Van McCoy grew up in Washington DC. He learned to play piano and sang in a church choir and at age ten he began writing his own songs. At the age of 16, he and his brother and two friends formed their own doo-wop group, The Starlighters. In 1956, they recorded a novelty dance song Van wrote called The Birdland. They recorded two more singles before the group broke up.
Van recorded the solo single Mr. DJ. While the single may not have been too successful, it attracted enough attention to get Van hired by Scepter Records as a writer and A&R representative. He became engaged to Kendra Spotswood (who toured as a member of the Shirelles) and wrote the group’s top forty single, Stop The Music. He worked with numerous artists in the sixties.
Van and Kendra never got married. She changed her name to Sandi Sheldon and released You’re Gonna Make Me Love You in 1967. Everybody ignored the single for years, but the Northern Soul movement turned it into a major hit in the UK in the seventies.
Tony Boyd, Archie Powell, and Billy Shorter were a vocal group that formed as the Presidents in Washington DC by 1970. They specialized in singing three-part harmony R&B songs.
Tony and Archie wrote the song 5 – 10 – 15 – 20 (25 – 30 Years Of Love) and Van arranged the music and produced the record. The single nearly reached the top ten on the Hot 100, where it peaked at #11 in 1970.
The single received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals but lost out to Proud Mary by Ike and Tina Turner.
Van continued to work with the group, writing and producing their music. The best the group managed after their hit came when Van and Joe Cobb wrote Triangle Of Love (Hey Diddle Diddle). The recording by the Presidents reached #68 in 1971.
The group briefly changed its name to Trilogy, but don’t appear to have released any records using that name.
The group moved to a different record label and became Anacostia, taking the name from a section of Washington, DC. They released two albums in 1977 and 1978 and released at least a dozen singles by 1984. The only charting success they found came from the single On And Off, which spent four weeks on the Hot 100 but never charted any higher than #90.
Van McCoy continued writing and producing other groups through the seventies (most notably the Stylistics). He had his biggest success when he recorded his own hit single, The Hustle. The disco instrumental peaked at the top of the charts in 1975 (we’ll ignore somebody bellowing, “Do The Hustle!” on the record).
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