Song: Leaving Me
Artist: The Independents
Album: Discs Of Gold (1974) (2010)
This is an extremely rare and obscure group, and I recommend that you research them out. Unfortunately, they’ve only made a couple of albums. They did stay with each other long. Believe it or not, they broke up after being together professionally for only 3 years! Their only biggest hit was a song called “Leave Me (1973).” Although it only reached up to #21 on the Top 100 Chart, it hit #1 on R&B. The song sold over a million single copies, and has won the Gold Award. Because they’ve only stayed with each other for barely 3 short years, almost nothing is written about them. This is so sad that a talented Black group such as this one had become lost. Also check out their unknown song “In The Valley Of My Own World,” it’s instrumental melody reminds me of “Love Jones,” by Bright Side Of Darkness, a lot. This whole album was nicely done actually. They harmonize beautifully. I think most oldies fans will enjoy listening to them!
Song: Strawberry Letter 23
Artist: The Brothers Johnson
Album: Right On Time (1977)
Wow! These guys were some talented brothers back in the day. This is another of many group that used to confuse me. The reason being, back in the day Ray Parker Jr. used to have a group called Raydio, and I perceived a couple of their songs had very similar styles to The Brothers Johnson (or vise verse). However, there was no doubt that The Brothers Johnson had their own brand and identity.
These Guys Were Pretty Popular In The 80s!
Although they’ve had quite a few big hits, I think most people remember them for “Strawberry Letter 23,” off their 1977 “Right On Time” album. The song hit #5 on the Top 100, and #1 on the R&B charts. What an odd name for a hit song tho. 🤣 You also may be familiar with another huge hit of theirs called “I’ll Be Good To You (1976).” This song hit #3 on the Top 100 and #1 on the R&B charts. However, I think my second favorite was their hit called “Stomp (1980),” off their “light Up The Night” album. This was a big disco hit in many of the NYC clubs back in the day.
Unfortunately, I was shocked to read that Louis E Johnson recently passed away about 5 years ago. He was 60 years old. I also learned that Louis was responsible for laying down that sick baseline we heard in Michael Jackson’s cult classic “Billie Jean.” I always seem to find out about these amazing things after these celebrities die. We’ve lost a legend indeed!
Artist: Checkmates, Ltd.
This is an EXTREMELY rare, obscured indeed! The Checkmates, Ltd., to my understanding was a group discovered by the late Nancy Wilson. This was a very talented group in my opinion, it was such a shame that they broke up just barely a year after forming the group. Their biggest hit was a song called “Black Pearl (1969),” which was written and produced by the infamous Phil Specter. The song reached #13 on the pop charts. The also had some success with a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.” BTW, no….. Everybody assumes this was Tina Turner’s original, it’s not. Around 2008, Universal Studios suffered a major fire, and many original recordings were completely destroyed. Unfortunately, that included almost all works by the band, and many more artists as well. Check out this lost treasure album, I think it’s really nice piece of forgotten history.
So much great oldies in the digital world it’s ridiculous!! Absolutely no one should be crying they don’t have money to buy their favorite song or album! Because guess what? You virtually don’t need money any more these days. Just take the initiative and search Spotify or YouTube! Today’s musicians are the legendary Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. You may remember Marilyn as off and on lead singer for “The Fifth Dimensions.” Her long time husband Billy Davis Jr. founded the group some time in 1965. However they first came out under a different name. In 1965 they were first known as “The Versatiles.” A year later, they changed the name to “The Fifth Dimensions.”
Both Were Affiliated With The Fifth Dimensions!
The group has been known for many many huge hits, such as “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” and “Up Up And Away,” just to name a few. The group was so huge back in the day, and I’ve always associated Marilyn McCoo with the group. However, I tend to forget that McCoo actually had both a few solo and duet albums with her husband. Unfortunately, she only had one real hit outside of “The Fifth Dimensions.” In my opinion, this was her most memorable song (in my age group) it’s called “You Don’t Have To Be a Star (To Be In My Show) (1976).” I played this song so many times as a kid, I’m surprised that 45rpm did not turn in to dust and disappear!
I Often Forgot That Marilyn Had Albums Outside Of The Fifth Dimensions!
Now, this doesn’t make any sense. Unless I’m missing something, or Billboard can’t give me the information I need. I remember as a young boy how huge his song was; almost every Black household was playing this song, yet Billboard did not have this song registered. That is impossible. It was too popular not to be registered anywhere on there. I’ll try a little longer and see, but I just can’t find it. Anyway, before I get sidetracked, I’d like to make a quick comment about their album “Marilyn & Billy.” I believe this album was released around 1978, then digitally re-released in 2014. I did not personally own this album, so I was in catatonic shock, when I discovered that a song McCoo sang, “Saving All My Love For You,” was performed originally by her! I don’t even think I heard her version on the radio. I assumed this was originally recorded by the late Whitney Houston! You see, we all learn something new every day!!
Song: Oh Sherrie
Artist: Steve Perry
Album: Greatest Hits + 5 (1998)
Now, of course, many people are going to have different opinions about this, but just keep in mind that this is my own personal opinion. As both a blogger and a heavy music fan, when it comes to rock music, I feel that Steve Perry is one of the very few greatest rock voices that ever lived (at least in my generation). Steve has a voice that demands attention. I mean, the only other person I can think of, that has a voice powerful enough (and better even) could even dare challenge him, would have been the late Freddy Mercury of QUEEN (that would have been a spectacular concert if that indeed happened, yes?) That’s my opinion. Let’s face it, very few male 80s rock “singers” could actually sing, without interpreting their output as pure yelling!
I’ve Heard Very Few Male 80s Rock Singers, That Didn’t Scream Their Way Through!
