later socially conscious work by Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.

Curtis Mayfield - Keep On Keeping OnA year after his successful debut as a solo artist, Mayfield returned with Roots, which reached the Top 10 on the R&B chart. While not quite as successful as the debut, Roots scored with hits like “Get Down,” “Beautiful Brother of Mine,” and “We Got to Have Peace.” Mayfield’s next effort, which is not included in this set because it was not a true solo album, was his incredibly successful soundtrack for the film Super Fly. The album went to #1 on both the pop and R&B charts and pushed two singles, “Freddie’s Dead,” and “Superfly” into the Top 10.

In 1973, Mayfield released his third proper solo album, Back to the World. The album topped the R&B chart and returned Mayfield to the Top 20 on the pop albums chart. The album’s hit singles included “Future Shock,” “If I Were a Child Again,” and “Can’t Say Nothin’.” Mayfield’s fourth solo album and the final one collected in this set was released in 1974. Sweet Exorcist came within a whisker of the top spot on the R&B chart, settling at #2 and also found Top 40 success on the pop chart. The album’s success was driven by two hit singles, the title track, and “Kung Fu.”

Keep On Keeping On ends with the Sweet Exorcist album but fortunately, Mayfield’s career did not. He continued to record into the 1990s and standout albums from this period included Sparkle (1976) and Heartbeat (1979). “So In Love,” released in 1975, was the last Mayfield single to hit the pop chart but records like “Only You Babe” (1976), “You Are, You Are” (1978), and “She Don’t Let Nobody (But Me)” (1981), continued to find success on the R&B chart. In all, Mayfield scored more than 30 solo hits on the R&B chart to go along with a similar number of R&B hits during his time with the Impressions.

On August 13, 1990, Mayfield was paralyzed when a lighting rig fell on him during a show in Brooklyn. The accident ended his career as a guitar player but he could still write songs and sing, something he did to great effect on his final album, New World Order, in 1997. Mayfield died of complications from diabetes in 1999.

Curtis Mayfield is remembered for introducing social activism into soul music. The Impressions hits “Keep On Pushing,” “People Get Ready,” and “We’re A Winner” became anthems of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and were often used by Martin Luther King to inspire marchers. Mayfield and the Impressions were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 (he was also inducted into the Rock Hall as a solo artist in 1999, one of a handful of double inductees). He received a Grammy Legend Award in 1994 and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. Just before he died, Mayfield was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Soul Serenade: The New Birth, “Wildflower”

The New BirthIn 1972, a Canadian band called Skylark had a big hit with a song called “Wildflower.” The song was written by band member Doug Edwards and Dave Richardson, who was a friend of Skylark founder and future music business giant David Foster. The original version of “Wildflower” made it into the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained on the chart for 21 weeks.

“Wildflower” is the kind of majestic ballad that begs for covers and sure enough, there have been many of them. Among the artists who have recorded the song are Color Me Badd, Hank Crawford, Johnny Mathis, Lisa Fischer, Silk, and the O’Jays. Perhaps the most successful of these cover versions was the one released by the New Birth in 1974.

The idea for the New Birth came from two veterans of Motown Records. Both Vernon Bullock and Harvey Fuqua had been songwriters and producers for the label. The group actually coalesced in Louisville, Kentucky and included musicians Tony Churchill, James Baker, Robin Russell, Austin Lander, Robert “Lurch” Jackson, Leroy Taylor, Charlie Hearndon, Bruce Marshall and Nathaniel “Nebs” Neblett.

The New Birth

The origins of the group go back to 1963 in Louisville. There, Fuqua and Churchill had a band called the Nite-Liters. Russell, Jackson, Lander, and Hearndon were also members of the group. The Nite-Liters had a few hits including “K-Jee” which reached the R&B Top 20 in 1971. Meanwhile, Bullock had the idea of putting together several groups for a touring bill. He discovered a male vocal group called the Now Sound, and a female vocal group called Mint Julep. Bullock added singer Alan Frye, put everyone together with the Nite-Liters, and the New Birth was born in 1970.

