March 25, 2010
(Originally published in the St. Louis American)
It look as if we are singing the words to this gospel song much too often. Recently several of my personal friends, some of the world’s most talented performers have passed on and it makes me very sad to know that I will never see them again.
I speak of Teddy Pendergrass, Levi Stubs, Robert Lester, Johnny Carter, Ron Banks and Mallia Franklin. They lifted hearts in gloomy times with their music, gave hope in hopelessness, refined the spirit of their audiences and inspired joyfulness. I have so much to be thankful for and I am so proud to have been an air personality and extremely thankful for each of them who became personal friends during my career. I thank them for their closeness and their life experiences. If it weren't for their memories this might be a most depressing time for me.
We lost Teddy. Teddy Pendergrass, one of the most successful R&B singers of the 1970s and ’80s. He was lead singer of the Philadelphia soul group Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. We became friends during his many visits to St. Louis and Kansas City performing at concerts and The Kool Jazz Festivals.
Levi Stubbs was the lead singer of the Motown group the Four Tops. Levi, Larry, Obie and Duke always treated me with respect and reverence. We were on tour several times a year when we did concerts that I emceed. We also had fond memories of ‘The Rooster Tail’ in Detroit and we often joked about the fun we had at the Motown studios on Grand.
Johnny Carter of the Dells recently died of lung cancer at a Harvey Illinois hospital. Johnny was the tenor lead of The Dells. Although he was a member of the Dells for nearly fifty years, he had formerly sung with The Flamingos. Whenever he was in the St. Louis area, he and Chuck Barksdale would often visit me at home, and we frequently met when I visited my home Chicago.
Robert “Squirrel” Lester was the second tenor for the Chi-Lites. He got his nickname “Squirrel” because he liked to climb trees as a kid. I am very proud to say that I called Marshall Thompson, Squirrel and Carl Davis and told them “Have You Seen Her” was a hit here in St. Louis and should be released as a single. They were hesitant because of the length of the song, but we were noted as pioneers and for playing unconventional cuts at radio station KWK. The rest as they say is history. Squirrel called me on a recent visit to St. Louis.
Incidentally, here is a scoop. Stan Mosley, a former Sharpee (Do The Sock-Do The 45) and resident of St. Louis, now residing in Chicago, will replace Squirrel with the Chi-Lites.
Ron Banks, the founder and lead singer of the Dramatics recently made the transition after experiencing a massive heart attack at his home in Detroit. I was their Midwestern Promotional and Marketing Director for MCA and ABC Records while they were under contract with the companies. We traveled extensively together all around the country. When they played St.Louis, Kansas City or Chicago, I was their point man. Those were some wild times. We became like brothers.
Mallia Franklin, one of the original ‘Parlets” was a vocalist with P-Funk and recognized and acknowledged as the Queen of Funk, passed a short time ago. She introduced George Clinton to Bootsy Collins in 1971, and sang background on early Parliament and Funkadelic recordings. Mallia was mainly responsible for the success of “The Invasion of the Booty Snatchers” and other Parlets hits. She died recently of a heart attack.
These entertainers believed in nothing less than setting the highest standards with all the work they produced, either in the studio or during live performances. I am so thankful the world stage recognized their outstanding routines and accomplishments. They displayed and demonstrated confidence, poise, expressive vocal skills, and dynamic presentational ability in all of their routines.
As a result of their hard work, passion, and commitment to the performing arts, they have established a reputation that will never be forgotten or replaced. Goodbye dear friends.
Please listen to my radio program every weekday morning at 7 am on 920 AM –WGNU, and watch my television program every Saturday night at 10 pm and Friday morning at 9am on KNLC-TV, Channel 24.
I can be reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.