Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes

  • R&B/Soul vocal group formed in 1954 from Philadelphia Pennsylvania. The founding members were Harold Melvin, Franklin Peaker, Bernard Williams, Roosevelt Brodie and Jesse Gilles Jr. During their peak in the 70s, the members were Melvin, Teddy Pendergrass, Lawrence Brown, Lloyd Parks and Bernard Wilson.
  • Melvin was a self taught pianist who began to sing doo-wop in the early 50s. In 1954, sixteen year old Melvin brought together other young vocalists to form a group named the Charlemagnes, with Melvin on lead vocals, arranger, composer and choreographer. They soon changed their name to Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and in 1956, they cut a single titled If You Love Me, which became popular in the Philadelphia area. They continued to perform and occasionally record and in 1960 they charted on the R&B chart for the first time with My Hero.
  • Numerous members came and went during the sixties. In 1965, Bernard Williams left the group and started a new vocal group he dubbed The New Blue Notes. Melvin brought in John Adkins to assume lead vocals, and they made the R&B chart again with Get Out (And Let Me Cry). They were unable to find more hits in the following years, but they toured often with another R&B group called the Cadillacs, who had a drummer named Teddy Pendergrass.
  • Pendergrass joined the Blue Notes as a touring drummer, and when Adkins left the group in 1970, Melvin promoted Pendergrass to lead vocalist. Pendergrass’ sound appealed to record producers, songwriters and label owners Gamble and Huff, who were pioneers for developing the music genre of the mid-70s known as the Philly Sound (soul music with funk elements, often with lush orchestral arrangements). Gamble and Huff signed Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes to a contract, and the group released their first album in 1972, I Miss You. The album included the single If You Don’t Know Me By Now, which topped the R&B chart and peaked at #3 on the Hot 100.
  • Between 1973 and 1975, the group released three more studio albums. Two of them – To Be True and Wake Up Everybody – topped the R&B album chart, and the latter was certified platinum. Singles on these albums included three #1 R&B hits – The Love I Lost, Hope That We Can Be Together Soon and Wake Up Everybody. Several songs on the albums featured a female vocalist, Sharon Paige – Hope That We Can Be Together Soon was a memorable duet between Paige and Pendergrass. By 1976, Pendergrass was hungry for top billing, and when Melvin refused to give it, Pendergrass left the group to start a solo career (he released five consecutive platinum albums and was at the height of his solo career when a car accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. He continued to have success for many years after the accident, and retired in 2006. He died in 2010).
  • Pendergrass was replaced on lead vocals with David Ebo. Four albums were released between 1977 and 1981 with modest success – Reaching For the World reached #6 on the R&B chart and #74 on the Hot 100, and a couple of other singles reached the top 20 on the R&B chart. Ebo left in 1980, and Melvin continued performing with various lineups over the following 15 years. In 1996, Melvin suffered a stroke, and he died the following year at the age of 57. With that, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes were no more.
  • The Love I Lost is one smooth soul song – a perfect representative of the Philly Sound. Here is Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes performing it on Soul Train.

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