The assembled group’s first success came in 1971 when a track from their second RCA album Ain’t No Big Thing, But It’s Growing, a cover of Perry Como’s hit “It’s Impossible,” became a minor hit. But Bullock wasn’t done manipulating the New Birth lineup. He found a group in Detroit called Love, Peace & Happiness (featuring former Marvelette Ann Bogan) and put them together with the Nite-Liters and existing New Birth members Londee Loren, Bobby Downs, and Alan Frye.

The New Birth was now 17 members strong and in 1972 they had their first Top 10 hit with another cover, this one their take on the Valentinos “I Can Understand It.” The single reached #4 on the R&B chart and had crossover success on the pop chart, reaching the Top 40. Bogan soon left the group to take care of her family leaving Loren the only female band member. But Bullock wasn’t happy with her vocal take on the next New Birth single, yes, a cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Until it’s Time For You to Go,” and he enlisted former Supreme Susaye Green to sing it. Fuqua and Carolyn Willis of Honey Cone provided the spoken word intro.

In 1974, the New Birth released an album called It’s Been a Long Time. The album spawned hits with the title track (#9 R&B) and their cover of “Wildflower” which reached #17 on the R&B chart and #45 on the pop chart. Later that same year, the sixth New Birth album was released after which the group parted ways with Fuqua and left RCA to sign with Buddha Records.

It was another cover that gained the New Birth their first and only #1 R&B single. This time it was a cover of the Jerry Butler hit “Dream Merchant” (“Mr. Dream Merchant” as released by Butler) which came from the New Birth’s first and only album for Buddha, Blind Baby. After that release, the group decamped for Warner Bros. Records where they had a few minor hits. After two albums for Warners, several members left the group, and the remaining group left Warners.

There were several label and lineup changes before Bullock put together a revamped lineup in 1994 under the name New Birth, leaving behind the ‘the’. Their most recent album was Lifetime which was released by Orpheus Records in 2005.


Soul Serenade: Diana Ross & the Supremes and the Temptations, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”

The Supremes - The TemptationsEver since I decided to make “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” the focus of this week’s column I’ve been wracking my brain to think of another instance when the full lineups of two huge groups collaborated on a hit record. Yes, there have been supergroups like Cream and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young made up of former members of various bands, but in this instance, we’re talking about the all the members of two groups who were at the top of their game getting together. If you can think of another example, please let me know in the comments.

“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” is a Motown record, right? Well yes, but oddly its origins are pure Philly Soul. The song was written by Philadelphia legends Kenny Gamble and Jerry Ross, who was Gamble’s mentor. It has been claimed that Gamble’s partner Leon Huff had a hand in the writing but only Gamble and Ross are credited on the record. But the time the Supremes and the Temptations got around to it the song had been a hit twice already.

The original version of “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” was recorded by Dee Dee Warwick and produced by Ross. In late 1966, the Mercury Records release attained the #13 spot on the R&B chart and crossed over to #88 on the Pop chart. Also of note on the Warwick release were the background vocals which were provided by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Although it was not her biggest hit, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” is the record most associated with Warwick because of the hit it later became for the Supremes and Temptations.

In all, Ross produced a total of ten recordings of “I’m Going to Make You Love Me.” Among the others were a 1967 version by Jerry Butler and a cover by Jay & the Techniques a year later. Aside from Ross, what all the versions had in common was the presence of Ashford and Simpson as background singers.

In 1968, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” was offered to Dusty Springfield who demurred but passed it along to Madeline Bell who was a background vocalist for her. In an interesting turning of the tables, Springfield ended up singing in the background for Bell on the record. When the record became a #26 hit, Bell, originally from Newark, New Jersey, got to come home from the U.K. with a hit record.

“It was great to go back to my hometown with a record in the charts. I was so happy to go home a success,” Bell said later.

The Supremes - The Temptations

And so the stage was set for the song’s greatest moment. The Supremes and the Temptations collaborated on an album called Diana Ross & the Supremes Join the Temptations and in 1968, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” became the lead single, although that wasn’t the plan at the beginning. The version of “The Impossible Dream” that the two groups had collaborated on was supposed to be the lead single, but when advance copies of the album hit radio stations the DJs started to play “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.”

This time the record was produced by Frank Wilson and, wait for it, Nick Ashford. Diana Ross and the Temptations’ Eddie Kendricks shared the lead vocal duties, and Otis Williams of the Tempts contributed the spoken word section. The always-present Funk Brothers provided the backing track which also included the Detroit Symphony.

