Picture it, Philadelphia. 1963.
Okay, it’s Leo season, and time for me to round up another pioneering set of songwriters. Given the season of the lion, I had to pay tribute to one member of Royal Soul. But you can’t really go into the spectacle that is the influential career of Kenneth Gamble (born August 11th, 1943) without paying attention to the work his Aries city-of-brotherly-love contemporary and eventual partner Leon Huff (born April 8th, 1942) had in the same city before they joined forces, and the magic they crafted together.
Both of them got their stars with other team mates. Gamble was discovered by Jerry Ross primarily as a performer in 1963. At the same time, Leon Huff was making a name for himself as a session pianist and songwriter (He played on the session for The Ronettes “Baby, I Love You”) Huff was taken under the wing of John Madara and David White, who had a burgeoning career with Philadelphia girl groups and soloists like Maureen Gray and writing “You Don’t Own Me” for Lesley Gore.
Both writers, as displayed by the earlier songs on this mix display their cutting their teeth on various teen pop efforts of the day, from acts as diverse as Patty & The Emblems, Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon and even Little Peggy March. They first collaborated with each other in 1964 for a late year Hot 100 hit in the form of “The 81” a joyful romp with Candy & The Kisses based on “In My Lonely Room” by Martha & The Vandellas.
Between 1964 and 1967, their collaborations became more frequent. With the success of their first Top 5 hit, “Expressway To Your Heart” they more or less started collaborating with each other as a priority, although both would still collaborate with other partners. They formed Gamble and Neptune records as the 1960’s drew to a close.
With the solid production credits they garnered behind reviving Jerry Butler’s career, shepherding a number of classics for The Intruders, helping Dusty Springfield out post Memphis it’s amazing that they had time to develop the most distinct style of the early 1970’s by the time the re-branded and formed Philadephia International Records.
This mix serves to prove that their influence was vast long before they became critical darlings, with 40 songs that saw the light of day before 1972. I hope you enjoy as we roll up on wishing Kenny Gamble a happy 75th Birthday.
1) Patty & The Emblems – Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl
3) The Lavenders – One More Time