More than 1,000 members of Jack and Jill of America Inc. are slated to convene in Philadelphia for the organization’s 40th national convention this week.
It will be held under the theme “Living the Legacy: Honoring Our Past, Celebrating Our Present, Securing Our Future” July 24–29 at Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.
The event, which marks the organization’s 75th anniversary, is expected to draw 1,500 attendees and have an economic impact of $3.2 million.
National Jack and Jill President Tara Joseph-Labrie will preside over the convention, which will include the election of national officers and leadership development.
“This is the largest-attended convention that we’ve had in Jack and Jill’s history, and I’m just delighted to be the national president and be the host and serve as the chair,” said Joseph-Labrie.
“This convention will highlight our history, our members, our achievements and the partnerships we have forged over the years. We look forward to sharing our extraordinary history and allowing everyone throughout the Greater Philadelphia region to have an opportunity to learn about our impact as we gather in Philadelphia for this milestone event.”
Jack and Jill will host a teen summit titled “Aim to Live, Lead and Succeed” on July 24 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Children from the Philadelphia Boys and Girls Club have been invited to attend the summit, which will feature a keynote address by Marlon Smith, founder of Street Academics, a high school youth mentoring program.
A convention highlight includes a public meeting July 25 from 5:45 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown’s Grand Ballroom. Valerie B. Jarrett, senior adviser to President Barack Obama will be the featured speaker. Lifetime achievement awards will be presented to poet Sonia Sanchez and music legends Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Mayor Michael Nutter and representatives from the region’s National Pan-Hellenic Council’s fraternities and sororities are expected to attend.
Joseph-Labrie says community service projects are an important aspect of this year’s convention.
“I am a true believer that Jack and Jill was founded not only for the principle of the social and educational activities, but more importantly for the philanthropy, and to ensure that our children truly understand the importance of giving back,” she said.
With that in mind, members of Jack and Jill will renovate a local elementary school library during the convention.
Members from Jack and Jill chapters in southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware have led the convention steering committee.
“It is with enormous pride that we welcome our members and their families to Philadelphia. This committee has worked extremely hard to ensure that everyone has an interactive and educational experience during their stay in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection,” said Henri G. Moore, chair of the steering committee.
“We look forward to our members having an enjoyable time while they carry out the business of Jack and Jill, and are empowered to return to their communities ready to make a positive and lasting impact,” said Moore.
In addition to attending meetings and participating in community service projects, convention attendees will visit regional attractions such as the Franklin Institute and the New Jersey State Aquarium.
Members of Jack and Jill say the organization has enabled their children to form longstanding friendships and prepares them for the future.
Steering committee co-chair Shelly Pullian appreciates how it is helping to prepare her children for future leadership roles.
“We are training leaders of tomorrow. Once our children become teens they actually learn how to become leaders of the organization. We do a lot of leadership building. We do a lot of financial awareness building so that our children are prepared to enter the world and be active members of society,” said Pullian.
Sandy Booth, a former president of the Jack and Jill Philadelphia chapter, joined the organization three years ago. Her daughter and stepson have participated in activities such as holiday brunches and ski trips.
“My family has really enjoyed our association. My daughter has made some of her best friends in Jack and Jill,” said Booth.
“It not only gives opportunities for our kids to be involved, but for mothers to be involved in governance of the organization and steering the direction of the group.”
Jack and Jill was founded in Philadelphia on Jan. 24, 1938, by 20 African-American mothers who wanted their children to have cultural opportunities, develop leadership skills and form social networks.
Today the organization has more than 220 chapters whose families represent 30,000 family members. Membership is by invitation only and is open to mothers of children between the ages of 2 and 19.
The organization’s national programming thrust, AIM for Healthy Living, is designed to engage and encourage children to live healthy lifestyles through chapter programming and decrease the risk of preventable diseases that disproportionately impact the African-American community.
Chapters hold cultural activities, leadership training and legislative and social events for their children, while hosting fundraisers to support the Jack and Jill of America Foundation, the organization’s philanthropic arm that has distributed millions of dollars to communities across the country since its inception in 1968.
Notable Jack and Jill alumnae include actresses Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen, Betty Shabazz and Dr. Lilia Abron, the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate in chemical engineering.
E. Steven Collins was 19 years old when he met the famed radio announcer, Joe “Butterball” Tamburro. Like most Philadelphians in the 1970s, Collins faithfully tuned into WDAS FM and jammed to the R&B and soul classics of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.
But when there was an opening at WDAS for a newsperson, at that time, the news director, Dave Shorr, called Collins and asked him to try out.
