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Major Lance

Background information
Birth name Major Lance
Born April 4, 1939(1939-04-04)
Winterville, Mississippi, U.S.
Died September 3, 1994 (aged 55)
Decatur, Georgia, U.S.
Genres Soul, pop
Occupations Singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1960–1994
Labels Mercury
OKeh
Dakar
Curtom
Volt
Playboy
Osiris
Columbia
Soul
Kat Family

Major Lance (April 4, 1939[1] – September 3, 1994) was an American R&B singer. After a number of US hits in the 1960s, including "The Monkey Time" and "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um", he became an iconic figure in Britain in the 1970s among followers of Northern soul.

Contents

Life

Major Lance was born in Winterville, Mississippi, probably in 1939 though some sources suggest 1941. Major was his real given name, not a nickname or stage name.[2] As a child, Lance relocated to Chicago, attending Wells High School - the same school as Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler - taking up boxing and also singing as a member of the Five Gospel Harmonaires.[3][4] In the mid-1950s, he and singer Otis Leavill formed a group, the Floats, who broke up before recording any material. However, Lance became a featured dancer on a local TV show, and presenter Jim Lounsbury secured him a one-off record deal with Mercury Records, who released his single "I Got a Girl", written and produced by Curtis Mayfield, in 1959. The record was not successful, and Lance worked at various jobs over the next few years.[3]

In 1962 he signed with OKeh Records on Mayfield's recommendation.[3] His first single, "Delilah", was not successful, but established his partnership with a writing and arranging team of Mayfield, Carl Davis, and Johnny Pate, often with members of Mayfield's group The Impressions on backing vocals. Together they developed a distinctive, Latin-tinged sound which epitomised Chicago soul in contrast to music recorded elsewhere.[3][2] The second Okeh single, "The Monkey Time", became a #2 Billboard R&B chart and #8 pop hit in 1963. A succession of hits followed quickly, including "Hey Little Girl" (1963), "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" (his biggest hit, reaching #5 in the US pop chart and #40 in the UK, where it was his only chart success), "The Matador" (the only one not written by Mayfield) and "Rhythm" (1964), and "Sometimes I Wonder", "Come See", and "Ain't It A Shame" (1965).[5][6]

Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote:

"Blessed with a warm, sweet voice, Major Lance was one of the leading figures of Chicago soul during the '60s and the top-selling artist for OKeh Records during the decade. Lance not only had a lovely voice, but his material was excellent... It was urban, uptown soul and while it was considerably less gritty than its Southern counterpart, its breezy rhythms and joyous melodies made songs like "The Monkey Time" and "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" some of the most popular good-time R&B of its era."[3]

In 1965, Pate left OKeh and Mayfield began to concentrate on working with his own group. Lance and Davis continued to work together, and "Too Hot To Hold" was a minor hit, but they had diminishing success before Davis in turn left the company.[3] During this period, Lance toured in the UK, where he was supported by Bluesology, a band including pianist Reggie Dwight, later known as Elton John.[2] Lance then worked with country music producer Billy Sherrill in Nashville, producing another minor hit, "It's the Beat". Over the next two years he worked with several producers, with only "Without a Doubt" becoming a minor hit in 1968. Soon afterwards Lance left OKeh and moved to Dakar Records, where he had the Top 40 R&B hit "Follow the Leader." He then moved to Mayfield's Curtom label, which resulted in his last two Top 40 R&B hits, "Stay Away From Me (I Love You too Much)" and "Must Be Love Coming Down."[3] He left Curtom in 1971, and recorded briefly for the Volt and Columbia labels.

In 1972, he relocated to England, so as to capitalise on the success of his older records among fans of Northern Soul music, in dance clubs which played mostly rare and obscure American soul and R&B records. According to one writer, "the Major's contribution was truly phenomenal and unforgettable...[He] was to become legendary as a UK club act, known to deliver 110% at every performance."[2] While in England he recorded an album, Live at the Torch, a club in Stoke on Trent, which has been described as "perhaps the best Northern Soul album ever made".[2]

Lance returned to Atlanta in 1974, and recorded an updated disco version of "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" for Playboy Records. He set up a new label, Osiris, with former Booker T and the MG's drummer Al Jackson, but again with little success,[2] and his career hit a downward spiral. After recording briefly for the Motown Records subsidiary label Soul, he was convicted of cocaine possession in 1978 and served a four year prison term.[3] On his release, he found that his recordings had become popular on the beach music circuit in the Carolinas, where he continued to undertake live performances. He recorded a comeback album, The Major's Back, and several tracks for the Kat Family label.[2]

However, his attempts to revive his career were thwarted by a heart attack in 1987, and he made no recordings thereafter.[3][4] In 1994, he gave his final triumphant performance at the Chicago Blues Festival. He died later that year at the age of 55, as a result of heart disease, in Decatur, Georgia.[7] He was interred at Washington Memory Gardens Cemetery in Homewood, Illinois.

