Robert writes about rock & pop music, and vinyl record collecting.
In our continuing series about "bird" and "animal" bands and artists in rock and roll history, let's explore more "bird" group names.
The short career of the Detroit "bird" band the Falcons was highlighted by their release in 1959 called "You're So Fine," which is often considered the first true soul record. But a host of 1960's soul stars called themselves the Falcons at one time or another including the founder of the group, Eddie Floyd. The list also included a young Wilson Pickett, from 1961-63 (who went on to an illustrious career and was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1991), Sir Mack Rice and Joe Stubbs (brother of Four Tops member Levi Stubbs). Under the direction of Robert West, the Falcons sound was more gospel based and when Pickett skillfully screamed the gospel-filled ballad "I Found A Love" to national prominence, it more or less ended the vocal group as Pickett went solo soon thereafter the release. The group broke up but not before carving a small, yet prominent niche in soul music.
In 1958, a line up consisting of Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey and Bill Isles formed a vocal ensemble called the Triumphs. They recorded for King as the Mascots and made their recording debut with the song "Miracles," under the Wayco Record label. A Cleveland DJ named Eddie O'Jay loved the group and he decided to become the vocal group's manager and as a gesture of appreciation the group renamed themselves the O'Jays. They recorded for Imperial Records from 1963-67 with minor success ("Stand In For Love" number twelve on the rhythm and blues charts in 1966).
In 1966, Isles left the group and the quartet signed on with Bell Records and scored a number eight R&B hit called "I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today") in 1967. After the members of the O'Jays contemplating quitting, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff signed the group to their Neptune label and the O'Jays had four hits including "One Night Affair" (number fifteen on the R&B 1969) and "Looky Looky (Look At Me Girl)" (number seventeen on the R&B charts in 1970). But after Neptune Records folded, Massey quit the group and started producing records.
The trio of Levert, Williams and Powell attempted self-promotion, but soon signed on with Gamble and Huff's new label, Philadelphia International. Under their guidance, the O'Jays came into their own with an impressive set of gold and platinum records. This includes eight number one R&B singles from 1972-1978 including the smash hit (and now featured in a beer commercial), "Love Train" (1973), "For The Love Of Money" (1974), "I Love Music (Part One)" (1975) and "Use Ta Be My Girl" (number four in 1978).
But in 1975, Powell was stricken with cancer and could no longer tour (he died two years later) and he was replaced by Little Anthony & The Imperials veteran Sammy Strain. The group continued to produce quintessential Soul and R&B music with hits such as "Lovin You" (a number one on the R&B charts in 1987 from the LP, "Let Me Touch You") and a number four R&B hit in 1989 called "Serious." The singles included "Have You Had Your Love Today" (number one on the R&B singles chart), "Out Of My Mind" (number eleven R&B charts) as well as "Serious Hold On Me," which peaked at number nine on the R&B charts. In 1991, the O'Jays released the LP (another gold record for the group) "Emotionally Yours," which included the hit singles "Keep On Lovin Me" (number four on the R&B charts), "Don't Let Me Down" (number two R&B charts) and the Bob Dylan-penned tune "Emotionally Yours" (number five on the R&B charts).
In 1993, Sammy Strain left the group to reform Little Anthony and the Imperials and was replaced by Nathan Best. The O'Jays released the album "Heartbreaker" that same year and it was yet another Top Ten R&B classic. Eric Grant replaced Best before the 1997 album called "Love You To Tears" (number fourteen on the R&B charts and number seventy-five on the Pop charts)
The group has certainly paid their dues, touring incessantly and they also have kept their sound alive by adapting to the musical changes in pop, R&B and soul music. But one thing has remained constant, the O'Jays have created an R&B legacy that is unmatched and they are one of the signature soul groups of all time.
The Partridge Family was not a family in real life (although they did play one on TV). But teen heartthrob David Cassidy and Shirley Jones were related (Shirley married David's father Jack Cassidy). The fictional TV group, loosely based on the Cowsills, hit number one with the sappy song "I Think I Love You" in 1970. In the first episode of the sitcom, the kids ask Mom (Shirley Jones) to help with a recording session in the garage and then try to sell the music to a record label, hoping to have a number one single. Ironically, the song "I Think I Love You," DID top the Billboard charts!
The show ran from 1970-1974 with only moderate musical success after that single, but David Cassidy emerged as one of the top great teen idols of the 1970's. Interestingly, Cassidy was actually declared a hazard to public health in Australia, as his solo tours were pop rock disasters filled with screaming teenage girls. During a London show, more than a thousand people were injured and tragically one female fan was crushed to death when a concert got out of hand. In 1971, David Cassidy was able to secure a Top 40 Billboard hit with the song "Cherish." Fellow band member and actress Susan Dey, went on to L. A. Law fame and actor Danny Bonaduce slipped into drugs, but has recovered and is still active in show business.
Look for part nine of our series when again we will focus on some more bird names and groups in rock and roll history.
The Falcons were originally:
Eddie Floyd (1955-1963) Bob Manardo (1955-1957) Arnett Robinson (1955-1957) Tom Shetler (1955-1957) Willie Schofield (1955-1963)
Some members were replaced over time:
Joe Stubbs (1957-1960) Wilson Pickett (1960-1963) Mack Rice (1957-1963) Lance Finnie (1957-1963) Robert Ward (1957-1963)
After 1963, the Fabulous Playboys took over the Falcons name. The later group comprised of Carlis 'Sonny' Monroe, James Gibson, Johnny Alvin, Alton Hollowell. This group made the R&B chart in 1966 with "Standing On Guard."
On February 23, 2007, Radio-Canada's website reported that Canadian Industry Minister Jim Prentice had used the song "For The Love of Money" without the group's permission during a political event, a faux pas since Prentice is responsible for the application of the Copyright Act in Canada. Radio-Canada also reports that Prentice has since been contacted by the attorneys for both the O'Jays and Warner/Chappell Music.
"For the Love of Money" is the theme song to the hit reality TV show The Apprentice, starring Donald Trump, which is ironic considering that the lyrics warn of the evil people will do for the love of money.
In 2005 the O'Jays were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Original members Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, Bobby Massey and, posthumously, William Powell, were inducted. In a note of controversy, 70's O'Jays member Sammy Strain was also inducted with the group, while original member Bill Isles was not. (Strain is one of the few artists in popular music history who is a double Rock Hall inductee: with The O'Jays in 2005, and The Imperials in 2009).
Partridge Family Tidbits:
The pilot was called The Family Business. After they found a manager, the group acquired an old school bus, painted it and departed to Las Vegas for their first live gig at Caesars Palace. After the series was sold, the title was changed to The Partridge Family.
The Partridge Family was produced for ABC by Screen Gems, which was just finishing its run with The Monkees, another show about a fictional musical group. The company promoted the show by releasing a series of albums featuring the family band, though most cast members did not actually play on the recordings. Led by producer Wes Farrell, a group of hired studio musicians (informally referred to as the Ron Hicklin Singers and Wrecking Crew) actually created the Partridge Family's sound. David Cassidy was originally to lip sync with the rest of the cast, but he convinced Farrell just weeks into production that he could sing well and was allowed to join the studio ensemble as the lead singer.
A modernized-version of the bus was created for a new promotion in 2004, when VH1 premiered In Search of the New Partridge Family. This talent competition in the format of American Idol sought a new cast for a contemporary version of the sitcom. The elimination-type program aired seven episodes in which a panel of judges selected a new Partridge Family cast from auditioners across the country. The resulting pilot episode of The New Partridge Family aired in January 2005, but due to low ratings VH1 opted not to produce any more episodes.