“I was deliriously happy,” Collins recalled. “And I tried out on Butterball’s show — the midday show from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. And I remember it because I was scared when I got there.”
As a Temple University student, most of Collins’ peers were auditioning for jobs at KYW and other local stations. Having previous radio experience at WHAT for a year and a half, he knew he was ready.
“I wanted to be a journalist, but I wanted to work in Black radio,” Collins said.
Around a quarter of one, Collins entered the studio on Belmont and Edgeley Roads. When he walked in, Butterball was on the phone. Collins sat down and Butterball pointed and directed him where to sit. There was a microphone there and Collins prepared his newscast.
Just as the music began to fade out, Butterball turned to him and said, ‘Alright guy, if you mess up, it’s back to WHAT.’ The two shared a laugh — a hearty laugh as Collins' described it that would spark a friendship lastly over thirty years.
And Butterball’s laugh carried over on air when he announced that it was time for news.
“He said what song had just been playing, Earth Wind and Fire or something. ‘And here’s E. Steven Collins.’ I was on the air. Because I was relaxed, I did a really good newscast. My father heard it and he called me.”
“When I finished, Butterball put a song on and he called Bob Kline — who was the general manager — and he said, ‘This guy is good enough for my show.’
Thus, Collins was hired in June 1978, a summer of memorable firsts.
“In all those years, and the most important thing, Butterball was a constant. I worked at WDAS, later Clear Channel, for 22 plus years and we had a number of different general managers, market managers, field mangers and promoters.”
“But there was only one program director all of those years and that was Butterball. [He]
was an enormously powerful person in the music industry. He was a guy who many people consulted with on what songs to release off new CDs. Kenny Gamble talks about it all the time.”
WDAS radio personality Patty Jackson said that Gamble often praised Butterball’s ability to hear a hit.
“Kenny Gamble said Butter had the best ears in the business for picking hits,” Jackson said. “Everyone from Smokey Robinson, The O’Jays, Patti LaBelle, James Brown and Frankie Beverly to Eric Benet, Babyface, Boyz II Men and Teena Marie got their chart topping hits started right here with Butter playing them first in the country on ’DAS.”
“A big part of the success that they had has to do with Butterball,” Collins continued. “Butterball had as Kenny Gamble once said, ‘a golden ear for radio and music.’ It didn’t matter who the artist was. Butterball would hear a song and he would know. Barry White would ask him. Luther Vandross would ask him. And [Butter] would tell them and he would play it on the radio right away.”
“He was so much more because he got Philadelphia. He was an Italian kid from South Philly, but he understood the African-American experience because he lived it. He didn’t see me as a Black kid from West Philly that was coming out of Temple and trying to get a job on the radio. He saw my potential.”
Butterball’s ability to hear talent even picked up Patty Jackson’s voice, which led her to work for WDAS.
“I remember Patty being on an AM radio station,” Collins said. “And I told Butter, ‘She sounds like us, man. You should put her on.’ And he said to me, ‘You don’t know anything about radio. I’ll listen to her.’ He and I went to get a cheese steak and I put on this AM station she was on, WSFJ, and Butter listened to her and said, ‘Hey I like her. Tell her to call me.’ She’s always had an amazing sound and of course Butter had that ear.”
From Collins’ 1978 interviews of Frank Rizzo, Edward Rendell, Hardy Williams and other people making news in Philadelphia, there was an impact in the news department and the Black community’s ability to get information.
“Butter wanted us to be in the community. Late in the summer of ’78, we talked about a way to create something for the community that would bring people together.”
During this time, Klein had been WDAS’ general manager for 30 years and retired. His assistant, Cody Anderson took over and had input into the efforts to have more station presence within the Black community. Even still, it was Butterball who implemented the Unity Day initiative and made it work.
During the same year in 1978, Fat Larry’s Band performed on the Belmont Plateau for Unity Day’s premiere. Collins remembered there were about eight or 10 vendors and people played softball.
“We had a ball,” Collins chuckled. “And 30 or 40,000 people [came] and we couldn’t believe people showed up for our first Unity Day. The city didn’t have an African-American centered event. The next year it became bigger.”
Unity Day eventually was held on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with several performance areas with varied entertainment including the gospel stage, senior citizen area and children’s area. A highlight was the Unity award — given to someone who preserved and protected Black heritage. It was presented to several national recognized figures like Reggie White, Dr. Leon Sullivan and Julius Irving.
“Butterball was hands-on deck, very instrumental in helping us to get really good entertainment on these stages. Artists like Kool and the Gang, Phyllis Hyman, The O’Jays, The Whispers, and ultimately James Brown and Smokey Robinson. The top names would come in and perform in the dead of summer and give Philadelphia just an amazing day. What I call, ‘Our Day on the Parkway.’ ”
Collins said that Butterball’s impact to the radio station, community and to his personal life was a memorable experience.
