1976 Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes featuring Theodore Pendergrass – Wake Up Everybody
Harold Melvin and Bernard Williams were the co-leaders of The Charlemagnes, a group they formed in 1952 with three other singers. They released their first single in 1956 and several more on multiple labels without much success. They finally appeared on the R&B chart with a single in 1960. Bernard left in the mid-sixties and formed a group called The Original Blue Notes that simply faded into obscurity.
Melvin recruited John Atkins as the group’s new lead singer and also replaced a few other members of the group who left and the group again scored a single that charted on the R&B chart in 1965. The group continued to tour, sometimes with the members of the Cadillacs playing as their instrumental backing. The drummer of that group was a young Teddy Pendergrass.
John left the group in 1970, and Melvin tapped Teddy as the group’s new lead vocalist. The resulting sound helped the group sign with Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International label in 1972. Gamble and Huff wrote and produced most of the group’s self-titled first album.
The first single from the album, I Miss You (Part 1), only reached #58 on the Hot 100 but made it to #7 on the R&B chart. After that success became clear, the company reissued the album, renaming the album I Miss You. The second single did even better; If You Don’t Know Me by Now topped the R&B chart and reached #3 on the Hot 100 in 1972.
The next year the group again reached the top ten on the Hot 100 with the single The Love I Lost, which also topped the R&B chart.
Three more gold albums followed, resulting in two more number one R&B hits. The group also had a few more top forty singles on the Hot 100. Their last appearance there came with the release of the topical song Wake Up Everybody. The single reached #12 on the Hot 100 in 1976 and became the group’s last R&B chart-topper.
In 1976, Teddy finally convinced everybody to promote the group as Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes featuring Theodore Pendergrass. Unfortunately, shortly after that, he left the group to pursue what became a very successful solo career. David Ebo took over lead vocals until 1982, when Gil Saunders joined the group. During those years, the group still had a half-dozen more top forty R&B hits, but by 1984 the hits had run out.
Harold continued to tour with a group of Blue Notes until he was sidelined by a stroke in 1996; he died in 1997.
Teddy signed with the same record label and recorded five platinum albums. A serious car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down cut his career short in 1982. He died from respiratory failure in 2010.
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