Silas Phifer of the Mello Souls – R.I.P.

 by Andy Rix      views   2549   comments 17 in Soul News Past on

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Silas Phifer of the Mello Souls – R.I.P.


It has been long held belief that Silas Phifer died a number of years ago in a nursing home; the latter is true but it now appears that the former was not accurate.


His family contacted me recently to inform me that Silas actually died on11 February 2013 aged 69.

Silas Jackson Phifer III was born August 30, 1943 in Wilmington Delaware. He was educated in the Wilmington Public School system and earned a scholarship to Juilliard School of Music to study classical music. He declined this opportunity as he wanted to be a singer and chose to pursue a record deal to try to make it big quickly.


Silas married in 1960 to Joan Jones who he had met in school. They had 3 children before divorcing in 1970.

His first attempt to break into the recording industry appears to have been with The Mellow Fellows who secured a deal with Candi Records, a Wilmington based record company, owned by James Chavis who ran his business from his home on Vandever Street. In addition to Chavis Records, James also had the Candi and Barvis record labels releasing an eclectic mix of R&B, Gospel and Garage recordings.


This release date of this initial 45 is unknown but is likely to be around 1964. The song “Gotta Find My Baby” (Chavis 1023) was written by James Chavis and credited to Silas Phifer and The Mellow Fellows. The flip “You Gave Me Love” featured Edwin Johnson as the lead. Despite appearances in venues across Delaware and Pennsylvania the record failed to sell enough to launch Silas into the big time.


Silas Phifer 45 001


Listen on Soundcloud.com

Listen on Soundcloud.com


This didn’t deter Silas from returning to the recording studio a few years later to try again. The group were now known as the Mello Souls. The recording session is believed to have taken place in 1967, at Frank Virtue’s studio on Broad St, Philadelphia. The songs were published by ‘Mary Hill Music’ named after Frank’s wife.


Released on Mello Records (967) the Silas Phifer and George Lewis composed “We Can Make It” flipped with “I Got My Pride” would appear to have sunk without a trace before being rescued by Mark Dobson for the benefit of the UK rare soul scene.


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Joan has no real knowledge of what Silas got up to with his musical endeavours and has no recollection of his groups or any of the records that he made. The same is true of his children and wider family members. The majority of what they now know has only been discovered since his death.


Silas married again in 1974 after meeting Geraldine Roberts at the Salvation Army where he had volunteered to help with emergency housing. They had one son, Silas Jackson Phifer IV, who was born exactly one year after their wedding.


Silas worked at the Delaware Hospital and at various other odd jobs whilst trying to forge a musical career but despite his efforts it was never meant to be. Geraldine recalled that Silas had been in a group in the 70s, who had recorded an album, but she couldn’t recall their name and had never owned a copy of the record.


Silas was a former member of New Pentecostal United Holy Church, where he sang on the choir and studied to be a Deacon. In addition he was a community activist and worked with former Mayor Jim Baker. He also worked for radio personality and President of The Afro-American Historical Society Harmon Carey.


Silas lived life to the full and played things fast and hard. This lifestyle eventually took a significant toll on his health and as a result he required nursing home care for the last 12 years of his life.


R.I.P. Silas …. You did a good job


Andy Rix


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17 Comments

chalky photo

ey up, thar knows what thar can do dunt yer



chalkyMar 23 2013 08:47 PM

Nice to see his story told Andy.

R.I.P. Silus.
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Going Big



kev caneMar 23 2013 09:24 PM

Very interesting, shame he never got to know that eventually he would have a massive impact somewhere after all of his endeavours. Imagine if the Mello Souls had been traced and brought over to do a couple of gigs, if only

 

Kev

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chalky photo

ey up, thar knows what thar can do dunt yer



chalkyMar 23 2013 09:28 PM

Steve Green met I'm in a nursing home so pretty sure he was aware of the Mello 45's impact over here.

kev cane photo

Going Big



kev caneMar 23 2013 09:35 PM

Steve Green met I'm in a nursing home so pretty sure he was aware of the Mello 45's impact over here.

Brilliant Chalky, I reckon that will have made him feel that even though not financially, it was worth it, thought Steve would have posted summat as great as that, unless I missed it

 

Kev


chalky photo

ey up, thar knows what thar can do dunt yer



chalkyMar 23 2013 09:36 PM

You must have missed it mate, sure Steve mentioned it on here in the past.

kev cane photo

Going Big



kev caneMar 23 2013 09:39 PM

You must have missed it mate, sure Steve mentioned it on here in the past.

:huh:


soulcarp photo

Getting spins again



soulcarpMar 23 2013 11:06 PM

just read this,sad would have been nice for him to know he had a following R.I.P. Silas thoughts for family and close friends


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In-Demander



SOUL INCMar 24 2013 12:25 AM

There is an unreleased group soul version of "I've Got The Feeling" (same song as "Belairs") in the vaults of "Chavis/Candi" by a group called "The In Souls"

Des Parker

Flynny photo

Faaaaaar East Soul



FlynnyMar 24 2013 05:00 AM

Sad news...he has made an idelible mark on our beloved scene via his recordings...that's for sure.

Are there any pictures in circulation of our hero?

 

RIP Silas


Byrney photo

Getting spins again



ByrneyMar 24 2013 09:10 AM

Really hope he knew that his record was viewed by many as one of the best northern soul records ever laid to vinyl.

RIP
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cenco photo

Getting spins again



cencoMar 24 2013 11:37 AM

i never met him but i did talk with silas on the phone and played we can make it.. down the phone for him which the nurses said made his day ,i was put in touch with him via a lady called annie leatherbury who was his cousin and mother of 1  of the matadors who wrote say yes baby..

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speedlimitMar 25 2013 03:06 PM

r.i.p silas the voice behind a record thats possibly had more impact on the scene in the last 27 years since it was first played than any other since. just oozes quality imho ,been after this for 27 years one day i will own a copy

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Flynny photo

Faaaaaar East Soul



FlynnyMar 25 2013 04:37 PM

r.i.p silas the voice behind a record thats possibly had more impact on the scene in the last 27 years since it was first played than any other since. just oozes quality imho


Truer words never spoken, mate.

Let us also not forget that it is actually a duet - which lines are Silas and who is the other main singer?!
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Dave Abbott photo

SSCDT Dictator



Dave AbbottMar 25 2013 05:22 PM

Sad news...he has made an idelible mark on our beloved scene via his recordings...that's for sure.

Are there any pictures in circulation of our hero?

 

RIP Silas

 

Photo of Silas Phifer (taken from  http://lougheeds.fro...Silas/index.php )

 

Attached Image: sILAS pHIFER copy.jpg

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Dave Abbott photo

SSCDT Dictator



Dave AbbottMar 25 2013 05:26 PM

Let us also not forget that it is actually a duet - which lines are Silas and who is the other main singer?!

 

Jim-T according to his brother-in-law Howard Govens (Jims that is not Silas) sure Andy or someone with investgation skill could find out - from this page

 

http://www.evanwsmit...?Printable=true


chalky photo

ey up, thar knows what thar can do dunt yer



chalkyMar 25 2013 07:37 PM

Doesnt mean Jim T sang lead though, maybe just one of the group?

Obvious answer would be Edwin Johnson who sang lead on the Candi flip? Or is that too obvious, anyone compared?

ruppy photo

Semi known gem



ruppyMar 27 2013 11:53 AM

thanks on the info proffessor,rix,but i must give Mark Dobson a big thanks for what must be his best discovery ever &  17 years covered up to,

 

mick h

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