Chancellor of Soul's Chronicles-Journals
Dedicated To The
Historical Preservation Of R&B, Pop and It's Artists and Music
Archie Bell and The Drells
Archie Bell & The Drells
'Hi everybody! I'm Archie Bell of the Drells…from Houston
' we not only can sing…but we dance as good as we want!'
That famous intro became a staple in the musical minds of
millions of soul fans around the world.
Archie Bell was born on Sept 1,1944 in a small town in Texas
called Henderson. He started singing in church at the tender
age of five and played guitar for a gospel group called, The
Determined Sons, at thirteen. His brother Rickey Bell, attended
The University of Southern California and played with the Tampa
His early influences were Nat 'King' Cole, Ray Charles, Jesse
Belvin, Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers and the Platters. He
started as a professional singer at various nightclubs in Houston
and worked with great R&B legends such as the late Johnny Ace
and Bobby Blue' Bland.
Archie attended E.O. Smith Junior High School, in Houston. There
he met James Wise, Willie Pernell, Cornelius Fuller, L.C. Watts and
Gerald Watkins, at the age of 11 and formed the Drells. To avoid
confusion with the popular R&B group, the Dells, Archie added an
'r' in front of the 'D' and christened the name, ' Drells'. Archie's
name was in front because he was the lead singer.
In early 1960, the Drells became a quartet with the line up of Billy
Butler (no relation to the singer Jerry Butler), James Wise, and
Joe Cross. Six years later in 1966, they met dee jay / record
entrepreneur and mailman, Skipper Lee Frazier at a talent show
at a club in Le Porte, Texas called Seven Beach.
After the show, Skipper Lee met with the group backstage and
asked them if they wanted to cut a record. The group affirmed,
'Yes'. After a handshake deal was made, Skipper took the Drells
to his record label East-West and recorded a tune Archie penned
entitled, ' She's My Woman, She's My Girl' in 1966. It made some
noise locally but couldn't gain any national attention.
Skipper Lee re-released the song on his new established 'Ovide'
label named after his son, James 'Ovide' Frazier, in 1967.
'She's My Woman, She's My Girl' became a regional hit and
was No 31 on Chicago's WBEE 1570 AM Radio (The Soul Station)
on the Bee Line Up play list, effective Thursday August 31.
As the Drells indulged into the music business, Archie received a
letter from Uncle Sam to be drafted into the Army. He worried that
after basic training he would end up being flown to Vietnam. One
day while lying on the couch, in a depressed state of mind, the
radio was playing and his roommate Billy Butler came in and heard
the music and started doing this dance. Archie asked ' what
are you doing?' Billy quoted, ' I'm doing the Tighten Up!'
Archie quickly cheered up and was inspired to compose a tune
about the dance. Billy and Archie collaborated on the song and
knew they had a hit on their hands. They contacted Skipper
Lee (who by now was their manager) and asked him to book
studio time. The 'Ovide' house band was a group of talented
musicians from the Texas State University who called themselves
The T.S.U Toronadoes. The group consisted of brothers Cal & Will
Thomas, (both lead guitars), Jerry Jenkins (on bass), Dwight Burns
(on drums), Robert Sanders (on organ) and Clarence Harper, Nelson
Mills and Leroy Lewis were the brass section. An Oldsmobile car
inspired the Toronadoes' name. The group released a classic 1969
instrumental on Atlantic entitled, 'Getting The Corners' b/w
'What Good Am I', capitalizing on the popular dance at the time,
the Funky Four Corners. If you listen to the song, 'Jammin' In
Houston', third cut on side 2 featured on the ' I Cant Stop Dancing'
LP, Archie shouts out each member of the Toronadoes' names while
they take their solos.
'Tighten Up' was recorded and released in Dec 1967 on Ovide.
The Toronadoe's performed the song as an instrumental at club
performances with the Drells. Tighten Up was basically
an ad-lib song that didn't feature any versus of such. Archie
was in the studio til 4 am, adding his now famous intro, 'hi
everybody, I'm Archie Bell of the Drells, from Houston, TX…
The reason he added his hometown because he once heard
a deejay a couple of weeks before says that nothing good ever
came out of Texas after the assassination of President Kennedy.
So naturally he wanted people to know they were from Houston
and proud of where they're from.
Skipper Lee Frazier began to peddle the 45 singles from the trunk
of his car to different record shops around town. He plugged
Tighten Up on radio station KCOH but almost made a fatal mistake
had it not been for his lady disc jockey partner at the time. He began
to play the flip side, 'Dog Eat Dog' which strangely was the A side.
She kept telling him that he was playing the wrong side and he kept
insisting he was playing the right side. After some final persuasion,
he finally aired Tighten Up and it became an overnight local smash.