In case you were wondering, the Supremes and the Temptations never performed “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” together live. When they appeared together on the legendary TCB special in December 1968, they sang “The Impossible Dream,” still scheduled to be the lead single at that point, to close the show. Both groups performed the song live on their own, however, the Temptations on the Ed Sullivan Show, and the Supremes at their farewell performance in Las Vegas.

“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” was a huge hit for the Supremes and the Temptations, racing up to the #2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1969 and reaching the same lofty perch on the R&B chart.

Soul Serenade: Lloyd Price, “Personality”

Lloyd PriceIn the last couple of years, we have had powerful returns to form from classic soul men William Bell and Don Bryant. Now we can add Lloyd Price, whose new album This is Rock and Roll will be released on September 22, to that list. In honor of the occasion, I thought I would take a look at one of Lloyd’s greatest hits this week.
Price was born on the outskirts of New Orleans and got his start singing and playing piano and trumpet in his church’s gospel choir. He got his big break when Art Rupe came to town in 1952. Rupe owned the Los Angeles-based Specialty Records. He got word that something was happening in the Crescent City and when he arrived there he found that Lloyd Price was very much a part of what was happening.

Price had a song called “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” that Rupe thought would be a hit. He hired ace arranger Dave Bartholomew to work on the record and Bartholomew’s band was there too, a band that included Fats Domino on piano. As it turned out, Rupe was right. “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” was a smash. The follow-up, “Ooh, Ooh, Ooh” didn’t do quite as well and subsequent Specialty singles failed to chart.

In 1954, Price was drafted. When he got out the service he found out that he had been replaced at Specialty by Little Richard. To add insult to injury, Larry Williams, who had been Price’s chauffeur, was having hits for the label. That door closed, Price used the opportunity to start KRC Records along with Harold Logan and Bill Bosken. When the label’s first single, “Just Because,” was picked up by ABC Records for distribution it became a hit. It was the first of several national hits that Price had for the label. “Just Because” was followed by “Stagger Lee,” and “Personality.”

“Personality” was written by Price and Logan and recorded in 1959. The ABC-Paramount single reached #2 on Billboard Hot 100 that year and also climbed to the top of the R&B chart and remained there for four weeks. Billboard named “Personality” the #3 song of the entire year. “I’m Gonna Get Married” was another Top 10 hit for Price in that era. The hits led to Price television appearances on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and the Ed Sullivan Show.

In 1962, Price founded another label with Logan, this one called Double L Records. One of the labels earliest signings was Wilson Pickett. Seven years later, Logan was murdered. Price, on his own, started a label called Turntable and opened a club in New York with the same name. Price proved to be an astute businessman. In addition to the club, he became a builder, erecting 42 townhouses in the Bronx, and promoting fights with Don King including the Ali-Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974.

Price was not done with music, however. In 1993, he toured Europe with Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Gary U.S. Bond. More recently, in 2005, there was the “Four Kings of Rhythm & Blues” tour which featured Price along with Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, and Ben E. King.

Lloyd Price

And that brings us to the new Lloyd Price album, This is Rock and Roll. The album is a winning combination of new Price songs including “I’m Getting Over You,” “The Smoke,” and the funky social commentary of “Nobody Loves Anybody Anymore.” When Price turns to covers of classics like “Blueberry Hill,” “I Can’t Help Myself,” and Jimmy Reed’s “Peepin’ and Hidin’” (recorded live in New York City) he brings his own unique twist to the old chestnuts. He is at his best, however, on an emotional cover of Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”

This is Rock and Roll was recorded primarily at City Lights Studios in Farmingdale, New Jersey with studio owner Guy Daniels producing. The sessions yielded 27 songs and Price chose the ten that he felt sounded like “a reflection of the past but still right now.”

Lloyd Price was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2010. The new album will be available digitally tomorrow at iTunes, and Amazon. The CD can be purchased at Price’s website.

