The Sylvers

The Sylvers

    The Sylvers were a popular African-American R&B/soul and disco family group during the 1970s. The group was from Memphis, Tennessee.

    Prior to becoming "The Sylvers", the four eldest members (Olympia, Leon, Charmaine, and James) recorded as the Little Angels, appearing on variety shows such as Make Room For Daddy and You Bet Your Life, and opening for such acts as Johnny Mathis and Ray Charles. Also during this time two singles were released: On the Warwick Label - "Santa Clause Parade" b/w "I'll Be A Little Angel" and on the Capitol Records Label - "Says You" b/w "Olympia."

    During 1972 the act was joined by brothers Edmund and Ricky. The sextet changed their name from the Little Angels to the Sylvers and released three albums on the MGM/Pride label, titled simply The Sylvers, The Sylvers 2, and The Sylvers 3. Released between 1972 and 1974, these LPs were comprised of solid soulful numbers written by Leon and produced by R&B legends Jerry Butler (of the Impressions) and Keg Johnson. Four singles from these self-titled albums were popular enough to be recorded on the Billboard R&B charts, starting a sequence of successes for the siblings.

    "Fool's Paradise" was a thought-provoking song that reached number 14 in the autumn of 1972. The single featured Charmaine, Edmund, and Ricky as lead singers, backed by the sumptuous harmonies of Olympia, Leon, and James. "Wish That I Could Talk To You" (# 10) was the next single and during early 1973 became the siblings' first top 10 song. The track, featuring Leon and Edmund on lead, is considered a classic by old-school R&B fans. "Stay Away From Me" (# 33) and "Through the Love In My Heart" (# 50) followed; and album tracks such as "I'll Never Be Ashamed" and "Cry of a Dreamer" received significant airplay at R&B radio outlets.

    In early 1973 Leon wrote a very successful song for little brother Foster. "Misdemeanor," which featured the younger sisters Angie and Pat, received saturation radio airplay and reached # 7 on the Billboard charts that summer.

    In 1975 Foster, Angie, and Pat joined their older brothers and sisters and signed an exclusive contract with Capitol Records. Now nine members strong, the label teamed the family with legendary R&B producer Freddie Perren (the Jackson 5, Tavares, Peaches and Herb). The marriage paid off immediately. Perren, along with co-writer Keni St. Lewis, produced the two-million seller "Boogie Fever" (a #1 smash on both the R&B and Billboard Hot 100 charts). The B-side of the single, the funky "Free Style" (featuring Charmaine and Angie on lead), received about as much airplay on R&B radio as "Boogie Fever."

    Those two tracks were included on the first Capitol album with Perren. It was titled Showcase and featured rotating lead singers on songs written by both Perren & St. Lewis, as well as Leon Sylvers. Capitol followed up "Boogie Fever" with the bubble-gum confection "Cotton Candy" (# 19).

    In 1976, following the recording of the Sylvers' next album, Something Special, Charmaine left the group. Something Special was the family's biggest selling LP, reaching # 13 on the Billboard album charts. Produced by Perren, the LP spawned another smash million-seller, "Hot Line" (# 3) as well as the top ten cheerleading anthem "High School Dance" (# 6). These two singles firmly entrenched the siblings in the bubble-gum, teeny-bopper demographic.

    In an effort to reach a wider, more mature R&B audience, the Sylvers (now seven in number following Olympia's retirement to have children) opted not to re-team with Freddie Perren in the summer of 1977 and instead took on writing and producing duties themselves. Despite positive reviews, the resulting album, New Horizons, was a commercial disappointment, peaking at # 43 on the Billboard album charts and spawning two relatively short-lived singles: "Any Way You Want Me" (# 12) and the title track (# 45).

    The family went right back into the studio and, with Leon taking on producing duties himself, recorded what would become the most critically acclaimed album of their career. Unfortunately, Capitol Records didn't like the new mature sound and rejected the album. The Sylvers shopped the material elsewhere and by mid-1978 had signed with Casablanca Records. At the same time Leon was approached by record executive Dick Griffey to become the in-house producer for a new label he had started with Soul Train impresario Don Cornelius.

