who were originally known as The Charlemagnes and
then changed their name in time to record their first regional hit, “If
You Love Me”, in 1956. In
1960, they enjoyed their first taste of success on the rhythm and blues
chart with “My Hero”.
Five years later, they repeated the feat with “Get Out (and
Let Me Cry)”.
time, group co-leader Bernard Williams quit the band and started up The
Original Blue Notes. Harold recruited
John Atkins to sing lead vocals, but his tenure would be cut short when
Teddy Pendergrass was asked to join the band as a drummer. It did not take long for Teddy’s
vocals to be recognized and the group inked a deal with Philadelphia
International Records in the early 1970s.
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes released their eponymous debut and
yielded the songs, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and “I
Miss You”. The former
reached the top of the rhythm and blues chart and was the group’s
sole top-five entry on the Billboard Hot 100. Then they topped the rhythm and
blues chart and cracked the Billboard top ten with “The Love I Lost”,
which is considered to be an early example of disco. Its follow-up, “Satisfaction
Guaranteed (Or Take Your Love Back)” reached the top ten on the
rhythm and blues chart.
supplanted Lloyd Parks on 1974’s To
Be True, which topped the rhythm and blues album chart. In 1975, the group released “Bad
Luck”, “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, “Hope That
We Can Be Together Soon”, and “Wake Up Everybody”. “Bad Luck” spent a record
11 weeks atop the Billboard dance chart. “Don’t Leave Me This Way”
was later famously covered by The Communards and Thelma Houston. “Hope That We Can Be Together
Soon” marked the arrival of Sharon Paige, whose vocal stylings helped push the song into the #1 spot on the
rhythm and blues chart. “Wake
Up Everybody” enjoyed the same position.
Just when it
looked like Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes could do no wrong, Teddy
Pendergrass left the group, after a squabble over who should have top
billing. Teddy went on to a
successful solo career. His
replacement was David Ebo. In 1977, the group enjoyed its last
taste of chart success when “Reaching for the World” reached
the top ten on the rhythm and blues chart. Sharon Paige featured more on their
next release, The Blue Album, but
it barely dented the charts.
She left the group in 1980 along with David Ebo
and Gil Saunders became lead vocalist in 1982.
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes released their swan song, Talk it Up (Tell Everybody). The group continued to perform,
however, and became part of the late ‘80s-early ‘90s nostalgia scene,
a movement evinced by Simply Red’s chart-topping cover of “If
You Don’t Know Me By Now”.
Harold suffered a stroke and it claimed his life on 24th March
The Blue Notes
have carried on and continue to entertain audiences all over, although
again, the personnel has changed quite a bit. A recent incarnation of the group,
let by Harold Melvin’s widow, included Anthony Brooks, Donnell “Big
Daddy” Gillespie, John Morris, Sharon Paige, and Rufus Thorne. Another off-shoot group included
Arthur Aiken, Larry Brown, Salaam Love, and Lloyd Parks.
Lawrence (Larry) Brown
Donnell "Big Daddy" Gillespie
Jesse Gillis, Jr.
William (Bill) Spratelly
Rufus “Fuss” Thorne
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
Don’t Leave Me This Way (Kenneth Gamble/Cary Gilbert/Leon Huff)