Dunn Pearson was around on the Cleveland soul scene from the late 60's through to 1980 when he relocated to New York. In that time, he backed up many local soul groups & singers, formed & led groups himself, toured (in backing bands) with top acts such as the O'Jays. He has also cut, arranged and produced his own group plus other acts on recording sessions and has generally become a 'jack of all trades' on the music scene in the city and beyond.
He learnt to play instruments and sang some during his school years. The original group he helped form were known as the Shades of Soul who came together in 1969/70. Bobby English was also born in Cleveland and he was in the same home room in Junior High School as Benny Slocum. The two of then were talking one day and decided to become involved in music. Bobby had considered playing the drums, but when Benny made the drums his instrument of choice, Bobby quickly took up the saxophone. Bobby was inspired by the likes of Cannonball Adderley. Ironically, the pair started off playing in competing bands. Benny was with The Shades of Soul and Bobby with a group called The Citations. But when Benny & the other guys in Shades of Soul heard him play a solo from a Rare Earth album, they asked Bobby to join their group. The new ensemble started out as a self-contained group and they played local clubs and talent shows, quickly learning their trade. In the group's early they would play tunes by Booker T & the MG's and other instrumental tunes that featured Dunn. Kenny Red would sing lead on songs Isley Brothers cuts and pop songs such as "Midnight at the Oasis," and "On a Horse with No Name." Booby would take lead on "Ain't No Sunshine", "I Don't Want The Night to End" (a Phoebe Snow tune) and he was also responsible for getting the outfit to play a lot of jazz tunes (songs by the likes of Roy Ayers, John Klemmer, and the (Jazz) Crusaders).
The group soon came to the attention of the manager of local boy band the Ponderosa Twins + One who had just made the big time (hitting nationally with a cover of Sam Cooke's “You Send Me” on Horoscope in September 1971). So they became that group's backing band and almost instantly went out on nationwide tours. The members of the band were Dunn Pearson (piano), Kenny Redon (guitar + vocals ; known as Kenny Redd but a different guy to the one who was in True Movement), Bobby English (sax + vocals), Benny Slocum (drums), Ernie Cary (bass), Booker Hollins (percussion) plus two brothers David (older) & Bobby Johnson (who were transitional members of the band as were some others). When they were touring with the Ponderosa Twins, they opened shows for Gladys Knight & The Pips, Kool & The Gang, Al Green, James Brown and many more top seeling acts. They toured right up and down the east coast but when the Twins' voices started to change, that was the end of them. After the Ponderosa Twins broke up, they became the Imperial Wonders backing band. They soon decided to go out on their own and were dubbed 9th Street Exit (the name being dreamed up by Lou Ragland & Walter Williams. 9th Street Exit being the slip road off the freeway that led into central Cleveland). With their connections to Bobby Massey and the other O'Jays, they soon landed a record deal with the locally based Solid Foundation label. Two singles soon escaped; “(Let's Make) Sweet Harmony” (SF 103) and “9th Street” (SF 107). The group got to play the songs they had recorded in local clubs and the tracks got limited local radio airplay, but significant numbers of the 45's weren't sold. Bobby didn't even remember playing on those tracks and thought that he may have been off at college at the time. They worked on tracks to form an album (to be issued under the title 'Be Happy' (B55101) but the cuts were never finished and no LP materialised. Benny, Kenny and Bobby did all the lead singing for the group and they were always competing with each another. Benny sang songs by the likes of Isaac Hayes and Barry White (he had a very nice semi-baritone voice). One of Bobby's favourite songs was Brook Benton's "Rainy Night In Georgia”. He also did a great version of "Sweet Thing" by Chaka Khan. 9th Street was regarded as a really class act. They performed all styles of music including soul, jazz, funk, r&b, rock and pop. They did a version of "Cloudy" (the Average White Band track) that included a section where the band would start swinging and Bobby would break into scat singing. One of their favourite groups was Sly and The Family Stone. When they performed at rock concerts in high school, Dunn would dress just like Sly and he would look exactly like him. Everyone acknowledged that Dunn was the most proficient musician in the group. He had complete command of his instrument and many times would play a red, white and blue Farfisa organ (just like Sly Stone).
The group also acted as the studio band backing up the Imperial Wonders on the tracks they cut for Solid Foundation (as did some members of the O’Jays backing band). Bobby Massey had become the groups manager but unfortunately their releases failed to sell much outside of Cleveland itself. Dunn Pearson was learning all the time though, so he got more into song writing, producing & arranging. He picked up many 'studio skills' working on those Solid Foundation sessions. He also worked on tracks as the arranger for Way Out (Jessie Fisher “Mr. Super Nobody / Don’t Cheat On Me” in 1973), Miystic Insight Records (True Movement -- "Depression / What A Lovely Way To Meet" & Sonny Lovall —“Ghetto Boy” in 1974) Shaker Records ( Bobby & Cindy — “If This Ain't Really Love / I’ll Keep Coming Back” in 1975), CAM (Odyssey & Company — “Let Me Be / She’s Perfect”), Devaki Records (Truth — “Understanding / See You Later” in 1980) and he even got to co-produce “You’re The Girl Of My Dreams” for the O’Jays (a 1980 TSOP release). Another job he landed was the producer's role for Akron Ohio based female group M’Lady. This trio landed a deal with 20th Century Records and had 2 x 12” releases on the label (“Sweet Honey / Baby You Lied” being the 1st). By 1980, Dunn had become a 'big fish in a little pond' and so he relocated to New York but continued to work with Cleveland artists. Dunn also wrote the song “All I Want Is You” that he then cut on Four Flights (Almeria: 1978) and on Sly, Slick & Wicked (Sweet City / Epic: 1979).