“Butter was like a father with all of us at ’DAS then. He was proud of us if we got a new car or house, if we had a baby, if we got married. Butter could tell if you needed a pep talk or if you just wanted a partner to roll with and get a cheese steak. It wasn’t like you went out with your boss. You went out with Butterball.”
Collins now serves as director of urban marketing and external relations at Radio One.
“For all of us, Doug Henderson, Mimi Brown, Patty Jackson, Terry Johnson and Tony Brown and Louise Williams-Bishop, we cry when we think about him not being around,” Collins said. “It’s such a loss. I don’t know if I can find the proper way to express what he was in our lives. He was special.”
Philadelphia is set to honor the man behind the “hippest trip in America” with an attempt at breaking the world record for largest Soul Train line. Organizers envision the event as a way to commemorate the passing of “Soul Train” creator Don Cornelius — as well as offer a time for local “Soul Train” fans to gather, express “Philadelphia love” and honor the city’s own special place in soul music history.
The idea for a world-record commemoration was sparked on Facebook, where interest in organizing such an attempt in Philadelphia went viral. The current record — of 211 people — is held by a group of high school students, staff and alumni in Berkley, Calif. “Considering how Philly responded to events like Live Aid, Unity Day, Million Woman March, Welcome America and our normal annual events, I thought, '211? We can do that,’” said radio host Manwell Glenn, on whose Facebook page the idea took hatch. Unlike last week’s spontaneous and flash-mob Soul Train lines in Chicago and New York respectively, Philadelphia’s effort is designed and organized to make a statement: There is no better place for world-wide recognition of soul music appreciation than the City of Brotherly Love.
“Don Cornelius and ‘Soul Train’ is synonymous with our childhood,” recalled Glenn, 50. “It reminds me of Saturdays when all of us gathered around the TV, watching ‘Soul Train,’ doing the dance steps, pointing out our favorite dancers, the going outside and try and mimic the 'Robot' (dance) and everything. Yeah, we would laugh at some of the cloths...it just makes me feel good about an era in my life and a time when I was young, happy and carefree. I was a teenager, and his death reminded me of all of those moments, and my friends who aren't here now. It made me reminisce, and I want to share that feel good moment.”
Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff recorded "TSOP" (The Sound of Philadelphia) with MFSB, the Philadelphia International Records house band, and the Three Degrees singing the vocal parts in 1974. Within months, the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and on the Hot Soul Singles chart—and Cornelius, according to Huff, regretted that he didn't let the duo use "Soul Train" in the tune's official title.
"Philadelphia, The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection is a grand music mecca, as well as the birthplace of the Soul Train theme written by the legendary duo of Gamble & Huff,” Dyana Williams, co-host of “Soulful Sunday” on WRNB-FM. “With the world's largest “Soul Train” line this coming Monday, we will honor the legacy and indelible cultural impression left on billions by Don Cornelius and ‘Soul Train!’” Cornelius, 75, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Feb. 1. He had suffered from health problems, a difficult divorce, and had pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor spousal battery charge in 2009. A private memorial service for Cornelius is scheduled to take place this week in Los Angeles.
The fee to apply to Guinness World Records, which accepted the group’s application on Tuesday, Feb. 7, was promptly pledged by a group of sponsors and Radio One will serve as the radio host for the event. “It’s Soul Train and Don Cornelius. Everybody wants to get involved,” said Glenn.
The mass dance event at breaking the world record for largest “Soul Train” line will take place on Monday, Feb. 13 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 4 p.m. For more information, tune in to Dyana Williams' “Soulful Sunday” on 100.3 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. or visit Facebook: The Philly World Record Soul Train Line Gang www.facebook.com/groups/.
It’s another record for Philadelphia — the longest “Soul Train” line — officially noted by Mayor Michael Nutter on Wednesday when he accepted a certificate issued by the Guinness Book of World Records.
“We have a lot going on in Philadelphia,” Nutter said. “But, sometimes we just need to celebrate.”
The mayor, against the advice of all his advisors, he said, took part in the “Soul Train” line last February and noted that it was magical moment for participants.
“It was incredible,” he said. “It really felt like the whole city had come together for one unique moment.”
A crowd of 291 people took part in the “Soul Train” line on Feb. 13, 2012 in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in honor of “Soul Train” creator and host Don Cornelius, who died last year. Philadelphia’s record beat the previous record of 211 people set in by students and staff at Beverly Hills High School.
