The Solid Solution Story
The Solid Solution were a five piece soul harmony group from Detroit Michigan. Who during 1978 recorded the highly acclaimed “Loving You” album for the short lived Silver Spoon record Label. Although at the time of the album’s release and following an initial period of local success unforeseen circumstances would eventually conspire against the group reaching the success they so richly deserved.
The Silver Spoon label was owned and operated by the Hill brothers, Robert and Joe who it’s reputedly believed, formed the label as a way to launder drug money. Both brothers were musician’s in their own right with the older brother Robert being a Bass guitar and Keyboards player, and his younger brother Joe (who is remembered for having a foul temper) being a drummer. The Hill brothers later recruited their cousin, Kennedy “Kenny” Hollman to assist them with the Silver Spoon project. Kenny a respected singer, arranger and songwriter who had previously recorded a 45 single “Girl Don’t Worry/Zing” with his brother C. Hollman and L. Peoples under the group name of ‘The Soul In-Pressions’ for the local Aquarius Label (0003). Kenny is also credited on the Aquarius 45 as a songwriter, arranger and co-producer with Henry Watkins Jr. The Aquarius label operated out of the Highland Park district of Michigan and was also responsible for releasing other desirable 45 singles on artists such as The Domestic Five, Ultimate Ovation and Galvin Golden (who was later tragically killed in a car crash). N.B. The label credits on Aquarius also heavily feature the name of the late James Lately who recorded the highly desirable “Love, Friends And Money” for Dave Hamilton’s Temple Label.
Kenny Hollman having previously composed and recorded several tracks including the songs “Loving You” and “Think About It Girl” as demo takes on a another local group, was left feeling somewhat disappointed by their interpretation of his compositions. So he decided that another group needed to be found. Therefore he ventured down to a local community funded establishment in the north end district of Detroit at 8904 Woodward Ave known as ‘The Considine Recreation Centre’. The Considine was named after its founder, John .J. Considine a former politician and attorney (who later became an ordained minister). It was a venue that was renowned for being used by aspiring local talent as a place to rehearse and audition. It was there that many local producers and talent scouts would discover their latest new act. And so it was for Kenny Hollman when he stumbled across a rehearsal by The ‘Solid Solution’. At last he had found a group that would do his song s justice. N.B. The Considine Centre still remains in existence to this day.
The group Solid Solution had been formed during 1977 by Mike Wilson and his old school friend Stanley Greer. Stanley Greer would recruit the groups other three members through an advertisement that he placed in a local newspaper, offering prospective singers the chance to audition for a place in a new formed group. The three successful candidates would eventually be Kurt Jefferson Sr, Horace Wilbanks Jr and Kevin Chapman.
The groups name actually came about following a discussion regarding the type of sound that they, the group wanted to create, a solid sound thus ‘The Solid Solution’.
So after two months of intense recording sessions many going on throughout the night, the ‘Loving You’ album recorded at three different studios in Detroit, United Sound, Super Disc Inc and Sound Suite Inc was finally finished and released in September of 1978.
The Hill Brothers also released a lead 45 single ‘L.O.V.E (love) Silver Spoon (7117) which featuring an instrumental version on the flip (although not on the album) to pre promote the album. The album (Silver Spoon 7118) upon release didn’t feature a cover shot of the group although a photo shoot had been held but instead featured a cover shot of a rather attractive girl holding a rose. The reason given at the time was that some of the group needed some dental work but it was just a ploy to appeal to a wider white audience.
The albums distribution was handled by former Motown studio co-ordinator and record label entrepreneur Ernest Kelley through his independent Inter/Soul Promotions distributorship.
With the album initially selling well and work being started on a follow up album scheduled for release the following year, everything seemed to be heading in the right direction.
But this early optimism would soon to turn to disappointment when the album which had been receiving extensive air play for more than 6 months was suddenly taken off air and dropped by all the radio stations reputedly following a raid by drug squad officers at the Silver Spoon offices on 6 Mile Rd. Also one of the Hill Brothers was later killed in an automobile accident, following the eventual conviction and imprisonment of some of the Hill family, the label closed down.
Sadly this left the members of The Solid Solution to dream of what might have been! Although the group continued to work the lounge clubs (see video link) no other recordings were ever made.
Providence would though later intervene when their body of work was finally appreciated albeit on foreign shores. Eventually copies of their album through avid record dealers/importers would find their way into the UK and beyond. With the up lifting dance track “Think About It Girl” in particular becoming a firm favourite of the UK Modern Soul Scene, further widespread popularity was achieved in mainland Europe and Japan. Due to the source of the original album drying up, it was later reissued to meet the demand in the Far East. This was followed by a later 45 release featuring the popular “Think About It Girl” backed with the excellent sweet soul ballad “It Must Be Love”.