With their records not doing too well, the members of 9th Street Exit had become a bit disillusioned. Dunn left the group and went off to play in the O'Jay's tour band. That didn't immediately lead to the group's break up but it had a number of personnel changes. At one point they had two guitar players and then they added a piano player and two additional sax players. Bobby had just about left the group in 1977 when he was away in college, but he returned in 1978 after graduating. They played on for a little while but eventually disbanded. Bobby started playing with a jazz quartet in the early 80's and moved to Chicago in 1985 where he enrolled in graduate school. Here he studied for and was awarded a masters degree in entertainment management. While in Chicago, he continued to play and record, getting to perform all around Chicago itself plus across Indiana and Wisconsin. After 9th Street Exit had broken up, it's other members also moved on. After Dunn left the group had a number of personnel changes. At one point we had two guitar players and at another we added a piano player and two additional sax players. Benny passed away many years ago, he was shot and killed when someone attempted to rob him around 1982. Bobby himself had moved back to Cleveland from Chicago in 1990. There he started playing in a 'wedding band' with Kenny and Ernie. Ernie and Kenny were still playing together at the end of the 90's. While they were all in the wedding band they would play some of the 9th Street Exit songs. Amazingly, though many years had passed, Kenny still remembered every song and lick. When Bobby had auditioned for the wedding band (at Ernie's request) the leader of the band had asked if he sang. Kenny and Ernie immediately started playing "Sara Smile" and Bobby had started singing the song (which had been one of the songs he had sung with 9th Street). Back around 2000, Bobby English lived in LA. Ernie passed away, he died of a heart attack in the late 1990's.
Dunn had teamed up with Bruce Gray (probably via his O'Jays Philly connection) and they formed Dunn & Bruce Street. As half of Dunn & Bruce Street he had a number of releases. “ If You Come With Me / The Moment Of Truth” (Devaki DK 4005) was issued in 1981, the A side being both written, produced & arranged by Dunn and Bruce (this also got a UK release on Satril in 83 with a different B side -- Satril SAT 503). Next up came “Shout For Joy / Yearnin & Burnin” (DK1009) in 1982 (both tracks being written, produced & arranged by Dunn & Bruce — this also escaped as a UK 12” release as SATRIL SAT 500 in 82). An album, 'Official Business' (Devaki DKI 30003), also came out in 82 and this featured 8 tracks (all being written, produced & arranged by pair). All the duet's tracks were recorded at Blank Tape Studios, New York and featured Bruce Gray on lead vocals. Dunn handled backing vocals along with Tawatha Agee, Fonzie Thornton, etc. The musicians on their recordings were Dunn (keys / synths), Bruce, Phillip Woo (drums), Yogi Horton, Woody Cunningham (bass) Raymond Jackson (guitar) & Doc Powell.
From 1983, Dunn started to cut solo efforts while continuing to work in the studio with other artists. He cut “ Go For The Gusto” (Compose 9904-12) in 1989 that featured Jocelyn Brown on lead vocals. This was followed by a 10 track album (9904-1) on which all the songs were self written except Gary Glenn's “Caught Up In The Rapture”. He worked with musicians & vocalists such as Grover Washington, Noel Pointer, Bernard Watt, Doc Powell, Willie Ross and Benny Diggs. A good vocal track, “Most Definitely” was laid down at Hip Pocket Studio, NY and this came out on Bounce. Dunn also worked in the studio with Teddy Prendergrass, Stephanie Mills, Lou Rawls, Mtume, the Spinners, Stevie Wonder, D’Angelo, LSG ( Levert, Sweat, Gill), Mary J Blige and others. He scored the Broadway musical 'Amen Corner' and films like “Native Son “ & “Head Office”. He also worked on the TV show ‘New York Undercover’ and composed dozens of commercials. He did other work for PPI and in 1999, the CD 'Under Cover Lover' (again for Bounce Records of Newark, NJ). This CD featured “Up All Night” cut with April Harris & Najee. Since then he has also worked with Grover Washington (again), Fred Watt, Marion Meadows, Freddie Hubbard, Freddie Jackson, Portia Martin, Voice of Harmony, Janice Dempsey, Gerald Albright and Patrice Rushen.
So from his humble musical beginnings in Cleveland, Dunn has gone on to leave a lasting legacy in the recording & performing worlds. Many of his old recordings and production efforts are much sought after by record collectors, having stood up to the 'test of time' more than adequately.
