RIP, Philly International Records producer, arranger and composer Bobby Martin

bobbymartinThe Sound of Philadelphia remains forever strong, albeit with one less person responsible for its creation. Producer, arranger and songwriter Bobby Martin, whose work was an integral part of shaping the legacy of Philadelphia International Records has died. He passed away in San Diego last Friday at the age of 83. While you may not know his name, you’ll likely know his work. Along with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, Martin was a crucial part of the team that wrote and produced so many of the great “Sound of Philly” songs we’ve come to love over the years. Martin arranged some of the classics like “For The Love of Money,” “Backstabbers,” “TSOP,” “Me & Mrs. Jones,” Let’s Just Kiss and Say Goodbye,” “Cowboys To Girls,” and “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” He gave a young singer named Patricia Holt her stage name – Patti Labelle. In addition to working on numerous Grammy award winning records Martin received a Grammy Award for Album of the Year award in 1979 for his work with The Bee Gees on the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever. Martin not only worked help sculpt The Sound of Philly. He also worked with Whitney Houston, Etta James, Dusty Springfield and many more. Below, listen to one of the classics, and watch an interview with Martin talking his early days in the music business.


RIP Don Cornelius; Philly bands on Soul Train

After hearing yesterday’s sad news regarding the passing of Don Cornelius, we thought we’d take this opportunity to take a look at some of the great Philly bands that were on Soul Train. The theme song for the show, “T.S.O.P,” recorded by MFSB with backing vocals by The Three Degrees was written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff; Gamble talked to NBC 10 Philadelphia about the impact of the show and the how the song “Love Train” came about:

I used to talk to Don two or three days a week and I used to tell him, ‘you need a theme song.’ We started playing around with some different melodies and that’s when we came up with “T.S.O.P.” (the Sound of Philadelphia), the Soul Train theme. Everybody knew that was a funky theme for him. It’s a track that’s known all over the world.

I wanted to name it the “Soul Train theme.” He said ‘I don’t want it to be named the “Soul Train Theme” because that’s my brand. I don’t want you guys to have my brand.’ I said ‘well, let’s call it “T.S.O.P.,” the Sound of Philadelphia and I’ll put down the subtitle “The Soul Train Theme.” So he agreed. Later on in life he said that was the dumbest move he’d ever made.{laughs} Because it really was the Soul Train theme.

When our artists played on “Soul Train” our sales shot through the roof. Every Saturday “Soul Train” was watched by millions and millions and millions of people. There was a time when you couldn’t get many rhythm and blues and African American artists on television. Of course “American Bandstand” was on every day. “American Bandstand” was a wonderful program here in Philadelphia but it didn’t really have a lot of emphasis on rhythm and blues and black artists. When Don Cornelius came along he specialized in exposing black artists that people had never seen before. I think that’s his legend. He contribute something to the American culture. Who could ever forget the Soul Train line? Who could ever forget Don Cornelius saying love peace and soul? He’s a legend. His contribution to American culture is unbelievable. It’s not just here in America, it’s all over the world…his legacy will go on and on for generations to come.

Definitely worth reading is this heartfelt tribute to Cornelius written by Questlove in which he says: “Soul Train to me is the GREATEST creation and inspiration of my life.”

Below, watch some classic sounds of Philly from Soul Train


Here’s a show I wish I had been at: “Golden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia in 1973”

Golden Gate Groove: The Sound Of Philadelphia in 1973 is one concert I would have loved to have been at. Released today, the album, according to Philadelphia International Records “documents the first—and only— time that the stars of Philadelphia International Records ever played in concert with the label’s fabled house band, MFSB. The concert took place in San Francisco during the annual CBS Records convention at the Fairmont Hotel in September 1973.”

In a review of the album on the music site The Second Disc, Joe Marchese writes:

Recorded on July 27, 1973, the concert was held at CBS Records’ company convention inside the plush environs of the Fairmont Hotel. Previous performers at the convention included Bruce Springsteen and Engelbert Humperdinck. Joe Tarsia, the owner of Philly’s hallowed Sigma Sound Studios and the concert’s engineer, recalls in the liner notes that the event was attended by everyone on the CBS roster from Perry Como to Edgar Winter. (What a sight that must have been!) And nearly everyone associated with the success of Philadelphia International was up there, on that stage. Vocalists included Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass, The Three Degrees, Billy Paul, and the O’Jays. The MFSB Orchestra that evening counted among its 35 members two-thirds of the city’s “Mighty Three,” Leon Huff and Thom Bell on piano and organ, respectively. Huff and Bell were joined by a duo of Philly’s finest arrangers, Norman Harris and Bobby Eli (guitars), plus Earl Young (drums), Ronnie Baker (bass), Lenny Pakula (piano/keyboards), Jack Faith (saxophone), Vince Montana (vibes) and other notables. Bobby Martin and Richard Rome, two more arrangers with key contributions to the Philadelphia sound, took turns conducting.

