LINER NOTES – THE WHISPERS

When you think of “Staying Power,” you have to think of the Whispers. Is there a time in your lifelong memory when the Whispers were not relevant?  If you’re 40 or younger, the answer is a definite, “No.”  The Whispers’ first Hit record happened in 1969 on a small label called Soul Clock Records out of Los Angeles.  The song was one of my favorites, “Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong.”  I don’t know why but this song always made me think of Ray Charles… I’m guessing because of its sad beauty.  It sounded like something he might sing because Ray Charles could make a sad song the most beautiful thing you ever heard in your life.  In ’70 the Whispers moved on to Janus Records which brought forth JAMS like, “Your Love Is So Doggone Good,” “I Only Meant To Wet My Feet,” “A Mother For My Children” and “Bingo” from four albums released between ’72 and ’74.  They had help in the early days from the pre-famous Gamble & Huff  production team.  Bunny Sigler, Norman Harris, Ron Baker and Allan Felder, all part of G&H’s songwriting team, wrote this song for the Whispers’ 1974 Bingo album, enjoy the Audio Video for, “A Mother For My Children.”  If you’re a Baby Boomer and don’t remember the title, I’m sure your memory will be jogged when you hear this Classic song that rarely gets airplay anymore.  By the way, the beginning music is very reminiscent of “One Of A Kind Love Affair” by the Spinners minus the dominant drum beats.  There’s a Philly connection; the Spinners had left Motown by then and their songs were written under the tutelage of another Philly Soul Producer, Thom BellLINER NOTES is happy to share with you, “A Mother For My Children.”


posted by theo1cd

The Whispers were originally made up of Walter and Wallace “Scotty” Scott (twins who share the lead vocals), Nicholas Caldwell (sometimes writer and choreographer), Marcus Hutson and Gordy Harmon; formed in 1963.  Since their inception, they have only had two personnel changes:  (1) Gordy Harmon elected to leave the group in ’71 and was replaced by by Leavell Degree who remains to this day and (2) Marcus Hutson took ill in ’89 and left the group.  Sadly, Marcus passed away in 2000 and the fellas vowed to not replace him; now they are four.


posted by ecmaj9

As fate would have it, the Whispers moved on to Soul Train Records in ’76.  Soul Train Records was headed by the Executive team of Don Cornelius and Dick Griffey.  We all know Soul Train host, Don Cornelius but Dick Griffey’s history may not be as familiar.  Dick Griffey was a successful Concert Promoter and Nightclub Owner, so he had a direct business relationship with the top entertainersDon Cornelius brought him onboard as Soul Train’s Talent Coordinator, responsible for booking the performers for the show.  In 1975 they formed Soul Train Records together.  In ’77 the two moguls fell out and Don Cornelius left the company.  When Don left, Griffey re-named the record company SOLAR; the Sound Of Los Angeles Records.  Now, I said fate favored the Whispers for moving to Soul Train Records when they did because these West Coast Cats had a handle on creating danceable tracks… dare I say a Westside version of Disco Music and that kept the Whispers current during a period that killed the careers of many, many talented entertainers.  This is evidenced by their crowd favorite and huge Hit from 1979 on the new SOLAR label, “And The Beat Goes On.”


posted by UnidiscMusic

Nicholas Caldwell is the bearded big fella in the background with the smoothest of moves.  The Whispers formation is the Twins on both sides and the other two or three singers dancing up a storm in the middle.  They are nimble-footed with lots of Fred Astaire-like movements.  It’s said that Nick does much of the choreography.  Well, he also writes songs for the group on occasions.  One such song penned by Nick is a slick, smooth ballad entitled, “Give It To Me,” on the ’87 Just Gets Better With Time album.  The most memorable lyric is the reference of not being “Michael J. or the Prince.”  Another song Nick wrote is a Classic for the Whispers, “Say Yes.”  We’re gonna share with you another Whispers Classic written by Nicholas Caldwell for their self-titled ’79 album, it’s the smokin’, sultry song, “Lady.”


