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The Four Perfections - The Story by Dave Moore


The Four Perfections - The Story by Dave Moore magazine cover

A LESSON IN PERFCTION - CREATING A MUSICAL MASTERPIECE

By Dave Moore

At last year’s New Century Soul 10th Anniversary Allnighter we had the pleasure of the company of 2 Philadelphia Legends, Bunny Sigler and Ronnie Walker. I was lucky enough to spend the week with them and Martha, Bunny’s wife, as we chaperoned them from airport to rehearsals to gig etc resulting in finally seeing Bunny sing a whole Northern set.

Well folks...it’s that time of year again! When Chris Waterman gave me the thumbs up to try and entice the group for this year’s event, it meant I had finally had a chance to maybe see/hear one of my favourite 45s sung live, by the people who not only performed it but also wrote it! I’d tried unsuccessfully to convince the late great Deon Jackson to appear for his UK fans and was devastated when he passed without having been successful and as far as the group for this upcoming Anniversary event were concerned, I was like a dog with a bone. It simply had to happen! I’d had it dangled before me and set about trying to put in place on of my life’s ambitions, to see The Four Perfections perform ... LIVE!

 

The story of The Four Perfections - “I’ll Hold On b/w I’m Not Strong Enough” — Party Time 1001 is a tale littered with Philly musical gliterazzi and was written in the basement of the girl’s dormitory of Cheyney State College where Eddie Holman would teach Mervin Steals, his school friend, the intricacies of the piano on an old piano that was down there. It was at these covert basement piano sessions that the first draft of the song was written, with a doomed love affair as its foundation.

 

“The song was really created by Mervin although I helped with the words, as he had an unfortunate love affair, which our Mother disapproved of. Then his girlfriend turned out to be unfaithful and that’s where the song came from — he wasn’t strong enough to break away”. — Melvin Steals (Founder member of The Four Perfections). (1)

 

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Whilst students at Cheyney State College, twin brothers Melvin and Mervin Steals were joined originally by James ‘Channey’ Turner, a budding guitarist and fellow vocalist Raymond ‘Chip’ Porter and became The MCs, a play on their initials. It was this line up that would play the talent shows around town, often in direct competition with a group with, what they considered a strange name: The Delphonics! When ‘Channey’ left the group shortly after, the trio recruited former Overbrook High School student and high tenor vocalist Barry Lessend to the line up. Barry was a friend of the previously mentioned Delphonics, had been performing with another campus based group, The High Chaparral but decided to cross deck to The MC’s. The quartet now changed their name to the one that would adorn DJ’s platters on the Northern soul scene ever since they discovered it in the early seventies. The Four Perfections.

Prior to graduation, Eddie Holman introduced the aspiring singers to a group of record producers that he’d hooked up with that were making a name for themselves at Frank Virtue’s studio on Philadelphia’s Broad Street. This of course was Randolph, Stiles and McDougall, the triumvirate soul fans would come to know as the Harthon Team. The guys recorded a demo of a Jesse James penned song for the team but it wasn’t judged strong enough for release. That wasn’t the end of the song though as The Harthon Team played the demo to another group whose version was deemed of the right quality and The Intentions — “Don’t Forget That I Love You b/w The Night Rider” — Phillips 40428 saw a release in 1967.

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The Intentions, (from nearby Middletown, PA.) were a white, 10 piece group whose Phillips 45 was the only foray into the business they achieved, which is a bit of a shame as the 45 is as fantastic an example of sixties, mid tempo, high tenor vocal gymnastics as you’ll hear. (2) The lack of success with Harthon at Virtue’s left them undeterred however and they were introduced to Bruce Weinroth, the son of a local judge and a co owner, alongside his brother Irvine, of ShowTime Records who, at the time were preparing to launch another group of two sets of brothers: The Showstoppers. The Weinroths had the guys audition on a song they already had, “I’ll Hold On” and once Melvin offered up “I’m Not Strong Enough”, as the possible flip, it was enough to get them a deal. Studio time at Cameo Parkway’s 309 Broad St facility was booked, the talents of Joe ‘Boobie’ Thomas, the author of “I’ll Hold On” were used to arrange “I’m Not Strong Enough” and Kip Gainsboro was given the helm of the production session. (3) The famous old building that had seen the likes of Chubby Checker, The Orlons, Dee Dee Sharp and The Tymes amongst others was about to deliver up a unique, one off, double sider that would attain cult status thousands of miles from its creative birthplace.

