INTERVIEW/CONVERSATION - With Archie Bell
On the morning 8/20/2006I woke up early on a Sunday morning despite having been out late the night before attending the Hil St. Soul show in Philly. That's because I had the honor of interviewing the legendary...
MR. ARCHIE BELL (from Houston Texas)
at an "undisclosed location" in NYC earlier today.
Actually it's less of an "interview" and more of a "conversation" that also included Mrs. Juanita Bell and Soul-Patrol's NYC Coordinator Cheryl Russell.
Our "conversation" lasted about 1.5 hours and included the following topics...
- The TRUE story of "Tighten Up".
- Former NFL great Ricky Bell (Archie's Brother)
- Archie's Years @ Atlantic Records
- Archie's Years @ Philadelphia International Records
- Archie's Years @ TK Records
- Legendary Houston DJ/Manager Skipper Lee Frazier
- Artist Rip-offs (then and now)
- The effects of Hurricane Katrina on Houston Texas
- What's a "Drell"?
- Texas FUNK
- FAKE versions of Archie Bell and the Drells
- The book "House on Fire" (the story of Philadelphia Soul)
- The past, present and future legacy of Black Music
- and more
As you can imagine this 1.5 hour "conversation" was not only a whole lotta fun, but quite educational as well. Thanks Cheryl for helping out. So listen, learn and let us know what cha think???
OFFICIAL BIOGRAPHY - Archie Bell
Archie Lee Bell, one of seven children born to Langston and Ruthie Bell, in Henderson, Texas. His parents moved to Houston, Texas when he was just four months old. At the age of ten he began singing professionally. Archie gives praise and credit to GOD and his mother for his unique great gift for singing and entertaining talent. His Mother is his mentor. He spiritual singing at church and home inspires him to this day.
While attending Junior High School, Archie formed a group that assumed a derivative of his own last name, called the "Drells." They were winning almost all the talent shows they entered. Skipper Lee Frazer, a local D.J. from Houston, recognized the great talent and knew this group would become a big success. He was instrumental in helping with their first record "Tighten Up" it sold 200,000 copies in just two days in New York, the record went gold and the rest is history.
The "Drells" later changed their name to Archie Bell and The Drells. Their popularity heightened and gained strength when Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Tom Bell produced such tunes as, "I CAN'T STOP DANCING," "THERE'S GOING TO BE A SHOWDOWN," and "GIRL, YOU'RE TOO YOUNG." The group signed with Philadelphia International Records, which was owned by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. They released such songs as "DANCE YOUR TROUBLES AWAY." "WHERE WILL YOU GO WHEN THE PARTY IS OVER." "HARD NOT TO LIKE IT," and "STRATEGY." With the help of McFadden and Whitehead, the group stayed on the charts year after year.
Archie Bell and The Drells gave their last performance together at Carnegie Hall in New York City. It was time for change, time for Archie to venture out on his own. He is now a solo artist, writer and arranger and producer. He operates as President of his own company, entitled, KGMA PRODUCTIONS. "Keeping Good Music Alive." Archie manages new artist and continues to perform worldwide. Archie has taken on some new Drells that also perform as solo acts during the Archie Bell Revue. As a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame personality, Archie enjoys love of all fans and participating in the grand openings of Dick Clark's restaurant chain.
During the nineties, Archie continues to be loved by venues catering to families, adult crowds and the older generation. His music has proven ro be immune to time. Archie believes in peace and happiness for all. He is a down to earth and good natured person. His loves are sports of all kinds. He is a collector of memorabilia and a lover of Mother Nature. Young children are a very deep concern of his because he is aware that children are our future. Archie highly respects the wisdom of his elders especially his Mother
CONCERT REVIEWS - Archie Bell (w/Dansettes) @ Joe's Pub- NYC - 8/21/2006
WOW!!! What a show!!!
I want to thank Archie and Juanita Bell for being so kind and gracious to me and Bob during the interview/conversation we had on Saturday and for the meet and greet with us after the show last night. Juanita, it was an honor to have you sit at our table during the show.