You know, I looked at Steve, and never thought that an amazing voice could come out of that tiny body. 🤣 I think it’s safe to say that Steve truly made his mark as lead singer of Journey, with the following two songs. The first, a song called “Open Arms (1982),” which reached #2 on the Top 100 chart. The second song was called “Never Stop Believin’ (1981),” which peaked at #9 on the Top 100. You know, after the fact, it seemed very strange that this song peaked at only #9 considering this song was remixed and played so many times. At times it seemed more popular than “Open Arms.” Then again, I guess I have to remember it depends on the environment I’m in. Because in the clubs, they played “Never Stop Believin'” a lot. In fact, many “Bring To Action” type groups used this song as their anthem.
What a great song it was though. There’s no doubt that this song was and still is extremely inspirational. After Steve left the group Journey, he produced two songs from his solo career that became my ultimate favorites. The First Song is called “Oh Sherrie (1984),” and peaked at #3. I loved this song. Not only was the music great, I loved the way he sang it. I thought the way he emphasized the “N” sound, in the lyrics “You Should Have Been Gonnnnnnnnnnnnneeeeee” was absolutely hilarious! 🤣 Since he partly written the song, I guess some of that was personal experience (as most songs where back in the day). The last ultimate favorite is called “Foolish Heart (1985).” I think this was a really nice rock ballad. It only reached #18 (which isn’t bad). I’ll tell you one thing, all those classic rock stations playing love songs from back in the day, usually this song would bound to popup at some point.
Song: Mr. Blue Sky
Artist: Electric Light Orchestra
Album: Out Of The Blue (1977)
Guys, please don’t judge their name! Although their name sounds like they belong to some sort of circus or novelty act, this England born band produced beyond amazing music when I was growing up. And the proof in that, is their staggering streaming numbers. The song “Mr. Blue Sky” was released in 1977, how the hell did it manage to gather 360M streams from Spotify alone? Are you kidding me? That’s the kind of streams that only someone like Whitney Houston, or Michael Jackson got. Yet, if you ask the average person who they are, they draw a blank! Most people don’t have a clue.
How Can A Group Get So Much Plays, Yet People Barely Remember Them?
That’s mind boggling to me. Either this is an example of how complicated an artist/band stats are, or streaming is moving so incredibly fast, that we are missing a major part of our music history! Don’t you think? To throw an even bigger wrench into the equation, they never had a number one hit! But they do have 7 Top Tens under their belt.
Despite “Mr. Blue Sky” being so successful, the song was at the bottom when it came to my favorites. The song that I think is probably most known/remembered was from their album “A New World Record,” the song is called “Telephone Line (1976).”It also happens to be one of my top favorites. This peaked at #7 on the Top 100, and was their highest ranking song on the charts. Also, from that same album was another favorite of mine called “Livin’ Thing,” and it only peaked at #13 (which is not bad). It’s a really nice album, I recommend it. Check out some of their other hits, “Don’t Break Me Down,” and another great song of theirs “Evil Woman.”
Song: I Love You More
Artist: René & Angela
Album: Wall To Wall (1981)
Wow! In my opinion, this duo is obscure for sure! How many of my blog fans even remember who René Moore & Angela Winbush was? They’ve made some of my most favorite jams! It was a shame that their group project did not last very long, musically speaking they were a good match. Actually, for a while I assumed that they were a couple. Kind of like Ashford & Simpson. However, contrary to my beliefs at the time, I discovered later that they literally hated each other’s guts. I would have never guessed that, judging from the music I’ve heard from them. Their music was so popular back in the day. Now I don’t hear them at all! Not even on Live365 radio, and they play all kinds of obscure stuff.
For awhile I really thought they were a couple!
Their song “I Love You More,” my ultimate jam back in the day. It was one of those songs you hear while passing by a store or something, and you must stop and dance a little bit because the groove was so good! For me, that’s an example of some real R&B music of my generation! Actually their album “Wall To Wall,” was a pretty good album. I’m saddened that their business relationship ended so abruptly. They barely lasted 6-8 years together. Which probably meant they hated each other from the start! You might remember a couple of their other hits. One of them was from their 1985 album “Street Called Desire,” and the song was “I’ll Be Good.” I used to jam to that a lot as well. Checkout another classic from the same album called “Your Smile.” Very nice song. About 1985-1986, they eventually broke their contract and moved on with solo careers. I haven’t heard anything from Rene, but Angela had done quite a few recordings.
Song: How ‘Bout Us
Album: How ‘Bout Us (1981)(2014)
I decided to call this post “The Lost Sounds Of Champaign,” ’cause, they really are! Hell, when was the last time you heard anything from Champaign? This is exactly why I’ve built this blog! Come on, be honest. And just in case, no, I don’t mean Evelyn “Champagne” King, I meant the band Champaign 🤣. The group decided to name themselves, after their hometown, Champaign, Illinois. We can say that the band has produced all kinds of music, but mostly pop, and perhaps borderline funk.
That One Hit That Probably Made A Lot Of Babies!
Their song “How ‘Bout Us,” was a HUGE success for the group! They ripped the music charts to shreds! It was #1 in Adult Contemporary, #4 in R&B, #12 on Pop charts, and 5 on the UK chart. I think this is an awesome song that you can add to any wedding reception in my opinion. There’s no doubt in my mind that this song helped to make a lot of babies in the 80s.
This was one of the very few songs I really loved, that I didn’t purchase a 45 for. But, then again, it wasn’t really necessary, as many compilation CDs really started to become popular at that time. Champaign had another massive hit I think you’ll remember. The song was called “Try Again (1983),” it hit #2 on the R&B chart and #6 under Adult Contemporary. Interesting that this song did so well in the U.S. Although they’ve made some really good music, in my opinion, these two songs were the best out of their career.