The "ALL I WANT IS YOU" Story
Around 1978, Cleveland based Dunn Pearson wrote a song titled “ All I Want Is You”. It is just one of hundreds of songs that Dunn has written but apart from it being a classy composition, it also acts as a classic example of the good and bad events that can overtake soul recordings and the tunes involved.
Dunn Pearson had started out in the music business in Cleveland backing groups such as the Ponderosa Twins + One and the Imperial Wonders. From there he progressed to leading his own group, 9th Street Exit and also writing for, arranging and producing other recording artists. He joined the O’Jays backing band, all the time expanding his musical knowledge and increasing his experience. His compositional skills were also becoming more widely recognised and soon his songs were being recorded by a number of other artists. Although still associated with the O’Jays, Dunn secured himself a recording deal with Almeria Records in New York and they issued his track “Groove On Down” in 1978. Just prior to this, Tony Richburg, the O’Jays tour manager had taken an interest in a group made up of four guys from Chicago, the Four Flights. The group were fetched to Cleveland and placed under Dunn’s supervision. He had written a song that he thought would suit the group and so “All I Want Is You” was cut on them. Today, Dunn can’t recall any names of the group’s members (their association being a one off affair), however his cousin John Wilson remembers meeting up with the group. He had met them at the Shaker Records (an O’Jays label) building in Miles Avenue in Cleveland and remembers one of the Four Flight members well. The member in question, an extremely stout guy had gone by the name of 'ROUND POUND' due to his weight and stature. Dunn really liked the resulting cut and decided to offer it to the people at Almeria Records. They were also impressed with Four Flights and Dunn’s efforts, so licensed the track for release. To everyone's relative surprise, the record was really well received and garnered some good radio exposure. Although the group's release had created some interest, the O’Jays and Dunn had careers of their own to sustain. So with no one really masterminding any future for them, the group gave up and returned home to Chicago .
Just like Dunn, his relative John Wilson was also actively engaged in the music business. In the early 70’s he had formed the group Sly, Slick and Wicked and they had gone on to enjoy releases on the Paramount, People, Shaker and Ju-Par labels. The line up of his trio had changed with the passage of time but John had soldiered on. In 1978 he recruited two new members in order to keep the group going. Scott Pitman became ‘Slick’ and Jerome Pratt ‘Wicked’ (John obviously being ‘Sly’). At the same time that Dunn was working with the Four Flights, Carl Maduri, a veteran of the Cleveland recording scene (he had produced Lou Ragland’s 1973 WB 45 “Since You said You’d Be Mine”) was just setting up a new label, Sweet City. Carl obtained national distribution for his label via Epic Records. As John knew him well, he arranged a meeting with Carl with a view to securing his outfit a recording deal. At this meeting John played Carl the song Dunn had written and Carl liked the song as well. As he had also always liked John’s group, he signed Sly, Slick & Wicked’s new line-up to Sweet City Records. John called Dunn and asked him if he still had the master tape from the Four Flights session. Dunn confirmed he did and so a short while later, Sly, Slick & Wicked added their vocals (at the Painsville Studios) to the original musical track. John had developed an opening dialogue to precede the music track and he also handled lead vocals duties on the cut. Everyone involved liked the results of the session and the track was subsequently released on a Epic / Sweet City single (Epic 9-50758). Unfortunately once again, little or no promotion was put behind the release of the song on 45 and so it didn’t make any major commercial impact.
Dunn’s links with Almeria lapsed and he struck up a new musical partnership with Philadelphian, Bruce Gray. The duo signed with Devaki Records as Dunn & Bruce Street and subsequently went on to enjoy both single and album releases on the label (some of these even gaining UK releases at the time). His old song had gained a few influential admirers along the way though and hadn’t been completely forgotten. Recording industry stalwart Greg Carmichael also had connections with Almeria Records at about the same time as Dunn was placing product with them. His New York based Red Gregg Enterprises had signed their artist Ben Wiggins with the label in 1978. Almeria had subsequently released Ben’s cuts "Its All Over / I Love You Too Much" as a single (Almeria 4003). In 1980 another version of “All I Want Is You” was released, this time on Sam Records. The group who had cut this third version going by the name of Convertion. A familiar figure was associated with their effort, it’s producer being none other than Greg Carmichael. Matters with regard to this release were not altogether straightforward though. The song had now been assigned to a publishing company that Dunn had no knowledge of and it had also acquired an extra writer along the way (a certain J Carter). In fact Dunn had only been made aware of the new version by accident. His attorney (at that time) was representing the composers of the song on the other side of the Convertion single and in passing had happened to notice Dunn’s name on the label of the record. As a result, he got in touch with Dunn and needless to say, legal action seemed appropriate.
So this one song had, in a short space of time, managed to attract enough interest to gain three different released versions. All three of these recordings have stood the test of time well and are still much sought after today by soul music collectors from around the globe. Thus good things were achieved by the song, however the murkier side of the business had also been demonstrated by the third version of it that had been cut."¨
4 Flights …..
Sly,Sl & W ….