“We figured that was a number we could beat,” said Sheila Simmons, one of the event organizers present at Wednesday’s press conference.
She vowed — as did several others present — that Philly would fight to keep the record, which was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records last month.
“This record belongs in Philadelphia,” she said.
Mannwell Glenn, the man behind the record breaking idea, agreed.
“You can come after this record if you want — but we’re going to keep it,” he said.
More than 2,000 people showed up at the event last winter, many dressed in Afro wigs and bell bottoms to honor Cornelius, host of the long-running TV show “Soul Train.”
He was a music legend, as was the show’s theme song “TSOP” (The Sound of Philadelphia) which ran in the background during the press event.
TSOP was written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff who recorded it with MFSB, the Philadelphia International Records house band, with the Three Degrees singing the vocal parts in 1974. In just a few months the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and on the Hot Soul Singles chart.
The 75-year-old Cornelius committed suicide on Feb. 1, 2012. He had been suffering from health problems, a difficult divorce, and had pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor spousal battery charge in 2009.
The circumstances surrounding his death did nothing to change his legacy, said E. Steven Collins, one of the organizers of the “Soul Train” event.
“He was a great person,” Collins said, noting that in his final days Cornelius was in a great deal of physical pain.
Walter "Bunny" Sigler, the singer, songwriter and producer responsible for such hits as "(You Are My) Sunshine," "You Got Your Hooks in Me" and "Let Me Make Love to You" by the O'Jays, as well as "Somebody Loves You, Baby" and "Love, Need and Want You" by Patti La Belle, is celebrating the holiday season with a superb new CD of his own titled "When You're in Love at Christmas Time."
Preceded by "The Lord's Prayer" in 2008 as well as "From Bunny with Love & A Little Soul" and "The 23rd Psalm" in 2011, "When You're in Love at Christmas Time," a 12-track creative collaboration with Bryant Pugh, Musical Director at Philadelphia's Sharon Baptist Church, was inadvertently inspired by Lloyd Zane Remick, who has served as Sigler's attorney for approximately 40 years.
"He wanted me to start with 'Auld Lang Syne,'" Sigler said during a recent visit to the Philadelphia Tribune offices. "I said, 'If I do 'Auld Lang Syne' that's only going to be for a week. I might as well do a Christmas album.' He was talking about next year, and he put the suggestion in my head. I've got my own studio, I've got my [band], and before he knew it, I had it half done, and then he started liking it. The title track, I wrote with Bryant Pugh. He works with Richard Smallwood, but he's been at Sharon for years. He did 'The Lord's Prayer, he did 'The 23rd Psalm,' so he's been my right hand man. I've got (guitarist) Randy Bowland - he's on everything. My engineer is Raymond Earl. Raymond used to be with Instant Funk."
The disc includes familiar sounds of the season including "Little Drummer Boy," "The Christmas Song," "O Holy Night" and "Ave' Maria," in addition to unique renditions of traditional sacred songs and carols arranged by Pugh and Richie Rome, mastermind behind disco divas, The Richie Family. Sigler contributed the original compositions "When You're in Love at Christmas Time," "Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday' and "A Christmas Dream."
This marks the first Christmas album for the personable, flamboyant and fashionable North Philly native, who was given his unusual nickname as an infant by his mother, who discovered that her baby had a fully developed tooth in his mouth, making him look like a little bunny rabbit.
Sigler's most memorable work has been under the banner of Philadelphia International Records, the celebrated label established in 1971 by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. When asked what he believes is his greatest contribution to "The Sound of Philadelphia," Sigler quickly responded, "The love songs, and it wasn't confined just to one artist. I wrote love songs for the O'Jays, love songs for Patti La Belle — all of them were Number Ones, and a Number One for Shirley Jones —'Do You Get Enough Love?' which was written for the O'Jays, but they were out of town, and Shirley got the song."
Sigler's work has also caught on with a new generation, and in 2002, "Love, Need and Want You" previously recorded by Patti La Belle, was sampled by Kelly Rowland and Nelly, and "Dilemma" reached Number One on the Billboard "Hot 100" chart.
While his catalog of songs is a great source of pride for Sigler, who scored a major hit of his own in 1967 with "Let the Good Times Roll," he adds that he also contributed vocally to the renowned and recognizable Philly Sound.
"I did a lot of stuff in the background," he said. "I'm singing background on 'If You Don't Know Me By Now' [Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes]. That's me, Kenny and Huff. Most of the Stylistics — me, Carl Helm and Kenny Gamble. Archie Bell, 'Gonna Be a Showdown,' — that's me Kenny and Huff." Sigler also contributed vocal arrangements for numerous recordings released by the company.
