Carrie Lucas

Carrie Lucas

Named "The Sound Of Los Angeles Records," Solar was home to a slew of hitmakers during the 70s and 80s. Think Midnight Star, The Whispers, Shalamar, Lakeside, Dynasty and in latter days, the likes of Calloway and The Deele. Strangely, the label founded by industry veteran Dick Griffey as the successor to Soul Train Records, a company he had formed with Don Cornelius of the famed weekly television show, had just a couple of female solo artists - Kat Miller and Carrie Lucas. Kat's career with Solar was short-lived while Carmel, California-born Carrie enjoyed a six-album, seven year-run with Griffey's companies (first, Soul Train, then Solar and finally the MCA-distributed Constellation imprint). While she was not a major chartmaker in the same way some of her labelmates were, the tall, sweet-voiced vocalist recorded consistently during her tenure with the company.

The elder sister of renowned keyboardist and musician Greg Phillinganes, Carrie's move into music as a profession was not an obvious choice: "I never thought of singing as a serious career," she stated in a 1979 interview with Britain's "Blues & Soul" magazine, "... The truth was that I'd dreamed of being a singer from when I was a little girl but I'd always been too shy to tell anyone about it..." Likely encouraged by brother Greg's musical involvement with Stevie Wonder, Carrie started developing her songwriting skills, penning songs for The Whispers and South Shore Commission among others. A recording date with L.A. soul man D.J. Rogers singing backgrounds led to more session work and after Carrie sang on The Whispers' "One For The Money" album in 1976.

Dick Griffey - who subsequently married Carrie - was there for that fateful session: The Whispers had been signed as the first act to his newly-created Soul Train label. He heard and saw Carrie and after he heard a demo of a song she'd written entitled "Fairytales," she was signed to the new company. Griffey pulled out all the stops for "Simply Carrie," her 1977 debut, hiring some of the cream of L.A.-based musicians, including brother Phillinganes, saxmen Ernie Watts and Hank Redd, guitarist Jay Graydon, keyboardist Clarence MacDonald, horn players Oscar Brashear and George Bohannon. Noted arranger Jerry Peters (of EW&F and Seawind fame) worked on the album while background vocals came courtesy Carolyn Willis (of The Honeycone), D.J. Rogers and Walter & Scotty of The Whispers who could be heard on the album's first single, "I GOTTA KEEP DANCIN,'" a Top 100 pop and Top 50 R&B hit and undeniably, a favorite among disco-goers of the day. This was, after all, the mid-‘70s when disco flourished and even groups like The Whispers (who could tear the house down with a ballad) were using their vocal prowess on uptempo, dance-oriented cuts.

The Whispers would indeed play a role in Carrie's career: Dick Griffey would often have Carrie open for the ever-popular group, giving the young vocalist a chance to work with the team's musicians while gaining national exposure; her 1980 album, "Portrait Of Carrie" included the soulful duet "JUST A MEMORY" while Carrie's biggest chart success came in 1985 with her revival of Barbara Lewis' 1963 classic, "HELLO STRANGER" which featured The Whispers and was a Top 20 R&B hit for Carrie and the group.

With dance music so much in the fore, Carrie's albums featured their share of uptempo groove cuts like 1979's "DANCE WITH YOU," a Top 30 R&B and Top 100 pop-charting single and the infectious "I GOTTA GET AWAY FROM YOUR LOVE," both from "Simply Carrie"; "IT'S NOT WHAT YOU GOT (IT'S HOW YOU USE IT) ," a Top 100 R&B hit from 1980's "Portrait Of Carrie"; and the ever-popular ˜SHOW ME WHERE YOU'RE COMING FROM," a 1982 charted single from the "Still In Love" album.

Carrie herself may have a felt a sense of frustration when her second LP ("Street Corner Symphony") did not make a greater impact since it reflected a more musically in-depth approach: "I feel there's going to be a strong move back towards the black roots and real soul music," she said in her 1979 "Blues & Soul" interview, and indeed her own blend of honey-voiced pop and R&B was only fully evident on album cuts (like "I'LL CLOSE LOVE'S DOOR" from her debut set and "STILL IN LOVE," the title cut of her 1982 set). Eventually, the record-buying public seemed to accept Carrie as something more than a mere dance-oriented hitmaker: her last charted single reviving "HELLO STRANGER" from her 1985 swansong album, "Horsin' Around" cast Carrie as more of a sultry songstress much like the song's originator, Barbara Lewis.

Contributed by David Nathan

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