Return to the ’80s has been up and running for almost 8 years now. Over these years, I found that most people of our generation feels that there is no good music these days. I agree for the most part, but not fully. I feel that most new artists today are bland, and take very few chances. There is no depth or feeling coming out from most new artists – in every genre. This generation has no identity. However, all is not lost. The truth is, there is some great music out there, and the artists that we grew up with, and long for, are the ones who are still out there releasing it.
Some of our artists never went away, and survived that dreaded grunge period. Bands like Def Leppard and Bon Jovi have been releasing new music all these years, and continue on, to this day. And other bands have had comebacks after a long hiatus. Case in point, today’s main focus – Shalamar. On November 4, Shalamar released “The Real Thing”, their first single in 20 years! And they sound better than ever! They still sound current, and at the same time they still have that Shalamar soul. Here is a small sample:
In the beginning
Shalamar began as a “manufactured” group, created by Soul Train booking agent Dick Griffey and show creator and producer Don Cornelius. Griffey took session musicians and created a hit record, Uptown Festival (1977). The title track, which is a medley of 10 Motown classics set to a disco beat, was a big hit in the U.S. and the U.K. When the album became a hit, Griffey realized that there was a demand for an actual group. So he brought in Soul Train dancers Jeffrey Daniel and Jody Watley together with singer Gary Mumford. However, Mumford left the group to pursue other interests, so they brought in Gerald Brown.
In the heart of the Disco craze, Shalamar released an album called Disco Gardens. They had a big hit in the U.K. with the song “Take That to the Bank“, from that album. Then Gerald Brown left the group. This ushered in the classic Shalamar lineup when Howard Hewett was brought in to join Jeffrey Daniel and Jody Watley.
From 1979 to mid 1983 the fashion icons and trendsetting Shalamar racked up more than a dozen hits across the globe. It all started with the smash hit, from their Big Fun album “The Second Time Around“, which sold more than a million units in the U.S. alone, and was #1 on the R&B and Dance charts, as well as going up to #8 on the Billboard Pop chart. From the same album, Shalamar scored some hits with “Right in the Socket” and one of my favorites from the album, “I Owe You One” which charted at #13 in the U.K.
Shalamar’s first album released in the ’80s, Three for Love, which spawned off the hits “This Is for the Lover in You“, and the earworm inducing (and that is a good thing) “Make That Move“.
Shalamar was not slowing down. In 1981, they released the album, Go For It (which has a catchy title track).
A Night To Remember
In 1982, Shalamar began a huge run, scoring seven top 40 hits, including four top 10 hits.
It began with the smash hit, “A Night to Remember“, from the album Friends. Not only is a great song, but it introduced the moonwalk to the world. Yes, a year before Michael Jackson performed the legendary dance move during a television special, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever in 1983, Jeffrey Daniel did it in 1982 on Top of the Pops. When Jackson so the move, he sought out Jeffrey Daniel so Daniel could teach him the move. Daniel would also go on to co-choreograph some of Jackson’s videos.
Here is Jeffrey Daniel’s Top of the Pops performance.
Looking for a New Gig
At the height of their fame, Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel left the group. This left Howard Hewett to continue the group with new members. Shalamar was not ready to slow down yet! Micki Free and Delisa Davis were brought in, and thanks to Footloose, Shalamar was as good as ever. The group performed “Dancing In the Sheets” for the movie soundtrack, which gave them their highest U.S. charting single, reaching up to #17. They were nominated for a Grammy Award with the song for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. But that is not all! Footloose was not the only movie soundtrack the group was on in 1984. They performed “Don’t Get Stopped in Beverly Hills” from Beverly Hills Cop, and actually won the Grammy with the song for Best Album Of Original Score Written For A Motion Picture Or A Television Special. In 1985 Hewett departed to begin his solo career, and was replaced by Sydney Justin.
End of an Era
When Howard Hewett left Shalamar, so did the group’s popularity. The album Circumstantial Evidence did not even chart in the U.S. or U.K. For their 10th (and final) album, Wake Up, Shalamar tried to stay relevant by adapting the New Jack Swing sound, which was popular at the time. But, it was to no avail. But this is not the last we hear of Shalamar.
In 1999, Howard Hewett and Jeffrey Daniel reformed the group and began touring again. They left the third spot open, hoping to be able to bring Jody Watley back into the fold. After a while, they moved on and brought in another female vocalist – Carolyn Griffey. Carolyn’s father, Dick Griffey, was the person who created Shalamar with Don Cornelius. When she was a child, she spent a lot of time around the studio with Shalamar, as well as their label bandmates The Whispers, Midnight Star and her mother Carrie Lucas (an R&B artist herself, for whom Watley sang backing vocals). When she was 18, Carolyn had a record deal with another group Absolute who had two songs featured on the soundtrack of the film Lambada.
Since Carolyn came on board in 2001, the group has been touring, and now have the new song.
In addition, you can visit Shalamar’s YouTube channel, follow their Facebook page, and visit their official web site. If you are lucky enough to live in the U.K., you have a chance to see Shalamar perform in concert on the following dates:Follow @returntothe80s