Third - the show: The Dansettes came out first. The Dansettes are the ultimate 60's girl group (from the hairstyle, to the outfits, to the original songs). Those girls could sing and the band was tight! If you closed your eyes you were right back in 1968. Which was the perfect way to introduce Mr. Archie Bell from Houston, Texas!!?
Archie was smooth as silk and could sing! Not only that, he danced like someone 30 years younger than his 62 years. He sang so many songs, did some impersonations and had Joe's Pub on their feet the entire set! (I think Bob may have the set list - I was having so much fun I didn't take any notes). And of course, he ended the show with "TIghten Up!".
All I can say is I haven't had that much fun in a long, long time! Seriously, we had a BLAST!!!!
If Archie Bell (from Houston, Texas) is in your neighborhood, DON'T MISS HIM!!!! Archie, please, please come back to New York soon!
Cheryl Y. Russell
New York Soul-Patrol.com Coordinator
As Archie would say: Hi everybody! Bob made me promise I'd write a review but there's not much I can add to what Evan, Cheryl, Bob, and Baron have already said about Archie Bell. His performance was a total killer. Don't know when a show has ever made me happier. What a showman. The man had me and everybody else there in the palm of his hand the whole night. "Showdown" was my favorite, but there wasn't a dull moment. The way people levitated out of their seats, you could sell "Tighten Up" as an antigravity device.
A lot of people probably assume Archie Bell is an old, tired one-hit wonder working nostalgia shows to pay the bills. But man, if that's "old and tired," then "young and hip" needs to get out of the way.
Archie Bell of Houston, Texas, is a master entertainer. I felt privileged to be in that room, and to share in the pure joy.
u ain't nevah lied. that was a night of true lost soul. 1st of all, the dansettes were great. they were a girl group who looked the part,but the lyrics didn't sound the part. instead of finding a true love,they sound like they've been kicked in head by love (ha ha). they seemed like a big group on stage,but when i saw them after the show,they seemed 2 be shorter than cheryl.
then mr drell came on stage. he started with "let's groove" in which people were moving in their chairs. then he came out with "i just stop dancing" & the place went beserk. i've been 2 joe's quite a few times & the place has never rocked like that be4. he also did "stand by me" ,"strategy", "showdown" (more dancing) "ain't no sunshine", "girl, you're 2 young" (i 4got the order) but by the time "tighten up" came on,it was ova. the whole bar was on their feet. even i got up 2 move my legs. part of it was i only had 3 hrs sleep the previous night,but i had
2 see archie bell no matter what. bob tried 2 get me 2 hang out a little bit more,but it was past my bedtime & i went home. it didn't matter,i crashed @ 2,got up @ 5 & dragged myself 2 the plantation. 2 see mr drell rock the place like that, it was worth it.
--Mad Dog of Soul
I just got back from the Archie Bell show at Joe's Pub he is NO JOKE...
ARCHIE BELL ROCKED THA HOUSE TONIGHT
I have been to Joe's Pub many times in my life. Tonight was the FIRST TIME that I have ever seen so many people dancing in the club. He turned Joe's Pub into a house party. The normally "too cool to be cool" Joe's Pub, was just like a "sweatbox in the projects" tonight. I was on my feet damn near the entire show It was quite an experience....
Remember the video... R.O.C.K in the USA? (that's what the Dansettes felt like to me)
"I Can't Stop Dancing". That's the name of the song. And when it came on, I suddenly felt really old. What flashed into my mind was the day when I brought my copy of "I Can't Stop Dancing", on 45......lol (man that was a LONG time ago.....lol)
He did "Stand by Me" it was the Spyder Turner version (including the Sam Cooke impersonation with "Cupid") Plus don't forget the Shep & the Limelites medley Archie Bell did ("Daddy's Home and "Thousand Miles Away"). He TORE UP those two doo wop classics. I never realized that he could sing so well. In fact he really impressed me when he started throwing down with that SUPER DEEP BASS (a' la Melvin Franklin of the Temptations)
Man that whole joint just went wild the moment Archie Bell fired up "Tighten Up". What more can you say? It's one of the top songs of all time. I'm mean, who dosn't dig the hell out of "Tighten Up"? Hell, I'll bet that if Dick Chaney had been there even he would have stood up and been shaking his be-hind off of "Tighten Up".....lol
:64 YEAR OLD
::::TURN THE CROWD
Ya gotta see him LIVE...