Music producer Huey Meaux got wind of the song and tipped
Atlantic Records' president Ahmet Ertegun. He signed the
group and picked up the song for national distribution.
The first pressing on Atlantic was an orange background with
'Dog Eat Dog' being the A side' and 'Tighten Up the B-side.
The label pushed 'Dog Eat Dog' because of the song's relation
New York City being a dog eat dog place to live in. Archie and
The Drells had to convince Atlantic records that 'Tighten Up'
was the hit song that was big in Houston. One deejay decided
to flip the song over to see what was on the other side. Afterwards,
Tighten Up began to sell more than 20,000 copies in just New York
City every weekend. Realizing their blunder, Atlantic quickly dropped
'Dog Eat Dog' as the A-side and issuing a part 2 of Tighten Up as the
B-side on the label's red color background. The strange thing is
there's no existence of a long version. Part 2 was a separate track
to reprise the party atmosphere of Part 1. It starts off in the
like Pt 1, with an opening bass with Archie yelling, 'Here we go
Tighten Up hit No 1 on both the R&B and Pop Singles charts for two
weeks on the week ending May 18, 1968 and sold three million copies.
While concert tours began to pour in rapidly, Archie was still in the
military and couldn't promote the record. The public was unaware of
what the Drells looked like, so shady record promoters began to form
their own imitations of the Drells. Archie then was granted a 15-day
pass to put a stop to this mass confusion. The group made tv
appearances on Showcase 68' and American Bandstand.
During a show at a popular club in Longside, NJ called Loretta's
Hi Hat in the summer of 1968, Archie Bell met two songwriters
from Philadelphia, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. After the show
the duo met came backstage and met with the Drells and asked
if they can produce them. Archie got the ok from Skipper Lee who
was really excited about the songwriting team wanting to work
with them. Gamble & Huff composed two masterpiece gems,
'I Can't Stop Dancing and ' Do The Choo Choo'. Press for time,
Archie had to fly back and forth on two weekends from Germany
to lie down his vocal tracks.
Both songs were recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia.
The session players were MFSB while Don Renaldo provided string
and horn arrangements. The background vocals were Gamble & Huff.
' I Can't Stop Dancing b/w ' You're Such A Beautiful Child' (composed
by Archie Bell) hit (No. 5 on the R&B Singles chart) the week ending
Sept 21, 1968 and (No. 9 Pop Sept 9). The T.S.U Toronadors provided
the track for You're Such A Beautiful Child. The Drells in my opinion
had great background harmony.
'The Tighten Up' LP hit No 15 on the R&B LP charts in Aug of
1968. ' Do The Choo Choo', was the Drells third release on Atlantic
and hit (No 17 R&B in Nov of 1968). The B-side was a beautiful tune
penned by Archie Bell entitled, ' Love Will Rain On You'. Plugs from
various soul radio stations across the nation would cause this
song to hit (No 25 R&B on Dec 7, 1968).
The Drells' fourth release would be just in time for the Christmas
holidays, (There's Gonna Be A) Showdown' b/w 'Go For What
You Know written by Gamble & Huff and the latter by Melvin &
Marvin Steals two sibling songwriters who gain fame early in
1973 composing the Spinners second million seller, ' Could It
Be I'm Falling In Love'.
The 'I Can't Stop Dancing' LP released in late 1968 contains two
eargasm album tracks, 'Do You Feel It' and 'Jammin In Houston'.
The LP would hit (No 28 on the R&B LP charts) after re-entering the
charts, the week of Feb 8, 1969. (There's Gonna Be A) Showdown
climbed to the No 6 spot on the R&B singles on Feb 1, 1969 and
(No 21 Pop on Jan 25, 1969).
Atlantic continued to release other singles on the group, 'I Love
My Baby' b/w ' Just A Little Closer' (another beautiful ballad
penned by Archie) (No 40 R&B April 20, 1969), ' Girl You're Too
Young' b/w 'Do The Hand Jive' (No 13 R&B June 28, 1969),
and 'My Balloon's Going Up' b/w ' Giving Up Dancing' (No 36
Sept 20, 1969). All six of these outstanding compositions are
featured in Archie Bell & The Drells' 3rd LP on Atlantic, 'There's
Gonna Be A Showdown'. Most of the songs were written and
produced by Gamble & Huff, Archie Bell and Bobby Martin.
' Mama Didn't Teach Me That Way' and Green Power are also
included in the LP. 'Green Power' written by Melvin & Marvin
Steals and Farrow, is a strong composition that campaigns
In the minds school dropouts (which became a strong issue
in the1960's) the importance on how a good education can
lead to a better earning status in life. The ' Showdown' LP
is another masterpiece album that stands the test of musical
time with good material. It's one of my favorite albums.