Gamble and Huff considered the evening a crucial one to secure ongoing promotion at CBS Records for their fledgling label despite its already-proven hitmaking ability. That urgency is evident in the performances. (Thom Bell was the third partner in Gamble and Huff’s publishing company, and a frequent face at the label despite his outside productions for The Stylistics, The Spinners, Ronnie Dyson, New York City, Johnny Mathis and so many others.) Hit the jump to meet the evening’s emcee, the one and only Mr. Don Cornelius!

Go here to read the full review.


DJ Apt One celebrating the release of Philadelphia International: The Re-Edits

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Philadelphia International Records, a new collection of Philly International songs is being released in the UK on Harmless Records called Philadelphia International: Re-Edits & Remixes. The collection, sanctioned by Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff features remixes and re-edits of some of Gamble & Huff’s classic songs from various producers around the world. The only Philly producer represented on the collection is DJ Apt One with his re-edit of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ “Wake Up Everybody” that you can listen to below. DJ Apt One is throwing a record release party that he’s calling The Ball on Friday, January 20th at Kung Fu Necktie. The Ball is billed as an evening featuring “the Philly Sound and the Disco and House Music it inspired” with special guest DEL and residents DJ Bruce and DJ Apt One. For more information about the event go here.

Wake Up Everybody (DJ Apt One Edit) by DJ Apt One

Track List
CD 1 Uptempo Good Time Philly
1. Satisfaction Guaranteed Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes 7.22 Morning Star Re-Edit
2. Only The Strong Survive Billy Paul 8.19 J*Ski Re-Edit
3. Save A Place The Trammps 6.37 J*Ski Re-Edit
4. Free Love Jean Carn 7.04 Victor Rosado Re-Edit
5. Do It Anyway You Wanna People’s Choice 6.35 Keep Schtum Re-Edit
6. Life On Mars Dexter Wansel 5.35 DJ Mila Re-Edit
Mysteries Of The World MFSB 6.00 J*Ski Re-Edit
7. Ain’t No Stopping Us Now McFadden & Whitehead 7.30 Noodleman Re-Edit
8. Dance Turned Into Romance The Jones Girls 6.55 DJ Friction Re-Edit
9. Be For Real Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes 7.43 Tim McAllister Re-Edit
10. Message In Our Music The O’Jays 9.16 Jimmy The Twin Re-Edit

CD2 Mellow Slinky Philly
1. If You Wanna Go Back Jean Carn 6.46 Morning Star Re-Edit
2. Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby The O’Jays 8.08 Deep&Disco Rework Re-Edit
3. You’re Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else The Jones Girls 8.36 Henry Greenwood Re-Edit
4. Strategy Archie Bell & The Drells 6.05 Touchsoul Re-Edit
5. Let The Dollar Circulate Billy Paul 6.41 scratchandsniff Re-Edit
6. Easy Money Dee Dee Sharp Gamble 6.56 Todd Terje Re-Edit
7. Was That All It Was Jean Carn 7.59 Morning Star Re-Edit
8. Nights Over Egypt The Jones Girls 6.59 Womack & TOT Re-Edit
9. Don’t Let Love Get You Down Archie Bell & The Drells 8.00 Ed Zone Re-Edit
10. Wake Up Everybody Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes 9.31 DJ Apt One Re-Edit


Bernard Wilson, Original Member Of Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes R.I.P.

Bernard Wilson, (to the left of Teddy Pendergrass on the far right of the picture) one of the original members of Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes passed away this past Sunday. He was 64 years old. He died in Voorhees, NJ from a stroke and heart attack. Wilson, according to this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer grew up in North Philadelphia and Strawberry Mansion. Wilson’s cousin, Faith Peace-Mazzcuza told the Associated Press that “He left home at 16 as a pauper and came back home a millionaire.” Helping to define the legendary Sound of Philadelphia, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes had a string of hit songs including “Wake Up Everbody,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” and “The Love I Lost.”


Gamble & Huff: Maybe The Expressway Should Be Named For For Them

Considering the enduring importance of the music and work of the legendary Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff, architects of the famed Sound Of Philadelphia the City of Philadelphia should have given them naming rights to the Schuykill Expressway. While I-76 is out of the question, Gamble & Huff are having a street named for them today by the City of Philadelphia. After today the 300 Block of South Broad Street will be known as Gamble & Huff Walk. The ceremony takes place today at 11AM in front of the historic Philadelphia International Records building along the Avenue of the Arts and will be hosted by The Geator With The Heater, The Boss With The Hot Sauce, My Man, Pots and Pans, Jerry Blavat.