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The Blue Notes

My Hero

Inexorably associated with The Blue Notes as he will always remain, Harold Melvin wasn't there when the North Philadelphia group formed in 1954 as The Teardrops. The original Blue Notes were lead tenor Franklin Peaker, tenors Bernard Williams and Sam Sally, second tenor/ baritone Roosevelt Brodie, and bass Jesse Gillis. They renamed themselves after the nearby Blue Note Lounge and traveled to New York to successfully compete on the Apollo Theatre's amateur contest. There they picked up manager Benny Burleigh, who doubled as one of their songwriters after they signed a pact with Jerry Blaine's Josie label in 1956.

The Blue Notes debuted on Josie with the ballad If You Love Me (Really Love Me), and they encored in '57 with Benny's The Retribution Blues. Melvin, born June 25, 1939 in Philly, joined the ranks in 1958 when Brodie was drafted (he'd been in The Charmagnes while attending Simon Gratz High). The Blue Notes cut Williams' She Is Mine on new manager Phil Passon's Lost logo in 1960. Sally was long gone by then. When Brodie returned from the service, it restored The Blue Notes to a quintet.

Veteran Philly organist Doc Bagby signed the group to his Val-Ue label. He produced their My Hero, a stately adaptation of Oscar Straus' 1908 operetta 'The Chocolate Soldier' (maybe they heard Vivian Vance croon it on a 1955 episode of 'I Love Lucy'), with Peaker's sky-high tenor out front and strings enveloping the group (a gospel-rocking A Good Woman brought the group back to earth on the B-side). My Hero came out in September of '60 and managed a #19 R&B/#78 pop showing that fall (it later turned up on two more Philly imprints, Red Top and Jalynne).

Gillis' exit in 1961 made The Blue Notes a quartet, but there were more 45s on tiny Gamut and 3 Sons before they went dormant. Williams, Peaker, Brodie, Weldon A. McDougal III, and his wife Vivian waxed Needless To Say for Harthon as Bernard Williams & The Original Blue Notes, while Melvin recruited The Chordsteppers (John Adkins, Larry Parks, and Bernard Wilson) to reactivate The Blue Notes in 1965. Despite fine outings on Landa (1965's Get Out [And Let Me Cry], penned and produced by ex-Valentines lead Richard Barrett) and Arctic (Go Away in 1967), The Blue Notes languished until Melvin came across deep-voiced Teddy Pendergrass. His sexy leads transformed the veteran group into '70s superstars at Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's Philadelphia International Records.

Peaker was hit by a car and died on November 15, 2006.  Diabetes killed Brodie on July 13, 2010. Complications from a stroke ended Melvin's life on March 24, 1997. 


Various - Street Corner Symphonies 1960 Vol.12

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