During its first years as a bonafide hitmaking entity, Solar Records boasted a roster of four or five consistent chartmakers: The Whispers, Shalamar, Midnight Star, Lakeside and to a lesser extent, Dynasty and Carrie Lucas. By the late â€˜80s, The Deele and the brothers Calloway formed what could best be described as the label's second wave. In much the same way that partners L.A. and Babyface emerged from the ranks of The Deele to achieve prominence as super producers and songwriters, Reggie and brother Cino-Vincent Calloway broke out of the line-up of Midnight Star to begin their career as producers and writers of note. Unlike the former Deele members, the Calloway brothers decided to use the opportunity to also make their own albums.
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, the brothers - Reggie on trumpet, Vincent on trombone - helped form Midnight Star in 1976 (along with vocalist Belinda Lipscomb) when they were attending Kentucky State University in Louisville. In 1980, the trio recorded a solo LP for RCA; after switching to Solar in 1982, guitarists Melvin Gentry and Jeffrey Cooper, bassist Kenneth Gant, drummer Bill Simmons and keyboard player Bo Watson joined Midnight Star, turning into a fully-fledged band. Two albums into their contract with Solar, Reggie Calloway played an integral role in shaping the group's future by producing Midnight Star's breakthrough double platinum 1983 album, "No Parking On The Dance Floor," which included the hits "Wet My Whistle" (which Reggie wrote), "Freak-a-Zoid" (written with Vincent and drummer Simmons) and the LP's title track (a collaboration with Simmons and Bobby Lovelace who eventually became a member of the group in 1988).
The same year, Reggie brought another local Cincinnati group to the attention of Solar boss, Dick Griffey: The Deele benefited immediately from his production skills via their Top 10 R&B debut album, "Street Beat" and no sooner had he completed work with The Deele than he was back in the studio working on Midnight Star's 1984 gold album "Planetary Invasion" which spawned the hits "Body Snatchers" and "Operator" (both co-written by the Calloway brothers and other members of Midnight Star) and "Scientific Love" (another collaboration by Reggie and group members). Reggie worked his creative magic with Solar labelmates, all-female band Klymaxx on their 1985 "Meeting In The Ladies Room" album and gave Midnight Star one more gold album the following year with "Headlines."
Then it was time to take stock: the brothers Calloway left Midnight Star in 1986 and immediately began producing hits for other artists, giving the group Levert their breakthrough No. 1 R&B and top 5 pop hit with "Casanova." A month or two later, veteran Natalie Cole was benefiting from the team's skills when "Jump Start" jumped into the upper reaches of the charts; by the end of 1987, Reggie and Vincent were celebrating another charttopper with "Love Overboard," the swansong No. 1 hit for Gladys Knight & The Pips.
Taking a year off, the brothers decided they were ready to literally do their own thing: "We wanted to be able to do this project for a number of years," Reggie told me in a 1990 interview for Britain's "Blues & Soul" magazine. Brother Cino-Vincent explained that working on their Solar debut set "was a lot of fun. It was like releasing a lot of pent-up energy and unlike when you're working with other artists, you can paint the entire picture yourself, everything from writing the songs to coming up with the concept for the videos."
The Calloway brothers were rewarded with an immediate hit when the lead-off single from their Solar album jumped into the nation's best-sellers, landing at No. 5 on the R&B charts and No. 2 on the Hot 100. "I WANNA BE RICH" was written by the team with Midnight Star's Belinda Lipscomb who later revealed that it had been intended for that group's "No Parking" album but was just never recorded during the 1983 sessions for that record. As Cino noted in 1990, "[The song] is for everyone who has a dream and is really going for it. It says something that people may feel inside but rarely say out loud."
"All The Way" did well, yielding a Top 20 R&B hit in "SIR LANCELOT" and a follow-up Top 40 R&B and Top 100 charting single with the album's title track. For the brothers, it was a chance to experience again direct contact with record buyers. After devoting so much time to studio work, the duo agreed, "...we get a chance to feel the love and appreciation from the public directly - something we miss from all our years of being with a group that tours and performs..."
In 1992, Solar released a second Calloway album, "Let's Get Smooth": the title track saw some chart action and the set contained a number of notable originals ("SUGAR FREE," "ONE DAY AT A TIME" and "SET THE TABLE") along with covers of classics like The Delfonics' "LA LA MEANS I LOVE YOU" and Sly & The Family Stone's "FAMILY AFFAIR" which was given a decidedly â€˜90s hip-hop flavor). It was the brothers' final Solar set: in 2000, Reggie released a critically-acclaimed solo album through the UK's Expansion Records entitled "Walking Through Raindrops."
Contributed by David Nathan