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Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes

Doo-wop group 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)”.

Around this 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.

In 1972, 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.

Jerry Cummings 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.

In 1984, 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”.

In 1996, Harold suffered a stroke and it claimed his life on 24th March 1997.

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.

Arthur Aiken
John Atkins
Anthony Brooks
Lawrence (Larry) Brown
Roosevelt Brodie
Jerry Cummings
David Ebo
Donnell “Big Daddy” Gillespie
Jesse Gillis, Jr.
Dwight “Blackey” Johnson
Salaam Love
Harold Melvin
John Morris
Sharon Paige
Lloyd Parks
Franklin Peaker
Teddy Pendergrass
Kenneth Sanders
Gil Saunders
William (Bill) Spratelly
Rufus “Fuss” Thorne
Bernard Williams
Bernie Wilson

Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes recordings
Don’t Leave Me This Way (Kenneth Gamble/Cary Gilbert/Leon Huff)