    Leon Sylvers III jumped at the chance. With the family's new album already in the can - and his brothers and sisters now signed with Casablanca - Leon left the group he had essentially founded to write and produce for such Solar Records artists as Shalamar, The Whispers, Lakeside, Carrie Lucas and Dynasty (for which he was a group member). He became one of the most important music producers of the '80s.

    In the meantime, Casablanca released the album Capitol had rejected. Forever Yours included yet another top 20 hit, "Don't Stop, Get Off" (# 15), in which - ironically - Leon shared lead with Edmund (James would perform Leon's part on the TV and concert circuit). The album's title track and a cover of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' "Swept For You Baby" would get significant radio airplay in late 1978; however, due to management shake-ups at the Casablanca label, were never released commercially as singles (although "Forever Yours" was sent to pop and R&B radio outlets in the 45 format).

    With Leon under contract at Solar, and the remaining six Sylvers still under contract to Casablanca, the label teamed the group with the Oscar-winning disco composer Giorgio Moroder (Donna Summer). The result, released in the summer of 1979, was the aptly titled album Disco Fever. The first single, "Mahogany (Do You Know)", was a dance club smash and disco radio favorite, but the two follow-up singles, "Dance Right Now" and "Hoochie Coochie Dancin'," fizzled.

    Have You Heard, a solo effort from Edmund, who had sung lead on many of the family's bigger hits, was released on Casablanca in the summer of 1980. "That Burning Love" (# 38) was the sole chart single from the effort. "Have You Heard the News" and "Time" were released as follow-up singles but didn't score on the Billboard singles charts. Also that year, Charmaine would record a solo single of sorts, doing the vocal work on Gene Page's disco classic "Love Starts After Dark."

    As the world's appetite for dance music waned in the early '80s, so did the career of the Sylvers. In 1981, five members of the group (now without Edmund), recorded a new album (Concept) for Solar Records, with Leon producing and playing bass but not performing vocally. It was a fine updating of the group's sound and included a number of strong tracks. The first single from that effort, "Come Back Lover, Come Back" (featuring a now grown-up Foster on lead) was a minor hit for the siblings, reaching # 63 in Billboard. "Take It to the Top" failed to chart; but both singles appear on the Solar Records retrospective box set.

    In 1984, after a three year hiatus, the siblings (now six strong, with Charmaine coming back on board) regrouped with new management (Weisner-DeMann) and a new label (Geffen Records). The result was a much anticipated, but ultimately unsuccessful album entitled Bizarre. The set wasn't promoted heavily by the Geffen label, but despite that lack of enthusiasm spawned two minor hit singles: "In One Love and Out the Other" (#42) and "Falling For Your Love" (#76).

    The Sylvers' youngest sibling, Christopher (b. August 10, 1966), was just 18 when he died on June 18, 1985. He was never part of the performing family.

    Following the disappointing performance of the Geffen LP, the six performing brothers and sisters officially disbanded in 1985. They would continue to do studio work for a few more years, playing instruments and doing background vocals for other artists, including Janet Jackson.

    Edmund recorded a solo album for the Arista label in 1985, but it was shelved here in the United States and never released. A single from the set, "I Love the Streets," was a minor hit in Japan.

    Foster started his own group, Hy-Tech, in 1989, but two CDs went relatively unnoticed, as did a solo MP3 CD in 1998 called "Foster Vs. Foster."

    In 2007, Pat shared lead on the Larry O. Williams gospel duet, "Thank You."  In the December 10, 2007 issue of Jet (magazine) the Sylvers were featured in the "Where Are They Now?" segment. In early 2008, a few members of the group did an interview with KPOO-FM in San Francisco. Both the Jet article and the radio interview hinted at the possibility of new Sylvers music in the near future.

    Lead singer Edmund, who played Marlon Jackson's voice on the 1971-1973 ABC-TV Saturday morning cartoon series The Jackson 5ive - died of lung cancer in Richmond, Virginia on March 11, 2004 at age 47.

    In 2009, Leon Sylvers returned to production after a hiatus, working with N'dambi on her Pink Elephant album.

    This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article The Sylvers.

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