During the interim years the members of Solid Solution have stayed in contact often with their individual performing careers intertwining. Each one of them have made a successful careers for themselves as performing artists with their own individual life stories being as follows:
Michael Lamont Wilson (second tenor) was the founding member of Solid Solution. Mike had begun his performing career as part of High School group called ‘The Premiers’ who broke up upon leaving High School in 1971. Mike then performed with a gospel group under the name of ‘The Gospel Everyready’s’ for a period of two years, before deciding to try his hand at secular music and leaving to form his own group called ‘Rare Distinction’. A further name change followed when the Rare Distinction then reverted to Black Distinction for awhile before they disbanded during 1975. Undeterred by his previous experiences, Mike again after meeting up with a former Mckinnley High School friend Stanley Greer deciding to attempt to form yet another vocal ensemble. So through a series of auditions the group Solid Solution was eventually born. Mike also acted as the group’s choreographer.
During his time with Solid Solution Mike was also the co- proprietor of a designer clothing boutique which he owned with his brother Philip. Philip a very talented tailor was responsible for the creation of all of the group’s outfits. Currently Mike is performing under the stage name of Mike Seville as part of the vocal R&B group ‘Phase 5’ a group he formed in 2004 which at different times has featured former Solid Solution members Stanley Greer and Kevin Chapman. The current line-up of ‘Phase 5’ is Mike Seville, Tony Robinson, Reggie Thomas, Reginald Baton and Robert Carter who regularly perform Motown tributes as well as some of their own material in Casinos and at corporate events throughout the Detroit metropolis.
Stanley Wilson Greer (lead and baritone) begun his perform career Gospel group ‘Voices Of Joy’ recording “This Little Light Of Mine” for the Sacred Sounds label during 1966.
The other members of the Voice Of Joy were Stanley’s brother Donald Greer, Ricky Jones and Kurt Jefferson (whom Stanley later introduced to Solid Solution). After leaving the Voices Of Joy in 1970 Stanley joined a group called Revelation performing cover versions of secular of popular Motown hits of the day, This lasted until the formation of Solid Solution in 1976. Stanley sang lead vocals on four of the tracks on the album, “Think About It Girl”, Once You Fall In Love”, “If It’s Good To You” and “Spending My Money”. During the 90’s Stanley returned to gospel roots, performing with ‘The Pentecostal House Of God Quartet until 2004 when he again returned to the world of secular music with a group called ‘Phase 5’ again reuniting with Mike Wilson. Stanley is currently performing with the group ‘The Prolific’s whose repertoire includes cover versions of many of Motown’s biggest male group hits. The Prolific’s are the onboard entertainment on the Detroit Princess Riverboat which makes regular cruises along the Detroit River from Harts Plaza to the shores of Lake St Clair and back.
Kurt Walter Jefferson Sr (Lead and first tenor) began his singing career as a member of an Elementary school group The Revelation’s during 1962 before later joining a group called ‘Deep Velvet’ in 1964. During 1967 Kurt took up employment at Chrysler Motors but soon realised that this wasn’t the career for him, so 1968 he left and volunteered for the Marine Corps. While serving in Vietnam during 1969 he was wounded in action twice in one week. Firstly receiving bayonet wounds to his right leg, which he didn’t report as he didn’t want to be airlifted out leaving his buddies in the jungle. Unfortunately he was wounded again a few days later when he was shot in the left leg with the bullet shattering his Knee and ankle after a lengthy recuperation firstly in Japan and then stateside he was given a honourable discharge in 1970.
Kurt returned home to Detroit but remaining wheel chair bound until 1971. Once regaining some mobility he rejoined Chrysler Motors as a Forklift truck driver. While at work one day Kurt was approached by an old neighbourhood friend Dwight Cabean who offer him the chance to join him in a vocal group called ‘The 21ST Century’. Now Kurt who hated factory life with a passion and often claimed he’d rather face the Vietcong than work in a factory jumped at the opportunity. He parked his forklift truck, grabbed his walking cane and walked out of his factory job forever.
The other members of The 21ST Century were Rubin Davenport and their lead singer and founding member Willie Jones formerly a member of the Detroit novelty group, The Royal Jokers. As part of the 21ST Kurt or ‘Fats’ as he was fondly known due to his svelte like physique featured on both the groups two releases for local Detroit entrepreneur Joe Turrell’s Joy label “I Just Can’t Forget Your Name/The Sun Came Out” (Joy 672) and “I Just Can’t Forget Your Name/The Thought Of Me Losing You” (Joy 672) recorded in 1972 at the GM Studios. Following a clash of names with a New York based group and not wishing to get involved in any legal disputes ‘The 21ST Century reverted to the name of ’The 21ST’
After 3 largely successful years together, in which they regularly toured several provinces in Canada. Often with a 7 piece band in a twelve seater camper van which they affectionately christened ‘The Love Train’ the group finally disbanded in early 1975. Kurt was again hospitalised due an infection caused by the shrapnel that still remained in his leg from his war wounds which ultimately led to a further operation.