Soul Serenade: Benny Spellman, “Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette)”

Benny SpellmanSometimes it’s not all about where an artist is from. Instead, it’s about the place where they did their best work. Some would say that Jerry Butler is a good example. Although he is a Chicagoan through and through, he will always be associated with Philly Soul because of the work he did in that city with Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff. The same is true of the O’Jays who came from Canton, Ohio and also pushed Philly Soul hits up the charts. Otis Redding came from Georgia, but will always be associated with Memphis music. You get the idea.
Another good example is Benny Spellman. He was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida in 1931, but music wasn’t his first love, football was. His love for the game gained him a scholarship to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He began his singing career in Baton Rouge, hooking up with Alvin Battiste’s jazz group. But then the Army called, Spellman served, and when he got out he went back to Pensacola.

In 1959, fate intervened. Huey “Piano” Smith and his Clowns were on tour in Florida when they wrecked their truck. Spellman stepped up and offered to drive the band back to New Orleans. Once they were back in the Crescent City, Smith offered Spellman the opportunity to become one of the Clowns. Spellman took him up on the offer and became a New Orleans resident from that point on.

Fortunately for Spellman, he had arrived in town at a great time. The local R&B scene was flourishing and before long he had a deal with a new record label called Minit. His first recordings for the label didn’t get much attention and Spellman survived by working as a background singer on other people’s records.

Once again Spellman found himself in the right place at the right time. This time he happened to be in the studio when Allen Toussaint was producing the session that would result in Ernie K Doe’s massive hit, “Mother-In-Law.” Toussaint, who wrote the song, wasn’t very happy with the way the session was going and he called on Spellman to help out. Spellman sang the distinctive bass part that put the song over the top.

Benny Spellman

That was the start of a relationship that found Spellman recording a double-sided single featuring two Toussaint songs, “Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette),” and “Fortune Teller.” The record turned out to be Spellman’s biggest hit, reaching #28 R&B chart and #80 on the Billboard Hot 100. The record spent six weeks on the chart.

“Well, ‘Lipstick Traces’… the guy, Benny Spellman, that sang the bass part on “Mother-In-Law” — he didn’t know what it was worth at the time we were doing it, but when ‘Mother-In-Law’ came out and sold, and went to number one, let’s say, Benny Spellman that sang the bass part made sure that everyone within the sound of his voice got to know that he sang that part,” Toussaint told Terry Gross of NPR.

“And then he would go around — he would gig — based on [the fact that] he sang the low part on “Mother-In-Law,” Toussaint added. “And he encouraged me … with much force, to write him a song that he could use that concept. And one result of that was the song ‘Lipstick Traces.’”

The Rolling Stones covered “Fortune Teller,” and the O’Jays released their version of “Lipstick Traces,” but Spellman never had another chart record. By 1968 he was done with the record business and he went home to Pensacola where he got a job as a Miller Beer salesman. He tried for a musical comeback in the 1980s but a stroke cut the effort short.

In 2009, Spellman, by the residing in an assisted living facility, was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Two years later he died at the age of 79.


Soul Serenade: The Radiants, “It Ain’t No Big Thing”

The RadiantsChicago has been known as a blues mecca ever since giants like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf made their way north from Mississippi seeking greater opportunity. In fact, the electrified and electrifying sound they and others developed would come to be known as Chicago Blues. But the music coming out of the Windy City was not limited to blues. Soul music giants like Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, Jerry Butler, and Billy Stewart called Chicago home as well.

The Radiants never quite reached the level of success that the artists I mentioned above achieved but they did manage to send a few records up the charts in the 1960s. The group’s original lineup of lead vocalist Maurice McCallister, baritone Wallace Sampson, second tenor Jerome Brooks, bass singer Elzie Butler, and first tenor Charles Washington met while they were singing in the youth choir at Greater Harvest Baptist Church. Like other artists who got their start in church, the Radiants began their career singing gospel in churches but also adding in some secular R&B songs that McCallister wrote.

It wasn’t long before the Radiants abandoned gospel altogether. Before their first recording session, Washington had left the group and been replaced by McLauren Green. The group recorded demos and shopped them around but couldn’t get a bite. All of the big labels turned them down including Motown and Chess. But Chess eventually had a change of heart and signed the Radiants.

At Chess, the group was mentored by Billy Davis, one-time songwriting partner of Berry Gordy, Jr. The Radiants’ first single for the label was released in 1962. “Father Knows Best” b/w “One Day I’ll Show You” was unsuccessful everywhere with the exception of Cleveland, where it was a local hit. Chess singles “Heartbreak Society,” “Shy Guy,” and “I Gotta Dance to Keep My Baby” followed and while they all sounded like hits, none of them were. Poor promotion by the label seems to have been the culprit.

