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Pop-soul trio from Los Angeles, best remembered for their number one hit "Rock the Boat" in 1974.
The Hues Corporation's name was a pun on the Howard Hughes Corporation, with the 'hue' (a synonym of 'color'), being a nod to the group members' African-American heritage. The band's members were St. Clair Lee (born Bernard St. Clair Lee, April 24, 1944, San Francisco, California; died 2011), Fleming Williams (born 1943, Flint, Michigan; died 1992) and Hubert Ann Kelley (born 24 April 1947, Fairfield, Alabama). The original choice for the group's name was The Children of Howard Hughes, which their record label turned down.
A Los Angeles vocal trio, the Hues Corporation enjoyed two big hits in the mid-'70s, notably "Rock the Boat" in 1974 for RCA. While it was lightweight, mainly pop work, it did take The Hues Corporation to number two on the R&B charts and get them their lone pop chart topper. The next single, "Rockin' Soul," peaked at number six on the R&B charts and number 18 on the pop charts. They had their final R&B hit the next year with "Love Corporation," which reached number 15, but it was evident that the audience was losing interest in their material. "I Caught Your Act" was the last release in 1977. H. Ann Kelley, Flemming Williams, and Bernard "St. Clair Lee" Henderson were the original lineup. Tom Brown replaced Williams in the wake of "Rock the Boat's" success. He was then replaced by Karl Russell in 1975.
Before achieving mainstream success they were the opening act for a list of headliners that included Frank Sinatra, Milton Berle, Nancy Sinatra, and Glen Campbell. The original band had a lineup of three singers and three sidemen. The sidemen were Joey Rivera from the Checkmates; Monti Lawston; and Bob "Bullet" Bailey, formerly of the Leaves. Bailey, Rivera, and Lawston left the band to form Goodstuff.
The group was formed in 1969. Songwriter Wally Holmes founded the group with his friend Bernard St. Clair Lee. Female singer H. Ann Kelly was found at a talent show in Los Angeles. As a result of notices placed in southern California record stores, Karl Russell turned up. Not long afterwards he was replaced by Fleming Williams. They recorded a single "Goodfootin'" / "We're Keepin' Our Business" that was released on the Liberty label in 1970. It did not make an impact on the charts.]
The group's first big break came in 1972, when they were invited to appear in the blaxploitation film, Blacula, starring William Marshall. They were also asked to record three songs for the film's soundtrack: "There He Is Again", "What The World Knows," and "I'm Gonna Catch You." Shortly thereafter, RCA signed the group; their first single for the label, "Freedom For The Stallion", from the album of the same name, became a moderate hit, reaching #63 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The follow-up single, "Rock the Boat," became a #1 hit on the Billboard chart and the group's signature song. "Rock the Boat" was written by Holmes, who also wrote the Blacula songs, and was released in the U.S. in February 1974 and in the UK in July of that year. It went to #1 for one week in the U.S. and #6 for two weeks in the UK, staying for 20 weeks in the U.S. chart with a gold disc awarded by the RIAA on 24 June 1974. The track sold well over two million copies. The song is considered one of the earliest disco songs. Some authorities proclaim it to be the first disco song to hit #1, while others give that distinction to "Love's Theme" by the Love Unlimited Orchestra, a chart-topper from earlier in 1974.
After the success of "Rock the Boat," the Hues Corporation's other charted singles on the Billboard Hot 100 included "Rockin' Soul" (1974, #18), "Love Corporation" (1975, #62), and "I Caught Your Act" (1977, #92).
The group was unable to duplicate the success of their earlier hits and disbanded in 1978. With the renewed popularity of disco music in the 1990s, the group reunited for tour dates and special events, including the PBS special Get Down Tonight: The Disco Explosion.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
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