Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The O'Jays

Hailing from Canton,Ohio and formed in 1958, The O'Jays were originally a quintet consisting of Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey and Bill Isles. The five high school friends at first called themselves The Triumphs and later The Mascots. Their recording debut was a minor regional hit entitled "Miracles" in 1961. They took on the name The O'Jays as a tribute to popular Cleveland disc jockey Eddie O'Jay in 1963 and released their first chart song, "Lonely Drifter" which peaked at #93 on the Billboard Top 100. The group continued to chart with minor hits throughout the 60s with songs such as "I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow", "One Night Affair" and "Look Over Your Shoulder"

In spite of ( or due to ) their middling success as a touring act and on the RnB charts, the group considered leaving the music business. In 1972 Bobby Massey and Bill Isles did just that, leaving the O'Jays as a trio. The remaining members' perserverence was rewarded when Kenny Gamble  and Leon Huff signed them to Philadelphia International Records from which they released their first million-seller "Back Stabbers" from an album of the same name.

This same album also produced a huge crossover hit that went to #1 . This was much-covered RnB staple "Love Train".

During the remainder of the 70s, The O'Jays were consistently scoring high on the charts with songs like "I Love Music", "Darlin' Darlin' Baby" and "For The Love Of Money" which featured one of pop music's most memorable bass lines. Tragedy struck, however when original member William Powell died of cancer in 1977 at the age of 35.

A former member of Little Anthony And The Imperials, Sammy Strain joined the group and the O'Jays continued to record, but with considerably less success. They did however, do well in the U.K. market with nine hit singles all told. While they continued placing songs in the charts through the 80s into the 90s, 1978's "She Used To Be My Girl" would be the group's last Top 5 hit.

Sammy Strain left the group in 1992 to return to The Imperials. In his place came Nathaniel Best, who was later replaced by Eric Grant. The group did little in the way of recording since, although they remained a popular live act.
The O'Jays were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2005. Original members Levert, Williams, Bobby Massey and William Powell were inducted along with Sammy Strain, who became one of The Hall's few double-inductees, having been inducted with The Imperials in 2009. Curiously, original member Bill Isles was not inducted. The group were recipients of BET's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

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