Discography

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Singles

Year Title Label &
Cat. No.
U.S. R&B[8] U.S. Pop[8] UK[6]
1959 "I Got a Girl" Mercury 71582
-
-
-
1962 "Delilah" Okeh 7168
-
-
-
1963 "The Monkey Time" Okeh 7175
2
8
-
1963 "Hey Little Girl" Okeh 7181
12
13
-
1964 "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" Okeh 7187
1*
5
40
1964 "The Matador" Okeh 7191
4*
20
-
1964 "Girls" Okeh 7197
25*
68
-
1964 "It Ain't No Use" Okeh 7197
33*
68
-
1964 "Think Nothing About It" Okeh 7200
-
-
-
1964 "Rhythm" Okeh 7203
3*
24
-
1965 "Sometimes I Wonder" Okeh 7209
13
64
-
1965 "Come See" Okeh 7216
20
40
-
1965 "Ain't It a Shame" Okeh 7223
20
91
-
1965 "Too Hot to Hold" Okeh 7226
32
93
-
1965 "Everybody Loves a Good Time" Okeh 7233
-
109
-
1966 "Investigate" Okeh 7250
-
132
-
1966 "It's the Beat" Okeh 7255
37
128
-
1967 "Ain't No Soul (In These Old Shoes)" Okeh 7266
-
-
-
1967 "You Don't Want Me No More" Okeh 7284
-
-
-
1968 "Without a Doubt" Okeh 7298
49
-
-
1969 "Follow the Leader" Dakar 608
28
125
-
1969 "Sweeter As the Days Go By" Dakar 612
-
-
-
1970 "Stay Away From Me (I Love You Too Much)" Curtom 1953
13
67
-
1970 "Must Be Love Coming Down" Curtom 1956
31
119
-
1971 "Girl Come On Home" Volt 4069
-
-
-
1971 "I Wanna Make Up (Before We Break Up)" Volt 4079
-
-
-
1972 "Ain't No Sweat" Volt 4085
-
-
-
1974 "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um"
New version
Playboy 6017
59
-
-
1975 "Sweeter As the Days Go By"
New version
Playboy 6020
58
-
-
1975 "You're Everything I Need" Osiris 001
50
-
-
1975 "I've Got a Right To Cry" Osiris 002
-
-
-
1977 "Come What May" Columbia 10488
-
-
-
1978 "I Never Thought I'd Be Losing You" Soul 35123
-
-
-
1982 "I Wanna Go Home" Kat Family 3024
-
-
-
1982 "Are You Leaving Me" Kat Family 4182
-
-
-

* Billboard magazine did not publish an R&B chart during 1964; these chart positions are from Cashbox magazine.

Selected albums

  • Monkey Time (Edsel 1963)
  • Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um (OKeh 1964)
  • The Rhythm of Major Lance (OKeh 1968)
  • Major Lance's Greatest Hits - Recorded Live At The Torch (Contempo 1973)
  • Now Arriving (Soul 1978)
  • The Major's Back (1983)
  • Live At Hinkley (1986)
  • Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um (Collectables 2003)

[4]

See also

References

  1. ^ Oldies.com. There is dispute over Lance's birth year - some sources suggest 1941.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Biography at The Northern Soul Nightshift
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine". Allmusic.com. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:hifwxqe5ldde~T1. Retrieved 26 February 2009.  
  4. ^ a b c Biography at Soulwalking.co.uk
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc.. p. 397. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.  
  6. ^ a b Rice, Tim (1985). Guinness British Hit Singles (5th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 126. ISBN 0-85112-429-1.  
  7. ^ "Major Lance, 55, Soul Singer in 60's". The New York Times. 1994-09-05. http://www.nytimes.com/1994/09/05/obituaries/major-lance-55-soul-singer-in-60-s.html?sec=&pagewanted=print. Retrieved 30 December 2009.  
  8. ^ a b Allmusic.com - Charts & Awards

External links


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