 

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The studio band built around the famous core of future MFSB stars that day included Karl Chambers on drums, Ronnie Baker on bass and Norman Harris on guitar and under the conductor ship of Thomas and the legendary engineering skills of Jo Tarsia they laid down two tracks that enraptured soul fans of both the Northern and the sweet persuasions. (4) With Barry Lessend taking the vocal lead on the A side together they created a slice of sweet soul heaven. Almost a beat ballad, Barry’s pitch perfect, high tenor lead soars above his supporting counterparts as he relays his sadness at having his heart broken but being determined to hold on until his girl asks him back into her life. The whole performance drips the qualities that make sweet soul so enticing, perfect harmonies, a great, almost doo wop inspired lead and a laid back but metronome like track to place it all on. Not surprisingly the side became a much sought after sweet soul classic, so much so that that late great aficionado of the genre Chicagoan Bob Abrahamian and I would dissect the song note by note, with him adamant that there must have been a female voice in there somewhere. (5)

The flip of course is the side that seduced fans across the pond though. The opening salvo of the echoing tubular bell (?) paired with Baker’s subdued bass-line is instantly recognisable and once the rhythm guitar, deep baritone sax and bongos come to the party I’m afraid it’s all over, they’ve got you! Feet tapping, head nodding, you’re dance-floor bound, whether you like it or not! This side sees Melvin up front and centre on lead vocal duties and a fine job of it he does too.

 

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The guys, as a group unit, only ever released this one outing and there’s a story behind the whys and wherefores of that decision involving The Weinroths, The Steals Brothers, the groups break up and re-formation and the effects of graduating and needing to start work but all that’s for another day,. (and you’ll need to buy the book!). All the group members have stayed connected to the music business in some way and the Steals Brothers would go on to write songs for such luminaries as Thom Bell, Gamble and Huff, The Spinners, Ecstasy Passion and Pain, Archie Bell and The Dells, Major Harris, The Impressions, Miki Farrow and whole host of others under their pseudonyms of Mystro and Lyric.

 

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Amongst the songs the group will perform for the New Century Anniversary Allnighter will be one such song that delivered them a gold record when they furnished it to Thom Bell of Mighty Three Music. “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” is a song written by Melvin when he was ‘courting’ his then girlfriend and now wife of 40 years Adrena. (It must have impacted on her!). The song of course was recorded by the group Thom Bell assaulted the Hot 100 with as The Spinners — “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love b/w Just You And Me Baby”— Atlantic 2927. And that is just the tip of The Steals Brothers’ musical iceberg.

 

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To welcome The Four Perfections to the shores of UK is fantastic. For Chris to have secured the services of Stone Foundation band is fantastic. To hear an iconic 45 sung by the group I used to wonder about when I was dancing away to it over 35 years ago, is going to be fantastic!

What better way to spend a winter’s night in Manchester, than with legends! See ya’ll there.

Dave Moore

© Copywrite protected. Not to be reproduced in any form without the expressed permission from the author.

P.S. The full stories of The Four Perfections, The Steals Brothers, Edie Holman, The Intentions, The Showstoppers, The Weinroths, ‘Boobie Thomas’ etc is all in the upcoming book Philly Soul: It’s Roots and History which should be on the shelves in late summer hopefully.

 

Notes and References:

1. Authors interview with Melvin Steals of The Four Perfections.

2. The Four Perfections weren’t aware that their demo had been used or was even in existence until The Intentions Phillips 45 was highlighted to group members.

3. Joe ‘Boobie’ Thomas would go on to become a stalwart of Curtis Mayfield’s studio musicians in Chicago.

4. Joe Tarsia would, a year later, establish Sigma Sound Studios around the corner at 212 N 12th St, where he cornered the market in Gamble and Huff productions and would later return to Cameo’s old building at 309 S Broad St to renovate it, once Gamble and Huff had bought it, creating what become known as Sigma II.

5. No female singers were used during the session but of course could have been added to the mix later. I like to think that the male, Philly, high tenor signature sound, is all there is vocally but it does sound like there may have been a female voice added later.

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added by site

 

 

 

 

The Four Perfections are appearing at this years New Century Soul Clubs 11th Anniversary @ Radcliffe Saturday 29th November 2014

Details follow...

 

New Century Soul Manchester presents

11th Anniversary Allnighter with

The Four Perfections and Stone Foundation

with 3 rooms of Northern, Modern & Rare Soul

 

9.00pm til 8.00am

£20.00

Radcliffe Civic Suite, Thomas Street,

Radcliffe, Manchester, M26 2UH

www.newcenturysoul.co.uk - 07737 341585

 

Tickets are now available to purchase online via

 

http://www.newcenturysoul.co.uk/

 

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Top write up The four perfections with out a doubt one of the finest records ever, Only ever had two records on Partytime the Showstoppers payd £3 pounds for them both 78ish wish I still had this one.