Green was drafted and he was replaced by Frank McCollum. But by 1964 the Radiants were in disarray. Things got so bad that the group actually broke up, leaving only McCallister and Sampson to form a new lineup. Leonard Caston, Jr. had been the organist at Greater Harvest and his return from the army was timely as he became the third member of the new Radiants lineup.

The Radiants

Now a trio, the Radiants released “Voice Your Choice” in late 1964. It was their biggest hit, reaching #16 on the R&B chart, and #51 on the Billboard Hot 100. The follow-up single was “It Ain’t No Big Thing” and although it failed to make the Pop chart, it reached #14 R&B. The Radiants modeled themselves after the Impressions on these records, with McCallister and Caston trading lead vocals, and employing the Impressions three-part harmony style.

Caston had his eye on a songwriting and production career and left the Radiants in 1965. James Jameson replaced him and he can be heard on the single “Baby You Got It.” That’s about the time that things got complicated. McCallister left the group shortly after the single was released and the departure of the group’s founder should have put an end to things, right? Well, no.

There was another Chess group called the Confessions and they were led by a guy named Mitchell Bullock. They recorded a single called “Don’t It Make You Feel Kinda Bad” but broke up before it was released. Davis had the idea of enlisting Bullock to work with Sampson and Jameson. When they added Caston’s brother Victor, the Radiants were a quartet again. Remember that Confessions single? Without re-recording it or changing anything Chess released it as a Radiants single.

“Don’t It Make You Feel Kinda Bad” wasn’t a big hit, only reaching #47 on the R&B chart, but the next Radiants single, “Hold On,” managed to reach #68 on the Pop chart, and #35 R&B in 1968. It would be the last chart record for the Radiants. They left Chess the following year and broke up in 1972.

McCallister went on to have some success with as part of a duo that also included former Radiant McLauren Green. They two collaborated as Maurice & Mac on a single called “You Left the Water Running” which is revered by soul music aficionados. Chess never released a Radiants album but did include several of the group’s singles on compilation albums.

Soul Serenade: Jackie Ross, “Selfish One”

Soul Serenade - Jackie RossWhen the Beatles arrived in America in 1964 many dreams of stardom were crushed. The ensuing flood tide known as the British Invasion swept away many artists who had been enjoying success in the ’50s and early ’60s. There were exceptions however, and among those exceptions were the artists who recorded for Motown Records. Motown continued to turn out hit after hit, as if oblivious to the charms of the invaders from across the sea.

One of those Motown artists was a great singer by the name of Mary Wells. She was more than just another Motown artist. In many ways she defined the sound of Motown in the early ’60s, scoring with her trio of 1962 hits “The One Who Really Loves You,” “Two Lovers,” and “You Beat Me to the Punch,” followed by her biggest hit, “My Guy,” in 1964. The Smokey Robinson-written song was a #1 hit on the Pop and R&B charts … (more)

Soul Serenade: Gene Chandler, “Groovy Situation”

Soul Serenade - Gene ChandlerOne of the biggest hits of my childhood was “Duke of Earl” by Gene Chandler. It was pretty much impossible for children of any age to not love the 1962 single with its addictive bass chant “Duke, Duke Duke, Duke of Earl … ” I’m hearing it in my head even as I write this, and now that you’re reading it, I’ll bet you are too. The proof that the record was, and is, undeniable was the #1 spot it reached on both the Pop and R&B charts.

Gene Chandler (born Eugene Dixon) grew up on the South Side of Chicago. He began his music career in the early ’50s with a band called the Gaytones. Later in the decade he became a member of the Dukays. Chandler’s singing career was interrupted when he was drafted into the Army, but by 1960 he had returned to the Dukays, and was their lead singer when they signed with Nat Records. Their first single for the label was “The Girl is a Devil,” which was released in 1961. The record reached a respectable #64 on the Pop chart.

A subsequent Dukays session for Nat Records resulted in four more tracks, including “Nite Owl,” and “Duke of Earl.” When the record company fatefully decided to release “Nite Owl” as the group’s next single, producers ‘Bunky’ Sheppard and Carl Davis shopped “Duke of Earl” and landed a deal with Vee Jay Records to release it as a solo single for Chandler. The record sold a million copies in just over a month and topped the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks. Chandler played the part to the hilt, donning a top hat, cape, and monocle, and billing himself as ‘The Duke.’

