One of the most successful, but often overlooked, funk/soul bands of the 80s, the SOS Band released a handful of monster rhythmic hits that stand up well more than two decades after hitting the airwaves.
Formed in Atlanta, the "Sound of Success" Band at its peak consisted of singers Mary Davis and Jason Bryant, multi-instrumentalist Abdul Ra'oof, saxmen Willie Killebrew and Billy Ellis, drummer James Earl Jones III, bassist John Simpson and guitarist Bruno Speight.
Signed by music legend Clarence Avant to the fast-rising Tabu label in 1980, the band debuted auspiciously, hitting the top of the charts with its self-titled album as well as the Sigidi Abdullah composition "Take Your Time (Do It Right)." They had trouble keeping the momentum success on their next two albums, the second of which was directed by hot producer Leon Sylvers. While those two discs were moderate charters, bigger success lay ahead, as the group teamed with now-legendary hitmakers and former The Time members Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for a series of albums that yielded hit after hit, including "Just Be Good To Me," "Just the Way You Like It," "Tell Me If You Still Care," and their biggest smash, a 1986 beat-heavy masterpiece, "Finest."
The departure of Davis from the group for a solo career and the loss of Jam and Lewis as producers led to a decline in the band's fortunes, and by 1991 the SOS Band was no more. However, in the mid 90s, Davis and Ra'oof joined together and reconstituted the SOS Band with a new set of musicians. The Davis-Ra'oof version of the band has performed regularly now for a quarter century, including such major shows as the Capital Jazz Cruise. They also issued the 2017 adult soul hit "Just Get Ready," which found them successfully recapturing the sound that took them to the top three decades earlier.
The group continued to tour regularly, but in 2020 Mary Davis became ill, and ultimately retired from The SOS Band in 2021. The band recorded one last performance with Davis in Spring of that year as part of The Going Live Show.
By Chris Rizik