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Hi Kev,

Unbelievably, as I told you a while back, I lost track of him after that! I reconnected with them via Melvin's daughter who played a blinder. Melvin's wife Adrena is coming over with them too.

Going to be a special night for sure.

Stay healthy Pal! ;-)

Regards,

Dave

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Great record. Great write up. It's tales like this that help understand how difficult it was to cut a record, let alone have a hit.  Fortunately for us, the Four Perfections sole release on Party Time reached legendary status a long time ago and continues to be one of the best ever.

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Excellent informative brilliant article ,great to read thanks for the work put into writing it.It ws one of those first time you hear it you're hooked forever records and you want to find out all you can about it straight away,well you couldnt find out any more about it these days than what you can read about it here.

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Hey Guys.... Little bit more info for you.  (From correspondence with Rick Cooper who met Mr Weinroth Snr in 1974 when he went over for the master tapes for the UK Cream issue of "I'm Not Strong Enough").   Rick was told that apparently Kip Gainsboro, who is credited with the production role of the song was a made up name comprising, ..... The family Dog (Kip) and the Weinroth's address (which was 1203 Gainsboro Rd, Bala Cynwyd,  Pa 19004).  

 

So there you have it. All those years of trawling for Kip Gainsboro was a waste of time but now thankfully -  put to rest! Fantastic! Thanks Rick!

 

Of course we now have to find out exactly who it was that produced the session? Bruce Weinroth? "Boobie" Thomas? Cameo Parkway staffer?

 

I'm onto it.

 

Regards,

 

Dave

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Great article Dave; wonderful reading.

 

Maybe the producer was Bruce Charles which was Bruce Weinroth's producing name. He was actually Irv Weinroth's son not brother. Irv was the judge father you refer to. That is according to the B&S articles of the time.

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You're right Ady, they were Father and son. I rushed the writing and that slipped through.  I suspect it was Bruce Weinroth but if so he surpassed himself as it's a really good production.  Maybe with Joe Tarsia on hand.....  I'll report back with any more info once I speak to the guys again.

 

Regards,

 

Dave

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Steve,

 

I have the complete catalogue of The Steals work.  Haven't we been down this Smallwood Brothers route once? Weren't they a George Kerr group? He'd maybe have some answers for you as to who the line up consisted of etc. The Steals wrote 3 songs for The Smallwood Brothers (all on Atco if I remember correctly but nothing that was released on Wand).  Send me some specifics you want and I'll see if they can help with anything further.

 

Regards,

 

Dave

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Great article about one of all time favourite records. Many thanks!

 

I'm probably mixing it up. But I seem to recall that the Philips Intentions were an earlier incarnation of the Magnificent Men. Andy Rix has/had an acetate of a later Mag Men record that is credited to the Intentions, "It's got to be love". Scan here.

 

I think it was Dave Bupp who confirmed that they were basically the same outfit??

 

Sorry if I cause any confusion. It was 10/15 years ago when I read that.

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I seem to remember the Weinroth family having some kind of paper manufacturing business?

Still have the correspondence from Irving Weinroth when dealt with for the Inferno singles.

Irving could not find the tape for the instrumental of "I'm Not Strong Enough" and instead sent a tape of a horrible  track "The Funky Donkey".

Ed Balbier who owned Global; and the Cream label had a go at us and said we had no rights to release The Four Perfections and The Showstoppers.

Mr Weinroth sent him the most incredible blistering cease and desist  telegram telling him we did have the rights and the Cream deal had expired.

We released The Showstoppers "Gotta Get Closer To My Love" for the first time which everyone tells me must be hard to obtain now,, but as it was on flip to "Ain't Nothing But A Houseparty" which sold 7,000,  not exactly hard to find I would have thought!

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Neil,

 

Did you ever met Irving or Bruce in person?  Any photos Mate?

 

Regards,

 

Dave

Hi Dave, No, have never been to Philadelpia in my life. Did it all by the phone. Still got the correspondence from Irving. We asked for photos on every licence we did (got great one of Fantastic Puzzles) but nothing from Irving. Weird thing is until I read this I never thought about Joe Tarsia being the engineer,   but I  did meet him in his pomp and had long conversation with him. That was on same trip to New York  I met up with Hal Davis who took me out for meal because of interview I did on 21st Century (Tailgate) for Black Echoes, he talked about his 60's recordings/prouductiions  with Marc Gordon in LA but as the Frank Wilson copy had not turned up, I did not know he Hal  produced "Do I Love You" - the Eddie Foster copies did not say so!!.  He MIGHT have said one. Funnyily enough on same trip I met Tom DePerrio, and as we all knew he supplied "Do I Love You" on Soul to Soussan.

