The Top 3 of the Cash Box Top 60 in R&B Locations for August 14th of 50 years ago was packed by the heavy hitters of Soul. “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” by Marvin Gaye displaced James Brown at the top spot while the Isley Brothers remained at #3. The two fastest rising records in the Top 10 were both by groups finding themselves in such exalted company for the first time. I am not too familiar with the bands or the tunes but they are both pretty, pretty good so let’s get to it with those two.
In 1971 Philadelphia, through the two partnerships of Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff with Thom Bell & Linda Creed, a Philly identity was being established that would emulate the commercial success of Soul music from Detroit, Chicago & Memphis. A melodic, string drenched sound which, according to James Brown’s trombonist Fred Wesley was “putting the bow tie on Funk”. Two of the most recent hits from the City of Brotherly Love had been released by the Phil-LA of Soul label (it’s a fishy pun, say it quickly), a conduit for local talent & for what was happening down in Miami. Both “Boogaloo Down Broadway” by the Fantastic Johnny C & Cliff Nobles & Co’s “The Horse” were distinctive, danceable, deserved but surprise hits & the small label was unable to follow up such success. This week, with “I Likes To Do It” by The People’s Choice, rising five places to #5, they had found themselves another break out hit.
There had been a People’s Choice recording out of Detroit before Frankie Brunson & David Thompson took that name for their new Philadelphia band in 1971. Brunson had made solo records in the 50s & 60s as well as being a member of the Fashions alongside Thompson. He wrote & played keyboards on “I Likes To Do It”, their debut 45 for Phil-LA & what a groovy record it is. Like a funky Ramsey Lewis Trio, not as Jazz-based but with the same simple, insistent, toe-tapping groove. Very nice. There was no big successor to “I Likes…”, no album recorded for the label. The group had been spotted by Gamble & Huff & in 1975 moved across to Sigma Sound Studios to record the “Boogie Down USA” album. The lead single “Do It Any Way You Wanna”, as funky as Philly Soul had ever been, was an R&B #1, Top 20 Pop smash & a proto-Disco international hit.
There’s not much I know about Electric Express. A group from Greensboro, N. Carolina, their debut 45, “It’s the Real Thing” was moving on up a healthy 6 rungs of the chart ladder to #10. There were only to three more singles after this hit, all four written by band members James Powell & Vick Hudson & despite “I Can’t Believe We Did (the Whole Thing)” being on the larger Avco label an album was never forthcoming. “It’s The Real Thing” certainly is, Part 1 is a raw, saxophone led stone Funk groove, the other records are too. All the members of Electric Express are fondly remembered by family & friends in Greensboro & nights at The Carlotta Supper Club or The El Rocco Supper Club on Market St with the group laying it down sound like a great time. In fact any club playing Electric Express & the People’s Choice in 1971 is our kind of place.
OK, “the sweetest woman in the world can be the meanest woman in the world, if you make her that way”. On it’s second week in the chart, rising a healthy 11 places to #39 (pop pickers), The Persuaders, a vocal group begun in New York by former members of the Independents & the Topics, were crossing the “Thin Line Between Love & Hate”. By the second verse lead singer Donald “Smokey” Scott is “laid in the hospital, bandaged from feet to head”!. It’s a cautionary tale, distinctive, dramatic & catching enough ears to eventually spend two weeks at the top of the listings of October 1971. “Thin Line…” was written by the Poindexter Brothers, Robert & Richard, along with Jackie Members, Robert’s wife. The subsequent album, a Poindexter’s production, highlighted the vocal adroitness of the quartet & included “Love Gonna Pack Up (And Walk Out)”, another R&B Top 10 hit.
In 1974, with only Scott remaining from the original line up, the Persuaders were sent to Philadelphia to capture some of the shimmering sound that was sweeping the nation. Their third album was produced by the writer/producer trio called the Young Professionals who included Tony Bell, the younger brother of the famous Thom. From this came the group’s third & final entry into the R&B Top 10. “Some Guys Have All The Luck” has been covered by Robert Palmer, Rod Stewart & Maxi Priest. It’s a sweet Philly Soul cracker.