posted by UnidiscMusic

In 1981, I was preparing to leave WJLB Radio in Detroit.  So the Love Is Where You Find It album has a special place in my memory since it was their last LP I had to scrutinize to see what gem I was going to be able to play on the air.  Well, it didn’t disappoint.  “In The Raw,” “Emergency” and “Say Yes” were all on this ’81 collection along with the title cut, “Love Is Where You Find It.”  Check out the Whispers’ Music Video for this JAM.


posted by UnidiscMusic

Baby Face and L.A. Reid also jumped on the Whispers train with occasional writing contributions.  They scored big by co-writing the Whispers’ Party Anthem, “Rock Steady.”  Baby Face and Daryl Simmons, a childhood friend and Writing/Producing partner for LaFace Records, wrote this next tune.  Check out this Soul Train performance of the West Coast flavored scorcher, “In The Mood.”


posted by akimmbo

Back in the late 70’s, I saw the Whispers at a little but very popular Nightclub in Detroit, Henry’s Palace.  I’ve seen them in concert arenas as well but this appearance at Henry’s was up close and personal.  They were absolutely dynamic.  Their voices were incredibly tuned, leads and background.  They didn’t have any extra background singers so they were gettin’ down as Real Deals do.  What stands out in my mind the most was how personable and engaging they were and how precise their movements were.  Fast songs, slow songs… it didn’t matter… they had Fenkell Avenue “Rockin’ Steady.”  Dig on this Performance Video where they bring that heat on, “It’s A Love Thing.”

posted by Emilio Conesa

SOLAR Records founder Dick Griffey married one of his performers… Carrie Lucas.  Remember her?  She was a straight up Disco singer who had marginal success with songs like “Show Me Where You’re Coming From,” “Dance With You,” “Keep Smiling” and “Career Girl.”  Well, she is the one who transposed Donny Hathaway’s classic holiday song, “This Christmas,” into the Whisper’s tribute piece, “A Song For Donny.”  She did a great job because its dangerous to take a very familiar music melody and write new Lyrics on top of that melody.  I say dangerous because that could be easily deemed as corny or sacrilegiousCarrie Lucas pulled it off.  With her newly constructed Lyrics, the Whispers’ performance turned an old Classic into a new Classic… without taking away from the original at all.  Check it out.


posted by UnidiscMusic

The Whispers weren’t afraid to take on topics like that of a Prostitute with the song, “Olivia (Lost and Turned Out),” or the sexy and provocative lyrics of “Say Yes” and the inventiveness of Scotty scatting and the other singers shouting, “Hey Scotty, what’s that mean?” in their song, “Keep On Loving Me.”

The Whispers have, throughout their recording careers, had great writers and musical talent around them; some of the best in the business.  Earlier, with musicians who went on to become members of the Philly Sound and later working with folk like Baby Face, Leon Sylvers (of the Sylvers) and Greg Phillinganes (Michael Jackson’s Music Director for a while) and the top of the line session musicians.  Just listen intently to the music on any Whispers record… the word that comes to mind is IMPECCABLE!  Take this next song and scrutinize it… it’ll be easier because I’m going to leave you with an Audio Video.  I couldn’t find a Performance Video for this song but I couldn’t leave it off the list.  Speaking of great musical company, it’s written by the great Bassist/Singer/Songwriter, Gary TaylorGary also wrote, “My Heart Your Heart” for them.  The music track is SLAMMIN’!!  And of course, the Whispers make being good seem so effortless.  Together almost 49 years and counting… 42 years of recording great music and still going strong… without “Young Guy” replacements or becoming passé.  Wow!  So many great songs I couldn’t possibly show all of them in this LINER NOTES article.  I’d love for you to post a comment and share with us your favorite Whispers song and why that song is your fav.  Turn the volume up, close your eyes and enjoy the song whose title fits them best, “Just Gets Better With Time.”  Peace!

Yours Musically,
Reuben Yabuku


posted by cre8ted12