While he still enjoys performing, Sigler is now focused on developing the next generation of entertainers. "What I would like to accomplish is to get my company with my lawyer really going," he said. "It's really moving now, and he said we waited until we got in our 70s to want a company and do all this! I'm doing something with [my] band. I'm going to cut them. I'm even looking for a new artist to be in front — like a girl who can sing and rap.
"I was telling my lady, I said, 'I think I'm going to retire. I'm tired of doing this.' But as an entertainer, when you do that, you're getting ready to push the daisies! You can't retire! If you stop, your life is over!"
For more information, to listen to excerpts from Bunny Sigler's "When You're in Love at Christmas Time" or to purchase this uplifting Christmas collection, visit www.bunzmusicandrecords.com.
Despite countless gold and platinum records, as well as induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his longtime partner Kenny Gamble in 2008 as recipients of the inaugural Ahmet Ertegun Award, songwriter, producer and musician Leon Huff is still “Here to Create Music,” as the title of his 1980 solo album suggests. His recent connection with vocal group Ju-Taun, of Williamstown, N.J., has reignited that passion.
Huff, who recently released another solo project titled “Groovy People,” is mentoring the group, which is comprised of siblings Jake and James “Jamie” Evans, who are half Puerto Rican, along with their close friend, Samaouen (pronounced “Simone”) Cheng, who is originally from Cambodia.
Ju-Taun (pronounced “Ja-Taan”) is signed to Climax Entertainment, a joint venture between Huff and David Still, and Huff has produced a trio of Christmas classics with the group, including “Please Come Home for Christmas,” “White Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
“It’s on I-Tunes. It’s great,” said Huff, who plays piano on the tracks. The music is also available on other online outlets such as Amazon.com.
During a recent visit to the Tribune offices along with their road manager Stan Golden, the talented singers explained their unusual name. “When we first started the group, we wanted something that was unique, because our group was so multi-national and so diverse,” said Jamie, the younger of the two Evans brother. “We wanted a name that reflected that, but also was different and didn’t identify with anything else. We felt that our sound and our style was different than anything else, so we just came up with something that sounded that way.”
Huff first saw Ju-Taun at one of the weekly talents shows that were taking place at TSOP Experience, located next to Philadelphia International Records’ historic headquarters at 309 S. Broad Street. “One of those weeks, I came and they were there. I liked the image, the sound — everything,” Huff said. “The sound is very commercial — they’ve got a great look. They’re right up there with today’s contemporary image. They’re great guys — clean cut, good stage presence, and I’m going to work with them.”
“We found out later that was actually his first time at the show,” Jake said. “He watched us live and he came backstage to talk to us. First thing he said was, ‘I got a song for y’all called ‘Walk Between the Raindrops,’ and we‘re like, ‘Cool!’ It was an honor for us to be singing in front of him because our father’s a musician, he played with Chubby Checker. He’s always been a huge Leon Huff fan, specifically for his playing style. We always grew up hearing their music. He used to make us learn a lot of TSOP songs… ‘You’ve got to pay tribute to the hometown!’ So it was just weird to be now performing in front of him, and then for him to actually respect what we do and want to work with us!”
Some of the production on Huff’s “Groovy People,” took place at the Evans Brothers’ Tru Sounds Studio in Camden, N.J., and Ju-Taun is featured on renditions of “Hey There, Lonely Girl,” as well as the Temptations classic, “The Way You Do the Things You Do.”
The group’s deep respect and appreciation for Philly’s musical legacy grew even stronger when they had the opportunity to meet and converse with engineer extraordinaire Joe Tarsia, who was at the sound board for the lion’s share of the hits on Gamble & Huff Philadelphia International label, as well as legendary drummer Earl Young, one of the final remaining links to the golden era of “The Sound of Philadelphia.”
“Sometimes I wish that we were still in that era because there was such a different type of organic-ness to the music,” said Jamie. “When you’re bringing all those human elements together as opposed to just maybe one or two people sitting there at a computer or doing whatever they’re doing, when you have all that energy in one room, it just brings something different to the music.”
With Huff’s guidance, the group plans to incorporate that energy into their own sound, fusing it with some of their own ideas. “I don’t want to say bring back the old, but kind of like keep it relevant, but also mix in some new,” said Jamie. “Give it a freshness,” Jake added. “But expose people more to what that type of music brought. The inspiration that it brought, and the positivity that it brought as opposed to a lot of the newer stuff. I think the biggest thing with us is that we want to do what we feel.”