Even if someone had taped the show and put it out on a DVD, that watching that DVD will in no way, shape or form be the same as being there. It won't even be close!!!
The feeling of being in a club that's too small to dance in and dancing along with a couple of hundred other people to near perfectly executed songs that are 35-40 years old is something that technology can't duplicate
And there is absolutely no doubt in our minds, that Archie Bell would do the same thing next week, next month or 10 years from now if we SHOWED UP to observe it.
NP: I Just Can't Stop Dancing
HISTORICAL ANALYSIS - Archie Bell & The Drells
.....Hi everybody!! I'm Archie Bell & the Drells, from Houston, TX........
That famous intro stayed in the minds of party goers all over soulland for more
than 32 years. The reason being is because of this particular group from Houston, Texas, Archie Bell & The Drells.
Archie Bell born on Sept 1,1944 in Henderson, TX, but was raised in Houston along with his seven brothers.
His brother Ricky Bell was an All-American football player. Archie began singing in church because of his mother Ruthie, who sang Gospel in the choir. He formed Archie Bell & The Drells during his teen years. The group consists of
Billy Butler ( not Jerry Butler's brother), James Wise and Willie Parnell.
Archie wanted the group's name to rhyme with his, so to avoid any confusion with the group the Dells, he decided to call his group The Drells. The group performed various talent shows around Houston, and one particular talent show, the group was discovered by top radio personality from station KCOH, Skipper Lee Frazier.
Frazier at the time own his own label as well, Ovid Records, and on a handshake deal with Frazier, Archie and his group recorded their first single entitled " She's My Woman". During the summer of 1967, the song became a regional hit, especially in Chicago's WBEE 1570 AM Radio ( The soul sound) . On WBEE's
radio Bee Line Up playlist on Thurs, August 17, 1967, the song was no 31.
After the song was recorded, Archie Bell was drafted into the armed forces.
Before he left to do his civic duty, the Drells recorded another song that would change their lives forever entitled "Tighten Up" backed up by a group of fellows
that attended Texas Southern University who called themselves The TSU Toronados. The TSU Toronados consists of, brothers Cal & Will Thomas who were the lead guitarists, Jerry Jenkins on the bass, Dwight Burns on drums,
Robert Sanders on organ, and the brass section were, Clarence Harper, Nelson Mills, and Leroy Lewis. They would go on to have a hit of their own in 1969 entiled, "Getting The Corners" on the Atlantic label. The group performed the instrumental version of " Tighten Up" in various clubs around Houston and received a heavy response from crowd. Skipper Lee Frazier had the idea of putting lyrics to the song and have Archie & The Drells recorded it. Archie and group member Billy Butler wrote the lyrics to the music and a dance was built around it as well.
The TSU Tornadoes cut their instrumental track at Doyle Jones' eight track studio in Houston. The funny part of this story is that it took Archie & the Drells to say "tighten up on those drums" a popular saying created by James Brown who had his hit "Cold Sweat" at time of their recording this song. They were up to 3
AM in the morning!! Released on December, 1967 on the Ovid label , Skipper Lee Frazier began peddling the records from his car to various record shops around town. Being a popular disc jockey on KCOH, he had props to plug the record,but almost made a fatal mistake had it not been for his lady partner at the station. He began to plug the other side of the record!!! A song entitled " Dog Eat Dog".
His partner was telling him to play " Tighten Up" the other side. After her Final persuasion, he reluctantly played the right side. It became a hit all over
Huey Meaux from Atlantic records heard of the song and picked up the record for national distribution. The song hit No 1 on both the R&B and Pop Charts selling a million records in just nine weeks of it's release on the Atlantic label in April,1968!!!!!! There was an LP issued in the summer of 68' entitled "Tighten Up" hitting No 15# on the R&B charts and No 142# on the Pop charts. While, the song was close to selling a million records, offers to tour around the country
pour in, but Archie was in the Army, so the Drells had to tour alone without him.
