Today in Music History (June 12): Teddy Pendergrass goes solo

June 12, 1977 – Teddy Pendergrass goes solo

Beginning as simply a drummer who also happened to have quite a voice, Teddy Pendergrass developed into one of the hottest singers in the world during the mid-70s as part of vocal group Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, but on this day in 1977, he took his meteoric career to the net level, leaving the group and issuing his solo debut album, establishing a solo career that was both brilliant and tragic.

June 12, 1977 – Teddy Pendergrass goes solo

Beginning as simply a drummer who also happened to have quite a voice, Teddy Pendergrass developed into one of the hottest singers in the world during the mid-70s as part of vocal group Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, but on this day in 1977, he took his meteoric career to the net level, leaving the group and issuing his solo debut album, establishing a solo career that was both brilliant and tragic.

The Philadelphia native began singing in church and by his teen years had developed into both a fine vocalist and an excellent drummer.  His work in a local group called the Cadillacs ultimately landed him to popular Philly group leader Harold Melvin, who recruited Pendergrass to join his Blue Notes group.  Pendergrass's expressive, gruff vocals and his sexy stage presence worked beautifully in the group context, and with production and material from the now legendary Gamble & Huff team, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes became one of the biggest vocal groups of the mid-70s.  Top notch tracks such as "If You Don't Know Me By Now," "The Love I Lost" and "Wake Up Everybody" were made even more electric in Pendergrass's hands.

It was natural that a strain would occur where the undoubted focus of the group, Pendergrass, was subordinated in billing to the group's original leader, Melvin. And by 1977 Pendergrass decided it was time to venture on his own, staying with Gamble & Huff while Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes moved on to ABC. 

The move paid immediate dividends for Pendergrass, as he released his self-titled debut album to both critical and popular acclaim. He had smashes with “I Don’t Love You Anymore” and “The Whole Town’s Laughing At Me,” and over the next five years he became the centerpiece of G&H's stable of stars and one of the biggest soul music stars in the world.

While a tragic 1982 automobile crash left Pendergrass a paraplegic and temporarily derailed Pendergrass’s career, he fought on an maintained relevance in the music world for nearly 40 more years, until his death in 2010.

But today we take a loving look back at that bright day in 1977 when a brilliant solo career began for one of the all-time great singers.

By Chris Rizik

 

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