As the iconic Huff builds on his own musical legacy, he can barely contain his excitement over ushering in a new era of the Philly Sound and said in conclusion, “I want to wish everybody happy holidays, and be on the lookout for Climax Entertainment, because some great music is going to be coming through there!”
Twenty-six years ago, the Philadelphia Tribune named Gordon Brown Jr. the youngest gospel music promoter in Philadelphia. As minister, label executive, producer and award-winning songwriter, G. Brown (his stage name), is rebranding himself for a new role in the music industry.
Brown will release the single “Love is Coming Back” on iTunes on August 1.This urban gospel song is remake of the classic McFadden and Whitehead song “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now.”
Described as a mixture of traditional gospel, a pitch of rhythm and blues and a tossing of what Brown said is God’s anointing, the track is geared to youth and urban communities.
“It’s kind of like Kirk Franklin, that’s the demographic that I’m looking to gravitate to, but my style is more like Hawkins, Smallwood with a little bit of Donny and Boys II Men blended all in together,” Brown said.
Along with the single, Brown has written 48 songs — about three CDs worth of music — that he plans to release as an artist until 2018.
Helping to produce the single with Brown are his nephew, Antonie McRae and producer and keyboardist Christopher Weatherbe. He has worked with DJ Jazzy Jeff, Jill Scott, Vivian Green, Floetry, Jaguar Wright and Kindred.
“Whatever his vision is, I just want to bring it to life. I don’t have any self-ambition. He wants to give an inspirational song out with a message about love,” Weatherbe said.
Learning through experience
The South Philadelphia native began his music career as a teenager deeply rooted in gospel music. As a student at Vare Edwin H. Middle School, Brown’s physical education teacher was Gabriel Hardeman — leader of Gabriel Hardeman Delegation whose record, “Feels Like Fire” gave them fame. Several weeks into the school year, Brown attended his aunt’s wedding. Hardeman was one of the ushers and the groom was the drummer for the Hardeman Delegation.
After this interaction, Brown persisted to get involve with the band. In 1982, Brown became the band’s stagehand. Through the mentorship of Hardeman and his wife Annette, Brown learned how to write songs that later won Brown five American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers awards.
At 16, Brown created a group, The Gordon Brown Singers, and was a music promoter for the Wynne Plaza. There, he was responsible for booking gospel acts at the Wynnefield venue. Brown then worked for Tony Beck, owner and president of MeeSiah Records — an independent gospel label. Also, Brown was an executive assistant for music producer, Nick Martinelli, and served as Martinelli’s manager for a brief period. In 1991, he received more industry experience under gospel legend, Dr. Edwin Hawkins.
Despite the mentorship and success he was receiving, Brown’s career was interrupted.
In 1998, Brown was imprisoned. While serving a 14-year sentence, he earned a doctorate in theology. Six months ago Brown was released, and he plans to continue to his career.
“Instead of being bitter, I feel blessed. I got great vision from God,” Brown said. “When you spend 14 years in prison you get a lot of ideas that God has time to give you great vision.”
Bringing a rebirth to Philadelphia
Using vision and revelation, Brown also works as the creative director for Philly Style Studio.
“It’s in the community. You don’t know it’s a studio, and you’re not abandoning the community. Every community has a local rapper or local singer and they can come right here and get a nice demo,” Brown said.
Located on 18th and Morris streets, Brown said he wants Philly Style Studios to create resurgence in Philadelphia.
“I just love Philly, but we have nothing going on musically in the city. In the beginning it was Motown, then Philadelphia International,” Brown said. “We have Jill, Musiq and Tye Tribbett, but I just want to bring that attention and that draw back to the city. Basically putting Philly back in its place.”
And with help of PSS owner, Henry “Bubby” Nicholas, Brown’s vision is beginning to come to fruition. Currently, Nicolas is gathering talent for The Entourage — a collective of musicians, dancers, R&B singers and rappers.
“He’s got so much energy. He’s my favorite,” Nicholas said.
“When I came on board here, his vision with the studio and the Entourage verse my vision on a creative level and an artist level was just a perfect fit,” Brown said. “It’s kind of like what Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff did in the ’60s and ’70s. It’s kind of what he and I are trying to do now.”
In mid-August, PSS and Zoah Music Group Worldwide (Brown’s music label) will have an Internet talent search of gospel, R&B and hip hop artists.
“It’s basically going to be American Idol online, but for those genres,” Brown said.
Fifty submissions will be chosen to participate. With the public’s help, 25 acts will be chosen. Of those, 15 will be eliminated and the remaining 10 will face off for the final phase of the competition judged by PSS and ZMGW.
First prize will be a recording contract with ZMGW, second prize will be a recording contract for a single with ZMGW and third prize will be a production video at PSS.
