=Monday, August 4, 2008

Count the Ways - Archie Bell & the Drells

This week's Trunk of F.U.N.K. single comes to us from a band most commonly associated with a single that sparked a new dance craze in 1968, the Tighten Up...

Count the Ways - Archie Bell & the Drells - Glades

Archie Bell and the Drells got their start pretty young. As early as junior high, this group of close friends began performing at, and winning, school talent shows. After a string of annual victories, their vocal talents were recognized by a local Houston DJ, Skipper Lee Frazier, who invited the group to cut a single for his label, Ovide. After their stint at Ovide and a few singles for the East West label, Archie Bell and the Drells recorded Tighten Up, originally the B-side to the "single" Dog Eat Dog. Frazier tried to push Dog Eat Dog to success over the airwaves but it failed to catch on. One day, he was finally convinced to play the flip, Tighten Up, (rumor is that the Drells had always thought Tighten Up should be the single) over the air, and a new craze was born. The single eventually hit #1 on the R&B charts in 1968. Unfortunately for the Drells, Bell was summoned to duty in Vietnam by the Army, limiting the live performances and recording that the group could do at this time (I've read that Bell only heard of the success of Tighten Up while recovering from wounds suffered in the war, and that there were a number of Archie Bell imitators trying to cash in on his success at this time). Based on the success of the single, however, Atlantic came knocking for the Drells to put together a full album, so Bell began coming home whenever granted leave to start working on the record and fronting the Drells live. It was also around this time that Bell met the respected production duo Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who offered to produce Archie Bell and the Drells full-length for Atlantic. The results of their collaboration led to amazingly soulful singles like, I Can't Stop Dancing. The Drells relationship with Atlantic continued until 1972, at which point they were dropped from the label.

After being dropped by Atlantic, Archie Bell and the Drells headed south to begin recording for the Florida label Glades (a sub-label of TK, who brought us Miami greats like KC and the Sunshine Band and Latimore). As it turns out, TK records owner Henry Stone became known to be pretty crooked, especially when it came time to dish out royalties, so the Drells time with Glades was limited to a few singles: Dancing to Your Music, Ain't Nothing for a Man in Love, and today's psych-funk freak-out, Count the Ways.

The likelihood of a dead-end career in Florida prompted Bell to contact his old friends Gamble and Huff, who were seeing major success at that time with their label Philadelphia International. Gamble and Huff were more than happy to begin working with Bell again. Unfortunately, Bell fell second to more prominent acts on Philadelphia International, like the O'Jays, leading him to make the decision to part ways with the label.

More recently, Bell recorded a solo album in the early 80's and he is still doing some live performing to this day.

Tune in Friday for a new Trunk of F.U.N.K. radio episode!

1 comment:

mamahawk said...

that's rad. I wasn't familiar with the bells post ovide and atlantic career. this is an exceptionally great tune too, have to give it up to glade with their unique funk and r&b roster and divergent recording techniques, very innovative stuff. great post!