|Soul-Patrol.Net Radio Gerald LeVert Tribute Show
The Late Gerald Levert
I started geting phone calls at about 2pm on Friday November 10. The first one was from Cleveland (SP Coordinador Iris Smith) and then they continued all afternoon and into the evening. At first the calls were to inform me of the passing of Gerald Levert. Later the calls were from people who were close to him, expressing pain and shock. By the time I was able to reach a computer my inbox was full of notifications about the passing of Gerald Levert. Next came the emails from people wanting to know when Soul-Patrol is going to have a tribute posted to Gerald Levert?
Well here is our tribute to Gerald Levert. It comes from our man in Chicago "King" George. To listen click on the link below, the banner below or on Gerald's picture above and let us know what cha think???
(HOSTED BY "KING" GEORGE)
Click here to listen to Soul-Patrol's EXCLUSIVE Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame Inductions Press Confrence, featuring the O'Jays.
Click here to listen to Soul-Patrol's EXCLUSIVE 1:15 hr Interview with O'Jays FOUNDING MEMBER Bobby Massey, as he takes us to school on the early history of the O'Jays, racism in the music business, the RRHOF, why Bill Isles wasn't inducted, a Massey family discussion on the inaccuracies of the RRHOF Inductions documentation and more. Also listen to a short two song set of pre Gamble/Huff O'Jays courtesy of Soul-Patrol.Net radio's Cleveland Soul broadcast.
Click here to listen to Soul-Patrol's EXCLUSIVE 1:15 hr Interview with Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer Sammy Strain of the O'jays. Sammy not only tells us all about the O'Jays from the Philadelphia International years forward, but also gives us a SERIOUS Rock n' Roll history lesson going all the way back to the 1950's and 1960's as a member of Little Anthony and the Imperials. broadcast.
Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer's The O'Jay's
The O'Jays are one of soul music's most popular and long-lived vocal groups, among soul music fans they are at the same level as, Temptations, Dells. Spinners, Four Tops, etc. Lead singers Eddie Levert and Walter Williams voices are as recognizable to soul music fans as Marvin Gaye, Levi Stubbs, Al Green, etc. Their songs resonate not only with the message of love, but also with the message of social change that showed the way for a generation of Americans.
The O'Jays were formed in the summer of 1958 in Canton, Ohio, where the five original members - Eddie Levert, Bill Isles, William Powell, Walter Williams and Bobby Massey -all attended McKinley High School. Eddie and Bill inspired to start a group after harmonizing together at school between classes and seeing a performance by the Drifters, at the Canton Auditorium, first calling themselves the Emeralds and later to the Triumphs, after performing for a few parties, cabaret's, and talent shows. By their own admission, they began performing at local YMCA shows and hops just to hear the girls scream.
The O'Jays thus began their long journey [name changes, producers, record labels, personnel changes, etc.], which would ultimately lead them to the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame.
* Names: Emeralds, Triumphs, Mascots, The O'Jay's
* Producers: Don Davis, H B Barnum, George Kerr, Richard Tee, and Gamble & Huff
* Record Labels: King, Daco, Apollo, Little Star, Imperial, Bell, Neptune, Philadelphia International, EMI, and Sanctuary
* Personnel: Eddie Levert, Bill Isles, William Powell, Walter Williams, Bobby Massey, Sammy Strain, Nathaniel Best and Eric Grant
For example, perhaps the most long lasting of these changes involved Cleveland Disc Jockey Eddie O'Jay who eventually became their manager. Eddie O'Jay took the Mascots to Detroit where he discovered there was another group called the Mascots, so they changed their name to "The O'Jays" in 1961, in honor of their manager Eddie O'Jay.
The O'Jays moved to Imperial Records and in the summer of 1963 they charted the number one single in Cleveland, Ohio on WJMO for five weeks. The success of this record afforded them the opportunity to open for artists such as "Stevie Wonder and Smokey and the Miracles. The O'Jay's first album entitled "Coming Through" (containing the hits "Lonely Drifter" & "Lipstick Traces"). The group continued with some excellent sides for Imperial through 1966 including "The Storm Is Over" and "Oh, how you hurt me", their highest charting singles during this time were "Lipstick Traces (#48Pop, #28 R&B, 1965) and "Stand In For Love" (#95 Pop, #12 R&B).
