In 1968 the Virgin Island-born Lopez Sisters - Carmen, Lillian and Louise - formed a trio and sought gigs performing at small clubs and events in and around New York City. After almost a decade of small-time success as The Lopez Sisters, Carmen decided to leave the group to get married and settle down. After the departure the remaining sisters brought in bassist and vocalist Tony Reynolds and changed the name of their group to Odyssey, developing a more pop-oriented sound. It wasn't long before the group hit it big-time with their first single in 1977, Native New Yorker, which had been recorded by Frankie Valli earlier that year. The group released numerous other charting singles off the several albums they released between 1977-1982, however their Caribbean-influenced disco sound was more successful commercially in the UK. Native New Yorker, their biggest US hit, has been sampled sampled and/or used numerous times. In 2014 the song was used in commercials to promote the debut of the seventh incarnation of The Tonight Show with it's new host Jimmy Fallon.
In 1973 Gladys Knight and The Pips had a number-one hit with Midnight Train To Georgia. The song won them a Grammy in 1974, and it became Knight's signature song. The song was written and originally performed by Jim Weatherly under the title Midnight Train To Houston. The song was based on a conversation that Weatherly had on the phone with actress Farrah Fawcett about him taking a midnight Train to Houston. The song was later covered in 1973 by gospel and soul singer Cissy Houston, who asked to change the title of the song to Midnight Train To Georgia. Later that year the song was covered by Gladys Knight and The Pips, who stuck with the title change, and it became their first number one hit.
On the anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 15, 1981 Stevie Wonder introduced his song that demanded a national holiday for the civil rights leader. Happy Birthday was written and produced by Wonder to popularize the campaign for the holiday that he was heavily involved in. Every year on Jan. 15 Wonder headlined a free concert on the National Mall that followed a march through Washington DC. He was a major force in pushing for the holiday that President Ronald Reagan signed into existence in late 1983. The first MLK Day was recognized on Jan 20, 1986 and was celebrated on the National Mall with Wonder's final MLK Day appearance there. Originally some states, including Virginia, resisted the holiday by combining it with other holidays. It wasn't until the year 2000 before it was celebrated in all 50 states. This video from 1982 was from a concert in Tokyo Japan at the Nippon Budokan, the famous site of dozens of legendary live concert recordings.
In 1982 British singer and songwriter Junior Giscombe released his debut single Mama Used To Say. The former backup singer for British soul/funk band Linx was known simply as Junior, and he was one of the first British R&B singers to do well in the US. He was awarded Billboard's Best New Artist Award, which was presented to him by James Brown. Mama Used To Say has been covered and sampled numerous times. In 1991 rapper Heavy D sampled the song on "Is It Good To You, and in 1992 rapper Positive K sampled the song's guitar intro on his hit single I Got A Man. In 2000, Junior's cousin - British comedian Richard Blackwood - sampled the song on his single Mama, Who Da Man.
This 1965 classic written and recorded by Barbara Mason is one of the first examples of what came to be called Philly Soul. Several of the musicians that worked on this song became instrumental in forming the new sound that became very popular in the 1970's. Kenny Gamble, who sang backup on this song, went on to start Philadelphia International Records with Leon Huff. Musicians Bobby Eli, Norman Harris and Ronnie Baker went on to become part of MFSB - the band that recorded the Philly Soul anthem TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) in 1974. This song was also covered several times in later years, including a very successful duet version in 1979 by Toni DiSanto and KC. Yes I'm Ready has also been covered by Gladys Knight & The Pips, Jeffery Osbourne, LaToya Jackson and others.
Rockabilly singer Ronnie Self had a somewhat unsuccessful solo career, his only charting single was Bop-A-Lena in 1958. He was also a very talented songwriter, a few of his songs were big pop hits for Brenda Lee - a top-charting singer from the 1960's. Lee was one of the first pop singers to gain a major international following. In the 1960's Lee had 47 charting hits - the only performers to surpass that were Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Ray Charles. Her record of nine consecutive top ten Billboard hits remained unbroken until Madonna topped it in 1986. Lee was first noticed in 1950 when, after winning a singing contest, she made her fist radio appearance at age six. In 1955, at eleven years old, an unplanned television appearance landed her a first contract on a regular TV show. After a few months she had landed a record deal with Decca Records. In 1959 Lee's ninth single Sweet Nothin's peaked at number four in the US. In 2012 rapper Kanye West sampled the line "uh-huh, honey" from that song for his song Bound 2, off his Yeezus album.
In 1922 Nick Lucas started a very successful recording career pioneering jazz guitar, and in 1923 Gibson Guitar built the "Nick Lucas Special" - which would become a popular model among guitarists. By the late 1920's Lucas, known as "The Grandfather Of Jazz Guitar," had become well-known as "The Crooning Troubadour" due to his popular recordings. In 1929 Lucas introduced the song Tip-toe Through The Tulips in the musical Gold Diggers Of Broadway, which would become his signature song. The song was featured the following year in the theatrical short Sinkin' In The Bathtub - the first Looney Tunes cartoon, which was also the first cartoon from Warner Brothers. In 1968 the song was revived by singer and ukulele player Tiny Tim, who also made it his signature song. Lucas and Tiny Tim became friends, and in 1969 when Tiny Tim got married on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, Lucas was there to sing the song that they shared.
In late 1982 the post punk band Liquid Liquid recorded their third and final EP Optimo in a studio on the top floor of New York's Radio City Music Hall. The songs on the album were created in a live jam style recording sessions. The record was released in 1983 featuring Cavern, the track the band is most known for. Later the same year Cavern was used by Melle Mel on his hip-hop anthem White Lines (Don't Do It), his rap was over a cover version of Cavern that had been recorded by Sugar Hill Gang. When the Melle Mel record replaced Liquid Liquid's original version on the radio and in clubs the band's label - 99 Records - sued Sugar Hill Records for plagiarism. After an expensive battle in court Sugar Hill was ordered to pay $660,000. Rather than pay, Sugar Hill declared bankruptcy and shut down. 99 Records, which was also a record store on 99 MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village, closed shortly after because of the case's legal costs.
In 1972 jazz and funk saxophonist Ronnie Laws joined the recently formed Earth Wind and Fire. By 1975 he had left the band to start his solo career releasing his debut album Pressure Sensitive. The album featured his original instrumental song Always There, one of his most famous songs. In 1976 the disco and jazz-funk band Side Effect released a cover of the song with vocals, the song appeared on their third album What You Need. Always There has become a jazz-funk classic that has been covered numerous times with and without the vocals.
In 1970 Frankie Beverly formed the group Raw Soul in Philadelphia. After releasing a couple singles the band relocated to San Francisco where they met Marvin Gaye, who took them on his tour as an opening act. In 1976, following the advise of Gaye, Beverly changed the name of his band to Maze. That same year Beverly signed with Capital Records and released his debut album Maze featuring Frankie Beverly. The band enjoyed great success with Capital, every album they released went Gold in the US. In 1985 Maze released their sixth album Can't Stop The Love which featured the song Back In Stride - their first number one R&B hit.
"If you like to lounge