Chuck Cissel was a musical child prodigy in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In his 20s he moved to New York and became a fixture on Broadway, most notably in the long running musical, A Chorus Line. He was later signed by Larkin Arnold to a recording contract with Arista Records, which at that time was not known as a home for soul artists.
Cissel teamed with Skip Scarborough for Just For You, a stunning debut and one of the best albums of 1980. The LP was a wonderful collection of Northern Soul, gospel and pop cuts that were overshadowed by "Cisselin' Hot," a scorching dance track that became an international club favorite -- but which unfortunately may have caused Cissel to be labeled as a disco artist. His theatrical training showed in his dramatic performance on the album's choicest cut, the gospel-tinged "River of Love," and his deft handling of "Emergency," "Do You Believe" and the Motown-styled "Forever." The album was a moderate success, but has never been released on CD. It is worth finding.
Cissel followed up Just For You with If I Had The Chance, a lesser album that appeared to be pieced together, ultimately being released a full year after the title cut hit Urban AC stations. It failed to chart and Cissel's solo recording career was complete. He continued, however, to provide backing vocals on other artists' albums.
Cissel continued to be active in music, but from a different angle. He became the Chief Executive Officer of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in Tulsa. It is an organization with a mission to "inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through preservation, education and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form." It sounds like a worthy goal and organization. You can check it out at www.okjazz.org. He continued in that role for a decade, before retiring.
By Chris Rizik