Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1970 Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band – Love Land

Charles Wright grew up in Mississippi and moved to Los Angeles in the early fifties. He joined several doo-wop groups in the fifties, singing and playing guitar. Charles got hired as the A&R Director for Del-Fi Records. Little Caesar & the Romans signed with the label and recorded the single, Those Oldies but Goodies (Remind Me of You). Charles played both piano and bass on the recording. The single peaked at #9 on the Hot 100 in 1961.

A year later, Charles formed Charles Wright & the Wright Sounds, a band that included Daryl Dragon, who would later play in the touring band of the Beach Boys and become the Captain of The Captain and Tenille.

Los Angeles-based Fred Smith owned Keymen Records and produced a theme song for LA disk jockey Magnificent Montague. The theme song became so popular that Fred produced a single version of the theme song in 1967 using Charles and several other studio musicians. The label credited the fictional group Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band. Another (unrelated) version came out later on a different label credited to the Soul Runners.

Bill Cosby needed some musicians to play background music for his next album, and he hired another group of studio musicians that included Charles. That group of musicians was again labeled as The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band. Cosby went on tour with some of those musicians.

Fred and Charles did not agree on how to proceed with the group, and Fred sold his share of the group to Charles, who immediately sacked the members of the band and reformed with musicians who had played with him in the Wright Sounds.

Thanks to his association with Cosby, Charles was able to sign his reformed group with Warner Brothers Records. The group released the album Together in 1968. The single Do Your Thing by The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band peaked at #11 on the Hot 100 that year.

Several less successful singles followed until Charles Wright and The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band released the single Love Land., a cover of a  1959 song by Al Hibbler. The band’s single reached #16 on the Hot 100 and #23 on the R&B chart in 1970.

The group next released their most successful single, Express Yourself, which Charles wrote and produced. The single peaked at only #12 on the Hot 100 but reached #3 on the R&B chart. Even better, the recording went on to be sampled on the 1989 album Straight Outta Compton and many films have used the song on their soundtracks.

The band no longer had hit records after that hit, and members began leaving for other gigs. Charles returned to putting out solo singles and albums in 1972. His most recent album came out in 2007.


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