Monthly Archives: October 2013

Herb Fame

Herb Feemster

(We’ll Be) United – Peaches & Herb

Everybody loves a comeback story. This is how popular soul singer Herb Feemster disappeared from the limelight for seven years and triumphantly returned during the final days of disco.

Herb Feemster joined the navy after high school and took a part-time job at Waxie Maxie’s on 7th and T St. NW following his release. He recorded the song “Rudolph Holiday” as Millie & Billie on one of Waxie Maxie’s two record labels. The single didn’t have any impact but Feemster was successful at attracting the attention of none other than producer Van McCoy, one of many from the music industry who frequented the shop.

In 1966 McCoy introduced Feemster to The Sweethings, a Washington, DC based girl group, and brought them both to New York City to record. Feemster recorded “You’re Messing Up My Mind” and “From The Shadows To The Sun” under the name Herb Fame. At the suggestion of McCoy, Feemster and Sweethings lead singer Francine “Peaches” Barker recorded the pop standard “Let’s Fall In Love” together. Though they had just met, the vocal chemistry between the two was palpable. When the record was released a year later, the world was introduced to Peaches & Herb.

Between 1967 and 1971 Peaches & Herb issued more than a dozen chart-topping singles on Date Records including “Close Your Eyes,” which reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100, “For Your Love,” “Love Is Strange,” and “(We’ll Be) United,” and two LPs—“For Your Love” and “Let’s Fall In Love.” They performed across the south and Midwest, at DC’s Howard Theatre and The Cellar Door, and also at the Apollo Theatre for a week.

Judging by their performances and photos Feemster and Barker appeared to be madly in love, but the singer concedes the relationship was purely professional.

“There was no personal thing there,” says Feemster. “We were just two people who wanted to sing.”

Exhaustion from nearly four years of constant recording and touring forced Feemster and Barker to end the act in 1970. He entered the Washington, DC police force, but returned to the music industry in 1977 with a new “Peaches,” Linda Greene. Feemster and Greene recorded seven albums together between 1977 and 1983. It was a new era in music ruled by disco, which Feemster boldly embraced.

“If you’re not confident with anything that you do it will not happen,” he says. “I’ve always been confident in me.”

The duo’s 1978 LP “2 Hot,” produced by Freddie Perren of Motown’s The Corporation, proved that Peaches & Herb was back and more popular than ever. The album’s first single, “Shake Your Groove Thing,” became a disco classic, reaching #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their next song, “Reunited,” went all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts.

“All artists record hoping, praying, and wishing that they could do something that will last, become number one, or get a Grammy,” says Feemster. “To have that number one or that top five is a feeling that you just can’t explain.”

Peaches & Herb recorded several more hits with Perren’s MVP Productions on Polydor Records, including “Roller Skatin’ Mate” and “I Pledge My Love” and performed with Bob Hope and Sammy Davis, Jr., but Feemster grew disenchanted with the music business again and Peaches & Herb ended in 1983. He returned to the work force, this time as a deputized security officer at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Feemster released “Colors of Love,” an album with a sixth “Peaches,” Meritxell Negre in 2009 and currently performs with the latest “Peaches,” Wanda Tolson. Francine “Peaches” Barker sadly passed away in 2005.

You can purchase Peaches & Herb‘s music here.

Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Alonzo Hart

alonzo_hart

Mix It Up – The Stridells

Walking through the hallways of Alonzo Hart’s Eastern Senior High School in the 1960s was similar to roaming around an audition for American Idol today. Three part harmonies grew louder at the turn of each corner coming form the likes of The Love Tones, The Deacons, Jerry Cummings of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and The Stridells—Hart, Reginald Marsh, Charles Blagmon, and Wardelle “Twin” Everett. The Stridells became a familiar presence to fans of the Showmobile, an orchestra-backed musical lineup that would travel from park to park, and were soon joined by two new members, Wardell “Twin” Everett and Larry Scott.

“We didn’t get into any trouble, we just sang,” says Hart. “If you gave us a light post and somewhere to sing that’s where you would find us.”

Producers Maxx Kidd and Bob Morgan discovered The Stridells at the Showmobile. Kidd and Morgan wrote “Mix It Up” and “I Remember Christmas” for the group, which they recorded at the Hit Factory in New York City over a period of 23 hours and 14 minutes. The 1969 Yvette Records release “Mix It Up” with Johnny Graham on lead vocals became a regional hit, helped by a second pressing on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records.

“Before we recorded this song if we went to a party in someone’s neighborhood we might have to fight our way out,” says Hart. “After we put the recording out everyone was cool with us.”

The Stridells released a second 45, “The Power To Dream“/”Stick-Em-Up Kind Of Lovin” on Morgan Records in 1969, but the response was less enthusiastic. The group began to disagree about heading in a doo-wop or funk direction and they broke up in 1972. Marsh released several LPs as Osiris; Blagmon helped start The Choice Four; Scott and Graham began another group; and as was his destiny all along, Hart became a fifth generation pastor.

“I would just love to run into my boys,” says Hart. “Just to see them, even if we just sat down and break bread that would be worthwhile. I’m going to keep looking for them.”

Mmm, mmm, mmm.
 Scroll to top