Liner Notes – The Intruders


The Intruders are given credit by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff (Gamble & Huff) for being the cornerstone on which they built Philadelphia International Records.  Lead singer Sam “Little Sonny” Brown, Eugene “Bird” Daughtry, Phil Terry and Robert “Big Sonny” Edwards signed with Gamble and Huff’s early Gamble label in 1966.  In ’67 they hit the R&B Top 20 charts that year with “(We’ll Be) United,” and the follow-ups were “Together” and “Love That’s Real” from their first album, The Intruders Are Together.  The Intruders were on a roll!  Even though I was growing up in Motown, that sound coming from Philly was so fresh it couldn’t be denied.  I was too young to be at the basement parties but because me and my boys sang, we were allowed to come for the singing battles that almost always took place in the Livernois/Fenkell area of Northwest Detroit.  Of course our five-man group sang Temps songs exclusively.  Well, one night my slightly older sister’s friend, Blaine, showed up at the basement party (or was it a daytime back yard party?) with his singing mates and they broke out in a series of Intruders songs; my boy Blaine (I claimed him as my friend from that day on) was on the lead singing the “Little Sonny” parts.  The songs were the bomb, Blaine’s group sang them like pros and they stood out even more because all the rest of us male groups were battling with one Temptations song after another.  Blaine ‘nem sounded refreshing with the new sound that none of the rest of us from that neighborhood had.  I learned right then and there, whatever I was to do in life, I needed to be diverse.

“Little Sonny” had a way of delivering the lyric that just brought you in and made you enjoy the story.  Of course, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff are on a very short list of the greatest songwriters of all time, so you know the writing was gonna be excellent but a song still needs a story teller and “Little Sonny” just fit their bill to a tee.  In 1968 the Intruders struck gold with the extremely clever song that described the group’s maturing into men as having gone from “Cowboys To Girls.”  It shot to number 1 on the R&B charts and number 6 on the Pop charts, giving the group their biggest hit.  If this song was released today for the first time, by just listening, I’d swear that Babyface wrote the lyrics.   There was something new and fresh about this writing style, like the smell of Corinthian Leather seats in a brand new car.  This was my jam!  Leon Huff explained it this way in a 2008 interview with National Public Radio:

“It’s a story. Little kids grow up, and they’re beating the girls up, pulling their hair – they don’t treat them tender. Then all of the sudden they realize that girls are made for kissing. And the girls go from baby dolls to boys. We were trying to write lyrics that were different, take a different angle and be as clever as possible.”

We could only find this next video of the original Intruders performing on camera so please forgive the fact that it ends abruptly before the song ends.  We just thought it was still worth it to get a rare look at the group in performance.  If you’re like me and never got the chance to see them perform live, this is as close as we’re gonna get.  We want to thank “SpindleRecords” for their posting of the video, “Cowboys To Girls.”

(posted by “SpindleRecords”)

(posted by “chosen1601”)

“(Love Is Like A) Baseball Game,” the Intruders’ next release, was their only other Top 40 pop hit, and the Cowboys To Girls album, was their most popular.  As a result of the success they were having with the Intruders, Columbia Records agreed to bankroll Gamble & Huff’s new label, Philadelphia International.  Thanks to their efforts to create the song stylings of this four-man group, Gamble & Huff had defined The Sound of Philadelphia (TSOP); which is what the name of their orchestra stands for.  For the Intruders, the jubilation from this accomplishment was short-lived.  “Little Sonny” left the group in ‘69, only to return in 1973.  His off and on short-stinted replacement was a club singer named Robert “Bobby Starr” Ferguson; he lead the song, “When We Get Married.”  When “Little Sonny” returned, their last big splashes from the Save The Children album were “I’ll Always Love My Mama,” and “I Wanna Know Your Name,” both ending up in the Top 10 on the R&B charts.  The next attempt, 1974’s Energy Of Love, faltered and in 1975 the group called it quits.  “Bird” and “Bobby Starr” both put lineups out there and even the Philly Intruders, a tribute group with no original members, performs the group’s classics.  Sadly, Eugene “Bird” Daughtry passed away in 1994 from a bout with cancer and Sam “Little Sonny” Brown, the voice that gave the Intruders their sound, committed suicide in 1995 after many years of struggling with drug and alcohol addiction; thus silencing forever the original Sound of Philadelphia.

Six young men came together for a very short time and created a sound.  The four original members of the Intruders and one Gamble and one Huff teamed up, recruited an orchestra that included Dexter Wansel on keys and Bunny Sigler on guitar, and created a sound from Philly for all the world to enjoy from now… until forever!  I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Intruders songs. I can’t remember when I heard it on radio last.  I don’t think Blaine and his fellas sang this one that fine day or evening but I know they would’ve torn it up!  Please enjoy, “Slow Drag.”

Yours musically,

Reuben Yabuku

(posted by “mcaztlan”)