Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Picked up this Sweet 45 a few weeks backs over at Rooky's (SF)

The Controllers are a soul/ R&B vocal group, originally from Birmingham, Alabama, who had a series of successful recordings in the late 1970s and the 1980s.

Originally part of an eight-member gospel group, the group became four by the time they entered junior high school, comprising Reginald McArthur (baritone lead), Ricky Lewis (tenor lead), Larry McArthur and Leonard Brown. Their growing reputation in the Birmingham area led to an introduction to Cleveland Eaton, bassist for the Ramsey Lewis Trio. Under Eaton's guidance "The Soul Controllers" as they were then called, recorded their first single, called "Right On Brother, Right On". It became a regional hit while they were still attending Fairfield High School.

The group came to the attention in 1976 of Juana Records, run by writer/producer/artist Frederick Knight, also from Birmingham. Recording at the famed Malaco studios in Jackson, Mississippi, their first single on Juana, from the album, "In Control" charted, but it was their second release, "Somebody's Gotta Win, Somebody's Gotta Lose", that really established them. The song, a ballad lasting over 8 minutes on the album, climbed to #8 on Billboard's R&B chart and #3 on the Cashbox soul chart in 1977. The group's on-stage performances also helped them to open for renowned artists such as Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson, B.B. King and The Temptations.

A follow-up ballad, "Heaven Is Only A Step Away" climbed to #37 R&B, but despite the release of two more albums on Juana, the group failed to find another major single success.

In 1983, the group signed with San Francisco-based manager, the now late Jimmy Bee, and soon landed a recording contract with MCA Records. Their first release on the label, "Crushed" (which featured Stevie Wonder on harmonica) returned them to the charts, reaching #30 R&B, in 1984 and two years later, "Stay" climbed to #12. Their cover of the Marvin Gaye classic, "Distant Lover" from the same album, "Stay" also proved popular. These hits led to a series of appearances on "Soul Train" and performances at Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall. During this time, the group also performed on MTV, BET's Video Soul and on HBO.

Under the guidance of Jimmy Bee, the Controllers made a move to Capitol Records in 1989 for the cd "Just In Time" which failed to produce any hits but rekindled their popularity among the group's loyal following.

After a break from touring and recording, the four returned in the late 1990s and joined the Malaco label for their self-produced cd album, "Clear View", containing a re-make of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" and a revised "Somebody's Gotta Win".

The two remaining active Controllers, Leonard Brown (bass) and Reginald McArthur are co-hosts of a syndicated talk show in the southeastern United States, "Inside The Juke Joint", where known artists, writers, arrangers and musicians talk about their careers and lives, then and now.


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