In 1966, after Bill Isles left, the O'Jays were now a 4-man group. They went to New York and signed with Bell Records, where under the guidance of producers George Kerr and Richard Tee, the O'Jays scored a top 10 R&B single "I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow" going to number 8 R&B and number 66 pop. Bell delivered their second album with the hit: "Look Over Your Shoulder". Next they were signed to the Chess distributed Neptune label owned by Gamble and Huff. Their debut for Neptune, "One Night Affair" (#5 R&B/#68/1969) was followed by "Deeper In Love" (#64/1970) . Over the next year & a half, the O'Jays placed four of their six Neptune releases on the chart.
In 1972 Gamble and Huff regrouped and re-formed under the Philadelphia International Label and the O'Jays moved there in l972 despite offers from Motown and Invictus. Massey departed the group for a career in record production leaving the group in its final "trio" format. Their first 45 was a departure from the groups previous love song style. "Back Stabbers" had a socially conscious lyric, but the beat, Levert's rugged vocal, the minor key harmony, and Thom Bell's arrangement made the record a monster hit that reached number one R &B, number three Pop, and number 11 in the UK a mere 14 years after the resolute Canton kids had begun their career. A series of smashes followed that included Love Train (#1 Pop and R&B), "Put Your Hands Together" (#10pop,#1 R&B) and "I Love Music"(#5 Pop, #1 R&B). The O'Jays lost the services of William Powell who was stricken by cancer and left the group in early 1976 (he died on May 26, 1977). Powell's replacement was Sammy Strain, (formerly w/Little Anthony and the Imperials). The O'Jays regrouped on the albums of "Traveling' at the Speed of Thought"(1977) and "So Full of Love"(1978) the latter of which produced their fifth and last million seller, "Use To Be My Girl" (#4 pop/#1R&B).
Leaving Philadelphia International for EMI in 1987, they recorded "Let Me Touch You", which melded their classic sound with up to date urban R&B production. With Nathaniel Best replacing Sammy Strain, 1991's "Emotionally Yours and 1993 "Heart Breakers" also placed very well on the R&B charts. The O'Jays comeback didn't really extend to the pop side, and didn't attract the sort of critical praise earned by their 70's classics; as the new jack swing subsided, so did the group's recording activity, though they remained consistent draws on the live circuit. In 1997, now with Eric Grant joining Levert and Williams, they returned with "Love You to Tears". The group signed with MCA and debuted for the label "For The Love" which was released in 2001. The O'Jays are currently signed to "Sanctuary Records and have released their new CD "Imagination".
With their induction into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, the O'jays are finally recognized as being one of the "greatest of the great" and their 40 + year legacy is on display for those who seek to "walk in their footsteps".
Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer's The O'Jay's
Covering the 2005 RRHOF Inductions this year was a very different type of an experience for me on several different levels.
One of the reasons why is because I found myself by myself this year. Therefore I chose to focus my coverage on just the O'Jays. Added to that I also choose to focus on doing some straight up reporting. In fact I spent a whole lot of time just working the press room and conducting as many in depth interviews as I could.
Here's what we have...
* 10 min audio of the O'Jays RRHOF Press Conference
* 90 min audio interview with Soul-Patroller Bobby Massey covering the History of the O'Jays from 1958 - 1972
* 90 min audio interview with Sammy Strain covering the History of the O'Jays from 1975 - 1992
* Some personal commentary
* & more...
My belief as I am typing this, is that by the time I put all of this material together (along with the other material we already have like our O'Jays biography and our Giant Gene 60 min. O'Jays interview/music special) it will represent the most detailed and comprehensive history available anywhere either on or offline about the O'Jays and will remain so until one of them or all of them chooses to write a book.
Hall of Famers or just a bunch of Pretenders?
