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Detroit's Hidden Gem: The Gambrells' Story by MD Records

Detroit's Hidden Gem: The Gambrells' Story by MD Records magazine cover


Today, we have another story to share - the remarkable tale of The Gambrells, a previously unknown girl group from the heart of Detroit. Thanks to the efforts of our researcher and label partner, Jordan Wilson, and the discovery of long-forgotten studio tapes within the Pioneer Studio vault, we can now shed event more light on the incredible journey of Sharon, Pat, and Sandra.

The Gambrells, a trio consisting of sisters Sharon and Sandra Gambrell, along with their close friend Patricia Hunt (Pat Hunt), grew up on Quincy St. in Detroit, just blocks away from the legendary Gordy family of Motown fame. The sisters were second and third in line among ten siblings, and their love for music began at an early age.

In 1965, the talented trio decided to form a duo, but it didn't take long for their harmonies to attract attention. They later expanded to become a powerful trio with the addition of Pat Hunt, a gifted singer and songwriter. It's essential to clarify that Pat Hunt is not the same person as the cousin of Brenda & Patrice Holloway, two different individuals with unique talents.

Pat Hunt, merely 14 years old at the time, penned their first song, "Pain in My Heart," and taught the lyrics to Sharon and Sandra, who eagerly embraced the track. Their breakthrough came when Ollie McLaughlin, a renowned Detroit record producer and label owner, came across the girls through The Gambrells connection with Jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby. Captivated by their talents, Ollie decided to record "Pain in My Heart" for Carla Records 201. Deon Jackson, also recorded a version of the song, but this remained unreleased.

Building on this success, The Gambrells released another single on Carla Records, "You Better Move," a composition again by Pat Hunt (though thought to be initially miscredited to an unknown A. Jones). Despite the buzz, the busy atmosphere at Carla Records in 1966 shifted the focus towards Deon Jackson's and The Capitols career, leaving The Gambrells somewhat overshadowed.

Nevertheless, the trio's journey continued, and they found themselves lending their harmonies to support iconic Motown acts like The Temptations and Brenda Holloway at the renowned 20 Grand Club in Detroit. Although backing vocals brought them some recognition, it wasn't enough to thrust them into the limelight they so rightfully deserved.

Their fortunes changed when Gary Rubin, the owner of Pioneer Recording Studio, discovered their exceptional talent during one of his weekly audition sessions. Convinced of their potential, Gary signed the group, and formed a new group called 'The New Loves,' which included James Cheers and Bobby Franklin as male vocalists and songwriters. Unfortunately, once again, due to the Vietnam War, the group's potential couldn't be fully realised, leading The Gambrells back to background vocal work for Pioneer and other freelance sessions. The New Loves tracks remained unreleased until MD Records released them in March 2022.

Intriguingly, The Gambrells also provided backing vocals for The Tomangoes, a group signed to Pioneer Records in 1967. Their harmonies enriched tracks like 'Loves Got A Hold On Me' alongside the original version of 'You've Been Gone So Long'.

In 1967, 'In-The Pocket Productions,' an independent production group, recognised The Gambrells' potential and asked them to record two songs, "Love Is In The Air" and "I'm In Love Again For The First Time." These tracks were recorded while the girls were still contracted to Pioneer.

Despite their talent and potential, The Gambrells' journey led them through many ups and downs, eventually leading to obscurity. Their brilliance was often overshadowed by bigger names in the music industry.

The discography of The Gambrells includes:

"Pain In My Heart" / "I Want To Be Yours" – Carla Records – 1965

"You Better Move" / "Pain In My Heart" – Carla Records - 1966

"Jive Talk" / "Find A Love" – Pioneer Records – 1966

"My Heart Is Suffering" / "Paradise Of Love" – (Under the name of The New Loves) - 1967

"Just Keep On Loving Me" (Backing vocals by The Gambrells) - 1967

"Loves Got A Hold On Me" / You've Been Gone Too Long" (Backing vocals by The Gambrells) - 1967

"Love Is In The Air" / "I'm In Love Again For The First Time" – Cub Records – 1968

On the memorable date of 9th February 2023, a significant moment unfolded as Jordan graced the screens of "Grayson Perry's Full English." In this special feature, Jordan had the privilege to curate the soundtrack for his appearance on the show. Among the carefully selected tunes was the track, "Jive Talk,".

For The Gambrells, this was a long-awaited recognition of their music from the late 60s. To add to their well-deserved acknowledgment, the licensing of their music to Channel 4 brought forth financial recognition, a fitting tribute to their enduring talent.

We invite you to visit our website at www.mdrecords.co.uk - There, you can grab your own copy of their 45s, and join us in celebrating the legacy of The Gambrells, a treasure trove of soulful melodies that now stands fully recognised and appreciated.


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