In November of 1969, Atlantic released two tunes from the
Gamble & Huff camp, 'A World Without Music' b/w 'Here
I Go Again'. The song hit (No 46 on the R&B Singles on
Jan 3, 1970). Around this time, Archie and the Drells left
Gamble & Huff productions and travel down to Muscle
Shoals Sounds located in Sheffield, Alabama, owned by
music mogul, Rick Hall, known for his famous session work
with Aretha Franklin, Clarence Carter, Percy Sledge, the late
Jimmy Hughes (cousin of Percy Sledge) Percy Wiggins and
Candi Staton. It's known to the music world as Fame Studios.
The first release Drells' release with Muscle Shoals was a
remake of the Steelers (a group from Chicago) 1969 hit
on the Date label entitled, ' Get It From The Bottom' b/w
'I Wish', a tune composed by singer / songwriter Phillip
Mitchell who a few years later in 1972, wrote Mel & Tim's
masterpiece hit on Stax, ' Starting All Over Again'.
Other release singles include their last single with Gamble &
Huff, 'Don't Let The Music Slip Away' b/w 'Houston, Texas
(from the 'Showdown' LP), a remake of the Sam & Dave B-side
hit ' Wrap It Up' b/w Deal With Him (No 33 R&B Nov 28, 1970)
'I Just Want Fall In Love' b/w ' Love At First Sight' (March 1971)
'Archie's In Love' b/w ' Let The World Know You've Got Soul'
(Sept 1971) and ' I Can't Face You Baby' b/w Green Power
(from the 'Showdown LP) (Dec 1971).
By not generating any hits records, Atlantic decided to terminate
The Drells contract in 1972. In 1973, Archie and the Drells signed
with a Miami based company in Florida called, T.K. Productions
owned by music legend, Henry Stone. The group was back on
the charts with, 'Dancing To Your Music' b/w 'Count The Ways'
on the Glades label. The song hit (No 11 on the R&B Singles),
the week ending March 3, 1973. Other Glades singles included,
'Ain't Nothing For A Man In Love' b/w ' You Never Know What's
On A Woman's Mind' (May 1973) and my personal favorite,
'Girls Grow Faster Than Boys' b/w 'Love's Gonna Rain On You.
The group parted ways with Glades at the end of 1973 and went
back to Philadelphia and signed on Gamble & Huff's subsidiary
label, TSOP (Top Sound Of Philadelphia) two year later in 1975.
Now under the musical direction of McFadden & Whitehead and
Bunny Sigler, the Drells recorded a masterpiece LP entitled,
'Dance Your Troubles Away'.
Under a new line up of Drells, Archie's younger brother Lee
Bell and Willie Pernell joined while Joe Cross and Billy Butler
left. Original member, James Wise remained.
' Dance Your Troubles Away' LP, yielded three hits, ' I Could
Dance All Night' b/w ' King Of The Castle', (No 25 R&B)
'The Soul City Walk' b/w 'King Of The Castle' (No 42 R&B)
and the gold smash, ' Let's Groove Pt 1' b/w ' Let's Groove
Pt 2' (No 7 R&B). The album went gold and hit top five on
the R&B LP charts in the winter of 1975.
The Drells next LP, ' Where Will You Go When The Party's
Over', in late 1976, this time on PIR (Philadelphia International
Records), released a modest single, ' Everybody Have A Good
Time' b/w 'I Bet I Can Do That Dance' (No 68 R&B) while their
1977 album 'Hard Not To Like', cranked out two cuts, ' Glad
You Can Make It' b/w 'It's Hard not To Like You' (No 56 R&B).
Two years later in 1979, Archie and the Drells made yet another
comeback with two irrepressible hits, ' Strategy' b/w 'We Got Em'
Dancin' (No 21 R&B) and the mellow, ' Show Me How To Dance'
b/w ' How Can I'.
After an appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York City, sadly
Archie Bell & The Drells parted ways.
Archie continued as a solo artist and signed with an independent
label in New York called Becket Records in 1981. Becket was
division of I&M Teleproducts located at 1790 B'way. He recorded
an LP entitled, ' I Never Had It So Good' which culled the hit
single, ' Any Time Is Right' (No 49 R&B).
Although the Drells parted ways, Archie Bell continued to record
over the years and fronted a new set of Drells and I heard
through the Chancellor's grapevine of soul that they appeared
at the ' Togetherness' soul weekend in the U.K. in November of
2004. Archie has also been inducted into the Gulf Coast Hall Of
Fame in Texas.
Archie Bell & The Drells will go down in music history as the
purveyors of great soul and helped put the name Houston,
Texas on the musical map for fans like us to remember
(Chancellor of Soul)
Material should not be used or altered
without expressed permission of the author,
(Chancellor of Soul)
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