(November 4, 2011) - We have been informed that bassist Norman Durham of the popular 80s group Kleeer has died tragically from carbon monoxide poisoning at his Chestnut Ridge, New York home eminating from a generator powering his home during a power outage. The story from the local paper can be found here.
Kleeer was one of most popular funk bands of the late 70s and early 80s and Durham played a key role in the group's sound. Formed in 1972 under the name The Jam Band, as a backup group to different disco bands and vocalists. In addition to Durham, the group included Woody Cunningham, vocalist/percussionist Paul Crutchfield and guitarist Richard Lee.
After a switch to the name Pipeline in 1975, the group also decided to switch to making hard rock instead of disco. Record labels competed to sign them but, when they finally ended up at Columbia Records, their single "Gypsie Rider" did not fare well commercially.
In 1976 they got the opportunity to become The Universal Robot Band along with underground disco producers Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael. This project was more successful than their previous work. They made the single "Barely Breaking Even" alongside singer Leroy Burgess, and they also recorded an album. The group toured as The Universal Robot Band until 1978.
After 1978 the band decided to take control of the production of their albums, and also changed to the name Kleeer.
Between 1979 and 1985 the group released seven albums and had several hits in the Billboard Hot 100 and in R&B charts. The most mentionable are "Tonight's the Night", "Winners", "Intimate Connection", and "Get Tough." The sound was now more focused on 1980s style funk, and electronic instruments, like vocoders and synthesizers.
After the 1985's album Seeekret, the band disappeared for unknown reasons. Most of the musicians continued working with other projects. In the 1990s, however, the group re-emerged as Kleeer at some occasions.
The group's influence today is best found in many hip hop songs, where Kleeer songs have been sampled by artists ranging from 2Pac to Snoop Dogg to Lil Jon.
Even the present day dance community has rediscovered the act's music, as one of their recordings, "Keeep Your Body Workin", which reached number 54 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart in 1979, was "reworked" into a updated recording by Tony Moran featuring Martha Wash, under the title "Keep Your Body Working." The Moran/Wash version reached number one on the Hot Dance Club Play chart in December 2007.
Group member Woody Cunningham died in January, 2010, just months after releasing a solo album.