Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Delfonics

Throughout the history of All Things Rockin', and specifically in this case soul and/or RnB music, different styles of the genre were identified by the regions in the United States from which the particular artists came from or at least produced their best work. We had The Motown Sound, The Stax/Volt sound from Memphis, Chicago Soul and The Philadelphia or "Philly" Sound which gave us this pioneering vocal group, The Delfonics. Brothers William and Wilbert Hart, Randy Cain and Ritchie Daniels got together while attending Overbrook High School in Philadelphia, Pa. They called themselves The Four Gents in the beginning, then changed into The Orphonics before finally settling on The Delfonics. Their first recording was "He Don't Really Love You" on the local Moon Shot label in 1966, shortly after which Daniels was drafted into military service. In 1968 the remaining trio was introduced to Cameo-Parkway Records producer Stan Watson who in turn got them together with fellow producer Thom Bell resulting in the group's first album release on Watson's own Philly Groove label. The title track from this LP, "La La Means I Love You" was released as a single in 1968, sold over a million copies and was awarded a gold record.

This was the beginning of a string of successful Bell-produced releases. Working with a basic budget in those early days, there was not enough money to pay string sections and the like so in addition to a small group of musicians Bell played many of the instruments himself. Even then you could hear the beginnings of what would become the trademark fully orchestrated arrangements of the Philadelphia International sound carried on by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff in later years. Other hits followed, including 1969's Grammy-winning "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time).

Randy Cain left the group in 1971 to be replaced by Major Harris. By this time, Thom Bell had moved on to produce The Stylistics,who were cast in the same falsetto-lead -voiced mold as The Delfonics, and ex-Motown group The Spinners. With Bell's attentions focused elsewhere, Stan Watson assumed the producer's role for the group but was not able to match the Delfonics' past successes. After a few minor hits and one or two outright misses, the group split in 1975.

Saying that the group "split" is actually a gross simplification. More accurately, the group began a series of reshuffling that at times was downright confusing because the only constant was the name "The Delfonics". Wilbert and William Hart each had a trio of the same name. Randy Cain returns to Wilbert's group, then leaves to join William's group. There finally was basically two groups. The main recording line-up was William Hart, Major Harris and Frank Washington. Two separate trios would then tour with additional members as needed. One sure thing was, amid all this running about, Major Harris managed to record a major hit (pun intended) with a masterfully executed ballad titled "Love Won't Let Me Wait"

In addition to being proven hitmakers, The Delfonics had quite the impact on the industry at large. Their songs, written and co-writen mostly by lead singer William Hart, have been sampled extensively by artists such as The Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious B.I.G., Missy Elliott, Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince and Boyz II Men. T heir music has found its way into movie soundtracks, most notably Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown. Aretha Franklin, Patti Labelle, Swing Out Sister, Prince and The Manhattan Transfer are only a partial list of those who have covered The Delfonics' songs.
Groups led by both William and Wilbert Hart still tour sporadically to this day.
Randy Cain passed away at his home in Maple Shade, New Jersey April 9, 2009
Major Harris died of congestive heart and lung failure on November 9, 2012
Cain was 63, Harris was 65.

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