The Armed Forces were generous in letting Archie tour with his group during the summer of 1968, and a chance meeting took place on one night at a club in New Jersey during one of their performances. Philadelphia songwriters Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff were in the audience and wanted to persuade the group to let them write and produce their songs. Giving an ok from Skipper Lee Frazier, they began recording Gamble-Huff material, and would begin a wonderful collaboration of hit songs such as, I Can't Stop Dancing" (another million seller) and my favorite one in the summer of 1968, " Do The Choo Choo" b/w "Love's Gonna Rain On You", There's Gonna Be A Showdown" b/w Go For What You Know", Girl You're Too Young" My Balloon's Going Up" and "I Love My Baby". Part two of "Tighten Up" would be added later by Atlantic records after the song became popular. There is however a version release by Atlantic of " Tighten Up" with the B side being "Dog Eat Dog" ( the same song that Skipper Lee Frazier played and thought would be the hit side). Archie & The Drells last hit for the Atlantic label would be a Sam & Dave ( B Side hit of their early 1968 hit " I Thank You" ) entitled " Wrap It Up" in 1969.
They left Atlantic records in 1970 and signed with the Glades label. On that label, they had a hit song entitled " Dancing To Your Music". My favorite song that the Drells recorded on that label was " Girls Grow Faster Than Boys" in 1973. They stayed with the Glades label for a few years after having a dry spell, they return to the Philly sound and signed on the newly TSOP label started by Gamble & Huff in 1973. Their first hit on the label was a Bunny Sigler composition entitled " I Could Dance All Night" a smoker!
Next was " Soul City Walk" and then the million seller " Let's Groove" another smoker from the winter of 1975-76!!!! The Lp " Dance Your Troubles Away" hit top ten on the R&B charts during that winter of 75' as well. The next LP " Where Will You Go When The Party's Over" contained the singles " Glad You Could Make It", " Don't Let Love Get You Down" and " Everybody Have A Good Time" were good songs but charted very low in 1977. The LP "Strategy" would prove a good comeback with classics hit singles as " Strategy" and " Show Me How To Dance" two absolute smokers from the spring-summer of 1979!!!!!
The next and last LP " Hard Not To Like It" sank without a trace. Archie Bell went solo and signed with the label Becket records in 1980. He recorded an LP entitled " Never Had It So Good" and released the hit single " Anytime Is Right" in the summer of 1981.
There's a greatest hits CD on Archie Bell & The Drells that was released on Rhino in 1994 entitled " Tighten It Up, The Best Of Archie Bell & The Drells". It's a pretty good CD to purchase, but there are so many hits missing from this complilation that in my opinion, Rhino didn't take the time to really research the great music that Archie & The Drells recorded. It to me is just watered down version of their hits that were left out!!! There should be a box set on this group, because they created enough hits from 4 labels to make a fantastic music eargasm!!
The other two CD's released were Disco Showdown in 1999 and Archie Bell & The Drells in both 1999 and 2000 on Music Club and Sony Special labels.
I still get chills when I hear the opening intro of " I Can't Stop Dancing" whew!!!!
The B side "You're Such A Beautiful Child" another killer!!! Love's Gonna Rain On You, Do The Choo Choo , There's Gonna Be A Showdown b/w Go For What YouKnow , Girl You're Too Young, My Balloon's Going Up, Let's Groove, I Could Dance All Night, etc; are just personal favorites of mine.
Archie Bell& The Drells are another example of a forgotten soul group gone to pasture. People we must keep the soul alive and kicking and not forget those groups that gives us such a good feeling when we sing their music.
Oh incidentally, quite a few people have asked me over the years why does Archie Bell always introduces Houston Texas in all of his hit records.
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 Archie heard a DJ saying that nothing good ever came from Texas. Archie wanted to tell the world that they were from Texas and that they were proud to come from there. If you run across any Archie Bell LP''s, get them!! They are gem to have in the precious jewel of soul music!!!!!!!
Mike" Chancellor of Soul" Boone
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