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Hey Guys.... Little bit more info for you.  (From correspondence with Rick Cooper who met Mr Weinroth Snr in 1974 when he went over for the master tapes for the UK Cream issue of "I'm Not Strong Enough").   Rick was told that apparently Kip Gainsboro, who is credited with the production role of the song was a made up name comprising, ..... The family Dog (Kip) and the Weinroth's address (which was 1203 Gainsboro Rd, Bala Cynwyd,  Pa 19004).  

 

So there you have it. All those years of trawling for Kip Gainsboro was a waste of time but now thankfully -  put to rest! Fantastic! Thanks Rick!

 

Of course we now have to find out exactly who it was that produced the session? Bruce Weinroth? "Boobie" Thomas? Cameo Parkway staffer?

 

I'm onto it.

 

Regards,

 

Dave

 

Dave, if you could have read Dave McCadden's original Soul Time mag, back in late 76 early 77, he actually mentions that story that Kyp Gainsboro is a dog!

Edited by Pete S
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Dave, if you'd have read Dave McCadden's original Soul Time mag, back in late 76 early 77, he actually mentions that story that Kyp Gainsboro is a dog!

 

Pete you got a copy. If so could you scan it for me Mate.  I'd love to credit Dave with the story. Mad as a March hare but a heart of gold!  :thumbsup:

 

Regards,

 

Dave

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Pete you got a copy. If so could you scan it for me Mate.  I'd love to credit Dave with the story. Mad as a March hare but a heart of gold!  :thumbsup:

 

Regards,

 

Dave

 

No not anymore Dave sorry - I can remember it clear as day though.

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On 10/09/2014 at 22:38, Dave Moore said:

 

Ok Mate, I'll try and track down a copy. Thanks for the heads up.  :thumbsup:

 

Regards,

 

Dave

As a knew member to Soul Source, I found this article superb and clearly you are so dedicated on your quests, as I am trying to be.

You mentioned above that the Intentions Philips release "was the only foray into the business they achieved"

I always wondered if they did in fact have anymore singles and came across this forum, when trying to find out about this release, on the same label as The Ethics. I was wondering if you could shed some light on this please and perhaps the label as I can't seem to fathom it :)

 

Intent.jpg

Edited by Blackpoolsoul
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4 hours ago, Blackpoolsoul said:

As a knew member to Soul Source, I found this article superb and clearly you are so dedicated on your quests, as I am trying to be.

You mentioned above that the Intentions Philips release "was the only foray into the business they achieved"

I always wondered if they did in fact have anymore singles and came across this forum, when trying to find out about this release, on the same label as The Ethics. I was wondering if you could shed some light on this please and perhaps the label as I can't seem to fathom it :)

 

Intent.jpg

Different group I think and have a connection to the Barclay label (Traditions etc).

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26 minutes ago, Dave Moore said:

Yep, different group, the Uptight group were from Reading PA I think. 

Dave  

Thanks , I was listening to The Ethics as well and they are more like a Garage Band ( all these groups with the same names !!!!)

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Garage Band? NO!  LOL!  the Ethics on Vent were led by Ron Tyson a fantastic lead tenor and a pretty good songwriter too.  Although not a really prolific group they worked with Bobby Martin, (Wale),  Vince Montana (Vent) and Thom Bell (Vent) as well as Baker, Harris and Young, (Golden Fleece). Gamble and Huff also produced at least 1  x  45 on them. 

Have you got this book?  (Bit of a plug here, LOL!)

Dave 😉 

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Dave Moore said:

Garage Band? NO!  LOL!  the Ethics on Vent were led by Ron Tyson a fantastic lead tenor and a pretty good songwriter too.  Although not a really prolific group they worked with Bobby Martin, (Wale),  Vince Montana (Vent) and Thom Bell (Vent) as well as Baker, Harris and Young, (Golden Fleece). Gamble and Huff also produced at least 1  x  45 on them. 

Have you got this book?  (Bit of a plug here, LOL!)

Dave 😉 

 

 

 

 

Dave , honestly, you got that wrong and you assumed I meant The Ethics on Vent, when I did actually said on the same label as The Intentions on "Up Tight"

 

Ethics.jpg

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The label is part of Clay Barclay's "Barclay" and associated labels set up from Orwigsburg - Three of the Ethics morphed into "The Cardboard Box" who had one 45 out, on the "regime" record label - Not a Soul record!!

Des

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13 hours ago, Blackpoolsoul said:

Dave , honestly, you got that wrong and you assumed I meant The Ethics on Vent, when I did actually said on the same label as The Intentions on "Up Tight"

 

Ethics.jpg

Yep, my mistake.  I thought you were referring to The Ethics on Vent etc and not the ones on the Up Tight logo. My apologies.  Looks like the correct info has been forthcoming in the other posts though.

Dave 

 

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