A soul and r&b singer, associated with the Philadelphia soul sound and the Delfonics
On February 9, 1947, was born Major Harris; soul and r&b singer who became a member of the Delfonics in 1971, but left the band in 1975 to pursue a solo career. He passed away on November 9, 2012.
After years of trying, Major Harris finally scored a big hit with the romantic, sensual "Love Won't Let Me Wait" in the summer of 1975. The ballad, with sexy backing vocals supplied by session singer Barbara Ingram, made its mark at number five on the pop charts while topping the R&B chart. He was born into a musical family on February 9, 1947, in Richmond, Virginia, as Major Harris III. His grandparents worked in vaudeville, his father was a professional guitarist, and his mother led the church choirs. His brother was Joe Jefferson, a Philadelphia songwriter responsible for many of the Spinners' hits like "Mighty Love," "Love Don't Love Nobody," and "One of a Kind Love Affair." His cousin was longtime Philly stalwart Norman Harris, a guitarist, producer, songwriter, and former record company owner.
Harris paid major dues: he sang with the Charmers, was briefly a member of Frankie Lymon's Teenagers, recorded with the Jarmels, issued solo singles on Laurie and OKeh Records, and later sang with Nat Turner's Rebellion on Philly Groove Records. None of his previous efforts brought him fame or success. He recorded with the Jarmels after they hit with "A Little Bit of Soap." Harris' first big break came when he joined the Delfonics, replacing Randy Cain; his first tour of duty with them ended in 1974 when he went solo. While with the group his mellow tenor was featured on quite a few recordings as a foil to lead William "Poogie" Hart's soulful falsetto, as is evident on "Think It Over Baby," "Lying to Myself," and "I Told You So."
Having left the Delfonics, he passed a solo audition for W.M.O.T. (We Men of Talent) productions and was signed as a solo act. An album was produced and released on Atlantic Records. The first release, "Each Day I Wake Up," was credited as being by the Major Harris Boogie Blues Band. When Atlantic later sprung "Love Won't Let Me Wait" on the public, the seductive ballad achieved a million in sales and became the high mark of Harris' career. It was recorded in a darkened Sigma Sound Studio with only a small light at Harris' lyric stand: Barbara Ingram, Carla Benton, and Yvette Benson supplied the backing vocals. MFSB played on the tracks with that distinctive, prevalent guitar supplied by Bobby Eli, who also produced the session and wrote the song with Gwendolyn Woolfolk (under her pen name of Vinnie Barrett).
Subsequent ballads by Harris fared well on the charts for a while, but when the hits dried up Harris went back to the Delfonics. As a solo act he was featured on an excellent live recording with Blue Magic and Margie Joseph, which showed that he was an even better entertainer than recording artist. He later toured with one of the two groups called the Delfonics; his version featured original members William Hart and Randy Cain. The other group included William Hart's brother, Wilbert (an original member), and two new guys. Major Harris died in Richmond on November 9, 2012; he was 65 years old.
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"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
One third os the sweet ballad-oriented Philly soul trio that sailed to the of the charts with "La-La (Means I Love You)" and "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)"
On October 19, 1947, was born Wilbert Hart; one third os the sweet ballad-oriented Philly soul trio that sailed to the of the charts with "La-La (Means I Love You)" and "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)."
The Delfonics were one of the first groups to sing in the sleek, soulful style that became popularized (thanks to producer Thom Bell) as the "Philadelphia sound." A vocal trio made up of brothers William and Wilbert Hart and high school friend Randy Cain, The Delfonics roots go back to doo wop singing at school dances in the early '60s. They were well-known in the Philly area for their supple, airtight harmonic talent, which brought them to the attention of record producers, eventually landing them a contract with Cameo-Parkway. While their early records brought them little if any notice, it did bring them to the attention of producer/arranger Thom Bell, who signed the band to his soon-to-be influential soul label Philly Groove. Right from the start this was a perfect match as the band released the classic "La La Means I Love You" in 1968, a song that began a string of hits lasting into the mid-'70s.
The sound that Bell created for The Delfonics was the antithesis of the soul sound that came from Stax in Memphis and Muscle Shoals in Alabama. He sandpapered away the grit, lightened up on the backbeat, brought in string sections, and created a smooth, airy sound. Critics enamored of the soul singing of Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding accused Bell and his groups of creating aural wallpaper, but the reality was that Bell and The Delfonics were setting the stage for a different kind of groove where subtlety and nuance reigned.
The hits slowed for The Delfonics in the mid-'70s, and in 1971 Randy Cain quit the band and was replaced by Major Harris. A few more minor hits followed but Harris left the band for a solo career in 1975, effectively finishing The Delfonics. Multiple versions of the group toured, and one even released an album, Return, in 1981.
In the late '90s, the William Hart, Major Harris, and Frank Washington (of the Futures) version of The Delfonics appeared on Ghostface Killah's "After the Smoke Has Cleared." (The group had long been a frequent source of sampled material for hip-hop artists.) The band also played a significant musical role in Quentin Tarantino's film Jackie Brown. Tarantino, a '70s pop culture obsessive, used "La La (Means I Love You)" and their best single, "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)," as a way of underscoring the relationship between actors Pam Grier and Robert Forster. In the film, Forster's character is so struck by the music (and Grier's character), he goes out and buys a Delfonics' Greatest Hits cassette the following day. Near the end of the decade, the William Hart-led version of the group released Forever New on the revived Volt label. Multiple forms of the group continued to exist through the 2000s. Composer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Adrian Younge -- notable for his soundtrack to the 2009 blaxploitation comedy Black Dynamite, as well as Venice Dawn's Something About April -- sought William Hart to record an album-length project in which the singer was front and center. Hart obliged, and Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics was released on Wax Poetics in 2013.
"Honor the past, don't just remember it." Dizzie Gillespie
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