Following his eventual discharge from hospital Kurt became homeless and ended up living in a derelict house for awhile. Eventually his life would take a turn for the better. After noticing a advertisement in a free newspaper for a newly formed vocal group called The Solid Solution that were looking to audition new members.
Kurt, while still using a wheel chair decided to attend their audition. Abandoning his wheel chair outside and using a walking cane he entered the Considine Centre to be greeted by an old school friend Stanley Greer, needless to say Kurt got the job.
Kurt continued singing with the solid Solution until circa 1982. He later sang with the group’s ‘Blue Velvet’ and ‘Prestige’ during the remainder of the 1980’s and into the 90’s. Currently performs with the previously mentioned Motown tribute group The Prolific’s alongside Stanley Greer. Although Kurt has been through some tough times during his life he remains a very positive guy who gives a lot of his time and money to help the ever growing homeless population of Detroit.
Horace Wilbanks Jr (lead and baritone) began his performing career singing RnB cover versions of the hits of the day with a local group known as ‘The Gifts’ before later moving on to another outfit by the name of ‘Three Deep’. As previously mentioned Horace went on to join ‘The Solid Solution’ through answering a newspaper advertisement. It is Horace who was responsible for providing the lead vocals on the mellifluous sounding “This Must Be Love”.
Horace later went on to sing with several gospel groups by the names of Resurrection, Forgiven and C.S.J.C an abbreviation of Calling Sinners To Jesus Christ, the later being the only group to other than ‘Solid Solution’ that Horace made any further recordings with. All through his performing career Horace continued with his daytime employment as a school bus driver. He currently has plans to record his own gospel album project.
Kevin Chapman was working at Pontiac Motors when during 1976 he was invited by Clifford Moore of the vocal group Eric And The Vikings who recorded the million seller “Vibrations (Made Us Fall In Love)” for Popcorn Wylie’s Soulhawk label, followed by two excellent releases for Berry Gordy’s Motown subsidiary label, Gordy. Original Eric And The Vikings members Clifford l. Moore, Philip Taylor had continued to perform as ‘The Motown Vikings’ and then as just ‘The Vikings’ following former original member Eryke ‘Eric’ McCinton’s departure. They had initially recruited Irvin Conwell, but then came a invitation from Clifford Moore to Kevin to join The Motown Vikings. Which Kevin accepted, leaving his native Detroit for Los Angeles with high expectations at the prospect of becoming a Motown Viking.
This brief excursion out west would only last for a period of no more than twelve months when following a series of broken promises, Kevin became disillusioned and returned home to Detroit. Once again returning to his daytime employment as a journeyman pipe fitter within Chrysler Motors (where he still works today).
Another artist to respond to Stanley Greer’s audition advertisement, he too successfully joined The Solid Solution in 1977. Kevin performed as a full time member of group until circa 1983. He also later toured in Europe during the early 1990’s as part of The Temptations Review which featured Damon Harris. He also toured as part of another Temptations Review but this time led by Richard Street. He is currently working on a new solo album project of his own.
Due to the innovation of the internet, Mike, Stanley, Kurt, Horace and Kevin are all very much aware of the high regard that their album is now held in. But even so there still remains the unanswered question of the existence of a reputed second elusive Silver Spoon vinyl 45, which features “Think About It Girl” (Silver Spoon 7119) (not to confused with the later legal reissue).
The only known copy of which was found by UK collector/DJ Ian Clark on a US buying trip in Karl Moye’s Goose Creek record shop in South Carolina. Well during my time interviewing all the group members and any other people connected with the Silver Spoon project who could still be found I have repeatedly asked the question about the existence of this second elusive 45 release but to no avail as no one has any recollection whatsoever of every seeing it!
Therefore in conclusion was it a legitimate release that the Hill Brothers produced due to some demand created for the track “Think About It Girl” following the album’s release, as the catalogue numbers would suggest (albeit without the groups knowledge). That this never got to hit the streets due to the seizure of assets when the label got prematurely closed down?
Albeit for one copy that somehow found it’s way down to South Carolina possibly as a promotional copy ?
The conundrum continues?
Words By: David Welding
Acknowledgments to: Mike Wilson, Stanley Greer, Kurt Jefferson Sr, Horace Wilbanks Jr, Kevin Chapman, Willie Jones, Clifford Moore and the late Ernest Kelley.
Solid Solution Photographs courtesy of: Kurt Jefferson Sr.
Solid Solution “Think About It Girl” 45 scan and Karl Moye Photograph courtesy of: Ian Clark
Solid Solution Album Label Scans: Andrew Whitmore.
Soul In-Pressions Label Scan: David Welding
Video Tape Transfer: Pete Smith
Article Layout: Karl White