If you’re a fan of The Sound of Philadelphia or of great music in general, you won’t want to miss “Joe Tarsia: Sophisticated Soul,” the next installment of “Danny’s Guitar Shop,” airing at 10 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 22 on the WHYY “Y Arts” channel (check local listings).
Hosted by Danny Gold, owner of Danny’s Guitar Shop in Narberth, the 30-minute music magazine explores the creative contributions of Philadelphia’s Chairman of the Board, Joe Tarsia, founder of the legendary Sigma Sound Studios.
An integral part of the development of the Sound of Philadelphia, Tarsia recalled working with the iconic Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff on carefully crafted classics such as “For the Love of Money,” “Bad Luck,” “Only the Strong Survive” and “I’ll Always Love My Mama.”
Sitting at the sound board with Gold, Tarsia wore a wistful smile as he listened to “Backstabbers,” the first breakout hit for the O’Jays, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. After a track-by-track analysis of the record, Tarsia said, “This started everything. After this, it was one hit after the other.”
He also shared inside stories on the production of other hits including “You’ll Never Find” by Lou Rawls and “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, as well as “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” another hot track by the Blue Notes featuring rugged lead vocals by Teddy Pendergrass. “You’d have to be a pretty lousy engineer not to capture this!” he Tarsia said.
When Gold asked if he had any Teddy Pendergrass stories he could actually share on camera, Tarsia, clearly struck by a wave of nostalgia, laughed and said, “Women would literally fall all over him. I remember doing sessions where there would be maybe five or six beautiful ladies sitting in the control room watching him sing, and he seemed to sing better for it. He had that growl — women loved a tall, handsome guy.”
What makes this episode of “Danny’s Guitar Shop” outstanding is that Gold, who is a musician, and Tarsia focus on the gifted instrumentalists who made the Gamble & Huff recordings so exceptional, yet for the most part are unknown and unrecognized. Both Tarsia and Gold took time to analyze and acknowledge the contributions of the extraordinary rhythm section of Ron Baker (bass), Norman Harris (guitar) and Earl Young (drums), as well as percussionist Vince Montana, best known for his work on vibes.
“I don’t know if it’s fair or not, but I called Motown ‘Black bubble gum,’ and I called the Memphis Sound truly ‘soul’ music, and Philadelphia I called ‘Sophisticated Soul,’ if that makes any sense. That’s the way I saw it, but each one had its own character,” Tarsia said.
The informative half-hour retrospective full of vintage photographs, timeless music and fond memories went by all too quickly, and the legendary Joe Tarsia summed it up by saying, “It’s exciting to think that a community out of Philadelphia, the music they produced was heard around the world.”
The City of Brotherly Love is invited to join air personality Patty Jackson of WDAS-FM as she celebrates 30 years in radio. The musical salute, starring Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Gladys Knight, takes place at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19 at the Dell Music Center.
Joining the party will be Breakwater, Enchantment, Glenn Jones, Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes and The Delfonics, along with the seductive and soulful Freddie Jackson.
“She has a great radio personality — she knows music,” said Freddie Jackson, who was speaking to me from Harlem. I am very fortunate to be in this industry for so long and have people like Patty Jackson to spin Freddie Jackson records. So Patty is a great person ‘cause she learned from the best — Butter. What an incredible person. He kept me alive on radio. He [played] quality music on radio. And Patty is doing the same thing.”
“I have enjoyed every day of the past 30 years on the radio and I am truly honored,” said Patty Jackson, who first stepped up to the microphone on Jan. 24, 1982, when she joined the staff of WSSJ in Camden. “I love what I do, and appreciate my mentors over the years, including WDAS’ Joe ‘Butterball’ Tamburro, who I will never forget for all that he taught me.”
Music icon Kenny Gamble, who plans to join the celebration on Sunday, had high praise and appreciation for the “The Midday Queen of Philly.”
“I remember the first time I heard her voice,” said Gamble. “I said, ‘Boy, what a voice for radio!’ I hadn’t met her, but I think she was on Power 99 when she first came here. I used to say to Butterball, ‘Butter! That’s the best voice in radio — Patty Jackson!’ Some people have just got voices like that.
“I’d just like to congratulate her. She’s for Philly,” Gamble continued. “She’s really there for everybody, and you don’t have many live local deejays anymore, like you used to. Everybody’s syndicated, so it’s not that personal touch anymore. In fact, Black radio has been almost dismantled because of its power. Black radio is responsible for civil rights, it’s responsible for leadership in our community — for everything!
Gamble said Jackson is following the tradition of radio icons like Philadelphia’s Georgie Woods, New York’s Frankie Crocker and Chicago’s Rodney Jones.
