Happy Birthday to Dramatics lead singer L. J. Reynolds

Share this article

    Happy birthday to L. J. Reynolds, lead singer of The Dramatics, born on January 27, 1953. 


    Happy birthday to L. J. Reynolds, lead singer of The Dramatics, born on January 27, 1953. 

    A native of Saginaw, Michigan, Reynolds began performing as a child, when he won many awards as a dancer.  However, his expressive vocals won him notoriety around Michigan, and while still in high school he became the lead singer for the group the Relations.  He recorded as a solo artist in the early 70s before replacing William Howard in the Dramatics, then one of the hottest R&B groups in the country, though one beginning to mature into a purely R&B act.  Reynolds recorded a numbr of hits for the group, the biggest being the top 10 "Fell For You," before again going solo in 1980.   Reynolds had some solo success, the biggest being the wonderful mid-tempo hit "Key to the World," before returning to the Dramatics in the mid-80s.  He has remained in the group ever since, occasionally also releasing such solo albums as 2001's Through the Storm and 2008's The Message.

    While many of their peers had trouble sustaining recording careers, the Dramatics continued to cut a new LP every few years, right up through 2002's Look Inside, a surprisingly strong record that received limited distribution in the U.S. They received national attention for their professionalism in 2001 when they performed a save for "Fly Jock" Tom Joyner, singing two sets during his show's appearance in Detroit on less than 12 hours notice after a cancellation by DeBarge.

    In 2003, the group, then consisting of Reynolds, Banks, Winzell Kelly, Willie Ford and Lenny Mayes, released Greatest Hits Live, a terrific peek at a 2001 Dramatics performance that showed the group still in fine form and a testament to the longevity of this great soul act. Sadly, group member Lenny Mayes died on November 7, 2004, after a long illness. Three years later, the group was honored, along with Freda Payne, the Four Tops and others, with a street named after the them in one of the newest neighborhoods being built in the city.  

    In 2008, The Dramatics were honored for their careers when they received the "Lifetime Achievement Award" at the 2008 SoulTracks Readers' Choice Awards. All of the then-current members came to the awards as well as the mother of deceased member Lenny Mayes. Sadly, more core members of the group died over the course of the next decade, with Banks passing in 2010 and Ford in 2019, and there were some legal wranglings over the group name. Currently L. J. Reynolds leads the Dramatics, with members Kelly, Donald Albert and Leon Franklin. They continue to sound great and perform in multi-act shows around the world..

    By Chris Rizik