Aired on Treasure Island Oldies – Jan 14, 2024
Many of us who lived through the dance craze of the early 60s doing the Twist, the Mashed Potato, the Popeye, etc. were reacquainted with the dance floor in mid to late 70s when disco went mainstream.
In 1975 Philadelphia soul group, Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes (of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” fame), jumped on the disco band wagon and released a track with Teddy Pendergrass singing lead that was included on their album, “Wake Up Everybody.”
This dance number was not issued as a single in the US but eventually found itself at #3 on Billboard’s Hot Disco Singles chart thanks to a Motown artist whose rendition ended up at #1 on Billboard Hot 100 in April 1977.
This cover version which became a monster hit was originally slated for Diana Ross as a follow up to her hit single, “Love Hangover.”
In the case of our featured artist, who was born in Leland, Mississippi but grew up with her three sisters in Long Beach, California, her journey was one of perseverance.
After marrying and having two children, she joined the gospel group known as the Art Reynold Singers. In 1969 she released her debut album, “Sunshower,” under the direction of Jimmy Webb who produced, arranged and composed all the tracks with the exception of one.
What appeared to be her big break was her 1971 signing with Motown Records. In 1973 Motown Productions announced that she would star in a biographical film about Dinah Washington; however the project was dropped due to difficulties in getting clearance from Washington’s relatives.
When that fizzled out, she tried comedy, doing a few skits on the ill-fated Marty Feldman Comedy Machine. Upon cancellation of the show, she made ends meet by doing demo work and performing at small venues.
In 1976 she sang backup on Jermaine Jackson’s album, “My Name Is Jermaine.” She also got the opportunity to record her third solo album that year which included a December 1976 single release of her rendition of Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes’ disco tune.
Her cover version took off. It went to #1 and the artist won the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the 1977 Grammys.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Thelma Houston’s hit version was appropriated by the gay community as an anthem for friends lost to the AIDS epidemic with its strong appeal of “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” this week’s Tom Locke moment in time.
YouTube video of this song:
This “Moments In Time” story is yet another example of a “golden oldie” or forgotten favorite that earned its place in the evolution of Rock & Roll.