Ree: If you want to talk about fabulous, let's talk about the O'Jays suits. Nobody puts in that kind of effort anymore. The O'Jays matching ensembles and synchronized dance moves made as much of an impression as their Philadelphia soul. I always think of them as a 60s act, but they dominated the 70s when they released "Back Stabbers" and "Love Train." Despite being nominated three times, these guys never got a Grammy. How is that even possible?
Helen: Undeserving. The O'Jays always seemed like the hired hands of producers/songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Can anyone name even one O'Jay? They sang okay, their songs were okay, but they re no Hall-of-Famers.
Response From Bob Davis:
When I first read this I wanted to "lose my cool", until I stepped back and thought about these two comments and came to the conclusion that... this is is actually a pretty accurate reflection of what many white folks REALLY think about the O'Jays.
The first individual is obviously better informed than the second individual. None the less, once again we are confronted with ignorance and the real question is how to deal with it.
The conversation between these two individuals isn't really much different than some of the conversations I had with the members of the press at the RRHOF press conference. Many of them regard the O'Jays as just anther "faceless Black disco group". When I use the phrase "working the press room", what I really mean is that I am going around to the members of print, TV/Radio & Internet press and engaging them in conversation to correct any misinformation. I also feed them questions to ask the artist when they come into the pressroom, since they generally have no idea what questions to ask.
Over the course of the next few days (as soon as I can get thru compiling it) Soul-Patrol is going to be putting up a massive amount of information (exclusive audio, pictures and commentary/analysis) about the O'Jays, past present and future that I was able to collect during the RRHOF inductions.
People who should know better are constantly disrespecting our music/culture. I think that the best way to correct this is with information, directly from the source to the greatest extent possible.
Soul-Patrol has that information and we will be glad to distribute it to those who are suffering from the "disease of ignorance". Soul-Patrol might not be able to "cure" their disease. But we can treat the "symptoms" and we can encourage them to seek the kind of "long term treatment" that will cure them.
However unless the patient has the will and determination to actually be "cured"...
What the two conversations represented to me was a microcosm of the conversations that I have been having over the past few weeks with journalists, broadcasters and just regular music fans about the O'jays over the past few months since their induction in the RRHOF was announced.
1. They belong because they represent the full fruition of the vision of Gamble/Huff.
2. They don't belong in the RRHOF at all.
For at least two generations of Black Americans, the O'jays are considered second only to the Temptations as far as Black male vocal groups are concerned. Like the Dells, their appeal crosses generational lines. Eddie Levert is one of the very few members of a vocal group whose name and face is well known to the average Black person, regardless of their age.
The biggest hit songs O'jays literally tell the story of Black American life, that most Black folks immediately recognize. From topics like slavery (Ship Ahoy), greed (Love of Money), mistrust (Backstabers), unity (Love Train), black families (Family Reunion), etc, the O'jays connect the dots in a musical way that absolutely transcends the music itself.
Even whites who use a term like "social consciousness" to describe the music of the O'jays don't quite get it. What the songs make abundantly clear to me is that the O'jays were following in the ancient African tradition of being true GRIOTS in trying to use their popular voices to cause Black folks to remember their history so that they would be prepared for whatever the future held for them.
In effect what I am saying is that both sets of comments (positive and negative) serve to marginalize the career of the O'jays. I am saying that these people have no idea what they are talking about. They have no real clue how important and influential the O'jays are. They can't possibly...because they didn't LIVE the existence that the songs of the O'jays are talking about.
However I don't blame them for their ignorance. As such I also regard it as my own PERSONAL OBLIGATION to do what I can to educate these people (along with anyone else who is interested) about the REAL HISTORY of the O'JAYS.
Not from me, not from Rolling Stone, not from VH-1, Clear Channel, BET, Yahoo, Microsoft, Live365 or anyplace else...
But STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE....
Click here to listen to Soul-Patrol's EXCLUSIVE 1:15 hr Interview with Rock n' Roll Hall of Famer Sammy Strain of the O'jays. Sammy not only tells us all about the O'Jays from the Philadelphia International years forward, but also gives us a SERIOUS Rock n' Roll history lesson going all the way back to the 1950's and 1960's as a member of Little Anthony and the Imperials.