The Stylistics had a bunch of hits in the ’70’s, primarily ballads that featured the falsetto of lead singer Russell Thompkins Jr. and the production of Thom Bell. They had twelve straight records reach the Top Ten on the R&B chart in the early ’70’s, including "Betcha By Golly, Wow." Its original title was "Keep Growing Strong" when Bell and Linda Creed wrote it for Connie Stevens, who recorded it in 1970, but it failed to chart. The Stylistics recorded it in 1971 for their eponymous debut album, and it was released as a single in February 1972. It rose to #3 on the Hot 100, #2 on the R&B chart, and #7 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It earned a Gold record for selling a million records. Billboard‘s year-end chart placed it at #18.
"Me and Mrs. Jones" was written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Cary Gilbert and recorded by Billy Paul for his 1972 album 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul. It ended up being his only #1 single, reaching that peak in 1973 for four weeks, knocking Helen Reddy’s "I Am Woman" out of the top spot, being knocked out of the top spot by Carly Simon’s "You’re So Vain." The song also reached #1 on the R&B and Cash Box charts, #10 on the Adult Contemporary chart, #9 in Australia, #12 in the UK, and #14 in Canada. Okay, so the song was about adultery…
If you watched Soul Train in the ’70’s, you’re bound to recognize this. Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff wrote it as the theme song for the show, and MFSB (the house band at Philadelphia International) played it, with the lovely ladies from The Three Degrees doing the vocal. Don Cornelius, host and producer of Soul Train, forbade Gamble and Huff from making any reference to the show in the title, so Gamble and Huff renamed it "TSOP" ("The Sound of Philadelphia") and released it as a single. It reached #1 on the Hot 100, Adult Contemporary, and Soul/R&B charts in the US as well as #1 in Canada, #3 in Switzerland and #5 in Germany.
The O’Jays got together in Canton, Ohio in 1958. They took their name from Cleveland DJ Eddy O’Jay. Originally a quintet, they recorded their first single, "Lonely Drifter," in 1963. They did well on the R&B chart, reaching the Top 10 in 1968 with "I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow."
By 1972, despite the success they had as a live group and on the charts, they were considering leaving the music business. Original members Bill Isles and Bobby Massey departed, leaving the trio of Eddie Levert, Walter Lee Williams, and William Powell. They eventually signed with Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International records, and they began to experience better success.
"Back Stabbers" was their first single for their new label, and with better backing it reached #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart, as well as #14 in the UK, and was certified Gold that year by RIAA. It was the title track for their first PI album. MFSB provided the horn section for the record. More on them later.
While Detroit is maybe the center of the Soul Music Universe, there are two other important centers of Soul music, Philadelphia and Memphis. Philly’s reputation as a Soul music center is largely due to Philadelphia International Records, the record label founded by songwriters and producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff as well as Thom Bell, their long-time collaborator. What distinguishes Philly Soul from Motown are funk and jazz influences and rich orchestration. A good example is "If You Don’t Know Me By Now" by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. They were signed to Philadelphia International in 1971, and after several singles released the song in September 1972. It rose quickly on the R&B chart, peaking at #1, as well as peaking at #3 on the Hot 100, and was certified Gold by RIAA, who also chose it as one of the "Songs of the Century." It was covered by the British band Simply Red in 1989 and reached #1 on the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts that year.