“You had all these different personalities that were in the community. And so Patty is still keeping up that tradition. She’s still in the community — and she plays our music, which I really like! She plays our music all the time, so we love Patty!”
To celebrate 30 years with Philly’s favorite daytime diva, call the Dell box office at (215) 685-9560 or visit www.mydelleast.com. Tickets are also available at www.wdasfm.com.
In making multiple visits to Philadelphia, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has shown he isn’t afraid to take the fight deep inside a longtime Democratic stronghold. And Romney’s campaign is attacking President Barack Obama’s stance on the one issue most critical to the majority of Philadelphians: public education.
Romney visited Guion S. Bluford Elementary School in West Philadelphia — a Renaissance School matched with a “turnaround” team led by Universal Companies and its founder, Kenny Gamble — on Thursday. In declaring that African-American schools need more money, Romney ripped a page from Obama’s playbook by bringing the conversation to the group of people affected the most.
The Republican presidential candidate visited the school a day after declaring education is the “civil rights issue of our era.”
Romney repeated that declaration during the school visit, but struggled to defend his view that class sizes aren’t a major factor in educational success. Local African-American leaders also said his push for more two-parent families isn’t realistic in their community.
As of press time, officials with Universal haven’t returned calls seeking comment. The School District of Philadelphia also wasn’t aware of Romney’s visit. Bluford sits in City Councilman Curtis Jones’ 4th district, and during Thursday’s Council meeting, Jones voiced his displeasure at both Romney’s low-key visit, and the presidential hopeful’s stance on education.
“Unbeknownst to many people [Romney] was here this morning at Bluford Elementary school where he was espousing his ‘class sizes don’t matter’ and everybody knows, even internally, size matters — class sizes,” Jones said, thanking his Republican colleagues on council for not meeting up with the former Massachusetts governor.
Jones said he only became aware of Romney’s visit through an update on KWY newsradio. Mayor Michael Nutter and District Attorney Seth Williams joined a rally outside of Bluford, condemning Romney’s stances — and for creeping quietly into Philadelphia.
In advance of his visit, Romney and his election campaign have simultaneously attacked Obama’s stance as elitist while urging districts to do away teacher unions.
“You know, President Obama likes to talk about how he’s for the underprivileged, but when it comes to the money that comes from the teachers union, he’s putting that campaign cash ahead of the needs of our kids. We have to recognize it’s time to put kids first, to get education on track by giving people greater choice in schools, by making sure we reward the very best teachers with great careers and rising income,” Romney said via a statement released by his campaign. “We know what to do to make our schools better.”
Those remarks mirror what Romney recently told Fox News’ Stave Doocy. When asked about the president’s education agenda, Romney wasted little time in going into attack mode, pointing to a Washington, D.C., school choice program that Romney claims Obama and the teachers union shuttled.
“We have a teachers’ union that too often stands in the way of the kind of reforms that would make education work. We know, for instance, in Washington, D.C., that school choice there helped immeasurably with young people - improving their quality of learning and their skills, and yet the President shut down the program,” Romney said on the news program. “We’ve got to put the unions behind, and put the kids first.”
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan assailed the notion that teacher unions are standing in the way of school reform. Jordan noted that the PFT has sacrificed and produced several rounds of givebacks during recent contract discussions. Jordan said there are other factors in union negotiations that either Romney doesn’t know about or fails to acknowledge.
“We have consistently [partnered with the district on cuts] and I would defy anyone from the board who suggests we haven’t been very effective in working with the district to keep health care costs as low as they can possibly be through negotiations,” Jordan said, during a recent editorial board meeting at The Tribune. “That’s a reality that all organizations have to build in; you shouldn’t ask people to work and not have health care.”
Lis Smith, a spokeswoman with President Obama’s reelection campaign, quickly responded to Romney’s visit to Philadelphia — and to the assertions Romney made; striking at Romney’s often-criticized business models and asking if the presidential hopeful will apply the same tactics to education as he did while at Bain Capital.
“When he’s in Philadelphia today, will Mitt Romney tell the truth about how he wants to apply Romney Economics to education? As we’ve seen throughout Mitt Romney’s career in both the private and public sectors, Romney Economics is all about the short term,” Smith said via a statement released by the Obama reelection campaign. “We’ve already seen what Romney Economics meant for Massachusetts students — larger class sizes, a de-emphasis on critical early education, teachers laid off, and in one year alone, the second-largest per-pupil cuts in the nation … these aren’t the priorities Americans want in our President.”
Tribune staff writer Eric Mayes and The Associated Press contributed to this report.