If you've heard the Honey Cone or Chairmen of the Board, then you've heard Greg Perry. Between 1969-1973, the Alton,IL-born singer/songwriter/producer helped score half a dozen gold singles and countless hits for Holland-Dozier-Holland's Invictus/Hot Wax labels. With writing partners like Angelo Bond and General Johnson, Greg Perry anchored the label's accessible, pop-friendly style. What's often overlooked, however, are the two solo albums he recorded after parting with H-D-H. One for the Road (1975) and Smokin' (1977) offer proof of Perry's peerless solo work and account for the recent, reinvigorated interest in his music. Take a tour through YouTube and notice the number of uploads....
Schooled by St. Louis blues and the gospel music of his great-grandfather's church, Perry started recording music while still a high school student during the late-1950s. Motown writer/producer Robert Bateman, who was also Perry's uncle, invited 17 year-old Greg and his brothers to New York to record demos. Upon his arrival, Perry met a whole network of young songwriters who wrote for independent labels like Sue Records and Red Bird.
Billy Davis, an A&R executive at Chess Records in Chicago, gave Perry his next gig and released the young songwriter's first official single, "Head Over Heels." Relocated back in his home state, Greg Perry teamed up with Sidney Barnes and composed tracks for a new band created by Marshall Chess -- Rotary Connection. Perry was initially invited to join the group but instead extended the invitation to Barnes, who stayed with Rotary Connection through the late-'60s. Rotary Connection's eponymous debut features the Perry-Barnes collaboration, "Turn Me On," while Aladdin (1968) includes "Teach Me How to Fly," a song that Barnes credits Perry for inspiring.
As 1968 yielded to 1969, Perry fled Chicago and landed in Detroit to meet with Brian Holland about a deal with Motown. (Holland had worked with Robert Bateman on "Please Mr. Postman" for The Marvelettes years earlier.) However, Holland was in the process of leaving the label with Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland to set up their new company, Invictus/Hot Wax. Brian Holland hired Perry as a staff writer and producer, beginning a five-year span of hit singles. From "Bring the Boys Home" by Freda Payne to Chairmen of the Board's "Pay to the Piper," from "Somebody's Been Sleeping" by 100 Proof Aged in Soul to "Want Ads," the number one smash by the Honey Cone, Greg Perry carved a niche at the label as one of its most consistently successful writers and producers.
When Hot Wax folded in 1973, Perry sought a new label deal for Edna Wright (the lead singer of Honey Cone) with Neil Bogart, who was president of Buddha Records, the company that had distributed the Hot Wax side of H-D-H's roster. Since Wright was still under contract to H-D-H, Bogart offered Perry a record deal of his own on Casablanca Records. Released in early-1975, One for the Road captured Perry's singing, songwriting, and production prowess. Songs like "Variety is the Spice of Life" and "Come On Down" revealed the malleability of Perry's rich baritone. However, Casablanca, still a young company at the time, had limited means to market and promote the album. Despite its first-rate qualities, One for the Road marked the beginning and end of Greg Perry's tenure at Casablanca.
Two years later, Perry signed with RCA Records and released yet another stirring two sides of soul. Smokin' featured the first recording of Perry's collaboration with Sidney Barnes, the rousing "How's Your Love Life, Baby." The song became a dance floor staple through subsequent versions by Eddie Kendricks and Jackie Moore while the stunning "I'll Always Be In Love With Love" also found its way into DJ sets. Again, Perry served up a stellar collection of material but the label was not equipped to work the album. Both Smokin' and Oops! Here I Go Again, which he produced for Edna Wright, were abandoned by the record label. Perry didn't return to record-making again until 1981 when he helmed In and Out of Love for Mary Wells on Epic. He released a pair of solo singles the following year on Alfa Records ("It Takes Heart" and "The Getaway") before producing tracks for Bonnie Pointer on her If The Price is Right (1984) album.
Currently, Perry has a number of projects underway for 2010, including a new album for Edna Wright (his wife of more than three decades) and a possible collaboration with Angelo Bond and General Johnson. Whether on vinyl, in samples by Kanye West or woven into the script of Hollywood movies, the music of Greg Perry remains a riveting force in soul music.
Christian John Wikane