By 1963, Chandler had left Vee Jay, and signed with Constellation Records. His hits for Constellation included “Just Be True,” and “Nothing Can Stop Me,” both penned by Curtis Mayfield, and produced by Davis. When Constellation went belly-up on 1966, Chandler moved on to Chess Records, then to Brunswick Records. The two labels actually alternated Chandler releases for some period of time.

More hits followed, including “What Now,” “Rainbow,” “I Fooled You This Time,” “Think About It,” “A Man’s Temptation,” “Rainbow ’65” (record live at the Regal Theater in Chicago), and “Bless Our Love.” But Chandler grew weary of constant performing, and looked to get into record production. One of his biggest successes as a producer was Mel & Tim’s 1969 smash “Backfield in Motion.” The record was a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

Chandler’s success as a producer earned him the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers Producer of the Year award in 1970. It was an impressive achievement for Chandler, particularly in light of the fact that his competition for the award that year included Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff, and Norman Whitfield.

Gene Chandler

Chandler was not done as a singer however. He released “Groovy Situation” in 1970, and it became his second biggest single, after “Duke of Earl.” The song was written by Russell Lewis and Herman Davis, and had originally been recorded by Mel & Tim. Chandler’s version reached #12 on the Billboard Hot 100, went Top 10 on the R&B chart, and sold a million copies.

Chandler collaborated with Jerry Butler on the album Gene and Jerry: One on One later in 1970. He sang with Curtis Mayfield on the live album Curtis in Chicago in 1973, and with Arthur Louis on the Knocking on Heaven’s Door album, which also featured Eric Clapton, the following year. Chandler released four singles on Mayfield’s Curtom label, but none of them had any chart success.

Later in the decade Chandler found renewed success in the disco era. His hits from that period included “Get Down,” “When You’re #1,” and “Does She Have a Friend?” It was also during this time that Chandler was named Executive Vice President of Chi Sound Records.

Chandler continues to perform in the U.S. and Europe. His extraordinary career spanned the doo-wop, rhythm & blues, soul, and disco era. Chandler is a Grammy Hall of Fame inductee, and was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation. He was inducted into the Official Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2014.

Soul Serenade: Isaac Hayes, “I Stand Accused”

Isaac Hayes - "I Stand Accused"In 1964, Jerry Butler had a moderately-sized hit with “I Stand Accused.” He’d already had bigger hits, several of them, and he had many bigger hits ahead of him. Nonetheless, “I Stand Accused,” a song Butler wrote with his brother Billy, has become one of Butler’s most beloved songs. It’s unlikely that it would be so well-remembered however, if not for Isaac Hayes’ majestic 1970 cover version of the song.

Hayes had released his landmark Hot Buttered Soul album in 1969. The album was a key component in the Stax Records comeback that Al Bell engineered after Atlantic Records laid claim to all of the Stax masters recorded between 1960-1967, and the tragic death of the label’s superstar, Otis Redding. Bell hatched a plan to flood the market with dozens of new Stax singles and albums, and one of the most successful efforts in this surge of activity was Hot Buttered Soul, which sold three million copies … (more)

Soul Serenade: Billy Paul, “Me And Mrs. Jones”

Billy Paul - Me and Mrs. JonesIt’s time to head down the Turnpike to Philadelphia again. These trips to the City of Brotherly Love are pretty much my favorite part of writing this column. As I’ve said many times, here and elsewhere, it was the kids of Philadelphia, with their profound love of soul music, that had an everlasting effect on a kid growing up an hour away in Atlantic City. It’s a debt I can never repay, for a gift I will never forget.

You know the names. They echo down the halls of the virtual museum of American soul music, in the wing that they call Philly Soul. Gamble & Huff, Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes, the Stylistics, Barbara Mason, the Intruders, Teddy Pendergrass, the Delfonics, MFSB, Patti LaBelle, Blue Magic, Hall & Oates, the Soul Survivors. And they’re not all Philadelphians either. Out-of-towners like Jerry Butler, the O’Jays, and the Spinners found their greatest success when they recorded in Philadelphia … (more)