During the 30's and 40's The Regal was home to the big bands. In the 50's, R&B and Soul music was born and The Regal warmly extended herself to this brand of music also. During the sixties, almost half of The Regal acts were local stars. Some got their start at The Regal by winning talent shows. A typical Regal show, also called Revues usually lasted 7 days, from Friday thru Thursday nights, four shows daily. There was usually a movie between shows. If one didn't mind sitting thru the boring movie, one could stay and watch as many shows as one could get away with, each time moving closer to the stage. Most didn't mind because there was nothing better they'd like to do than enjoy a Regal show. Disturbances were few and far between. It was all about FUN!
During the sizziling sixties, Red Saunders and Orchestra,the house band for The Regal, was the jammingest band leader in Chicago. Red was a former band leader at the Club DeLisa and Robert's Show Club, the largest Black owned club in America. Red backed many prominent black artists. During this era, Red was foundation for every slammin' Regal show.
Native Chicagoan, BARBARA ACKLIN began singing at an early age in her church choir. While a student at Dunbar High School, she began singing in several local clubs. She later began doing background vocals for Chess Records while employed as a secretary for another record company. Barbara also had a passion for songwriting. After hearing "WHISPERS," a song she had co-written, JACKIE WILSON heard it, liked it, and recorded it. It became a huge hit for him. Shortly thereafter, she began recording and later joined forces with GENE CHANDLER. After a few minor hits, she struck it big in 1968 with LOVE MAKES A WOMAN, which was latered covered by PHOEBE SNOW.
This Motown flavored group cultivated it's street corner croon while students at Marshall High school. Their first hit , on the OKeh label was THIS HEART OF MINE composed by BARRETT STRONG. They also backed MAJOR LANCE on MONKEY TIME. The THE ARTISTICS also sang at The Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1960. They later switched labels and moved to Brunswick Records, where they had great success with I'M GONNA MISS YOU, a favorite Chicago bop recording. They underwent several personnel changes during their years. The above group consisted of JESSE BOLIAN, AARON FLOYD, TOMMY GREEN, LARRY JOHNSON, AND BERNARD REED.
Jan Bradley, a Robbins, Illinois native, began her singing career at the age of four in her church choir. While attending Eisenhower High School, she began singing with a local guy group. After graduating, she embarked on her recording career with WE GIRLS, which was written and produced by Curtis Mayfield. It was a top r&b hit that crossed over as well. In 1962, MAMA DIDN'T LIE was released. It became a huge pop and soul hit. Jan's career took a downward plunge when Mayfield left Chess records. She later quit the business to return to academia. Jan is doing well after having earned a M.A. and becoming a social worker.
JAMES BROWN was not from Chicago, he was an integral part of THE REGAL THEATER. There was nothing like seeing him drop to his knees while singing PLEASE. PLEASE, PLEASE. As James went down, the full house went up! When he played it was always to an overflowing audience, often standing on line for hours, no matter what condition the weather was. James performed over and above the cost of admission.
BILLY BUTLER AND THE CHANTERS
Billy Butler, was so inspired by his older brother Jerry, who at the time sang with The Impressions. While attending Wells High School, he formed Billy Butler and the Four Chanters, a close harmonied fifties doo wop group, and recorded FOUND TRUE LOVE. After two members left, the name was changed to Billy Butler and The Enchanters, releasing the hit, Nevertheless. They appeared on Shindig and Dick Clark's Where the Action Is.
Jerry,'The Iceman' Butler started his musical career with the Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers along with Curtis Mayfield. He also recorded with Curtis and The Impressions before going on to a very succesful solo career. Curtis wrote Jerry's first number one R&B hit, 'He Will Break Your Heart.' Jerry also recorded duets with Betty Everett, 'Let It Be Me' and Brenda Lee Eager, 'Ain't Understanding Mellow.' The Iceman, also a Cook County Commissioner, still performs ocassionally.
ALVIN CASH AND THE CRAWLERS
'It's twine time, ooh, ahh, ooh ahh!!!' Alvin Cash and The Crawlers were four brothers, originally a dance team, who came to Chicago to record a series of dance records. They recorded several dance tunes. Twine Time was the most successful. Locally, The Ali Shuffle was tremendously popular.
Introducing...Chicago's very own Duke of Soul! "Young man went out and made name for himself...been on every record breaking show at The Regal...give it Chicago for Mr. Geeeene Chaaandlerrrrrrr!!!!"exclaimed Chicago radio disc jockey Pervis Spann in his intro of Gene on Rainbow '65. Gene was by far, the most celebrated Chicago soulster. Fully adorned in cape, top hat, and cane, he could single handedly turn the Regal upside down. Audiences tendered shrieks of joy as he delivered his most captvating performances.
Although the Regal had closed its doors by the time time The Chi-Lites made their claim to fame, it just not would be fair to Chicago if they were not mentioned here. The Chi-Lites, who consisted of Marshall Thompson, Eugene Record, Robert 'Squirrel'Lester, and Creadel 'Red' Jones produced the smoothest, sweetest ballads to come out of Chicago during this time. In 1969, they exploded on the scene with GIVE IT AWAY. They continued to produce outstanding hits up until the mid seventies.
DEE CLARK began his career with the Goldentones while a student at Marshall High School. The group later hooked up with radio disc jockey, HERB (KOOL GENT) KENT, who secured them a recording contract with VeeJay Records under the name, THE KOOL GENTS. Clark later left the group and replaced LIL RICHARD in the UPSETTERS after Richard left the business. After his stint with THE UPSETTERS, he became solo once again, with a string of hits. In 1962, Clark released RAINDROPS; it sold more than one million copies.
Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Tony Gideon,Levi Moreland, Eddie Thomas, Dorsey and George Wood formed The Daylighters while attending Hooper City High School in 1956. They soon came to the realization that Birmingham was not the place to start a singing career. With unyielding perserverance, they continued singing and in 1962 emerged with COOL BREEZE a very popular local hit. During the sixties, the group produced a number of modest hits locally. After several personnel changes, the group finally disbanded.
THE DELLS were formed in Harvey, Illinois in 1953. Since then, they have produced the finest soul music in the country. Marvin Junior, Johnny Carter, Verne Allison, Mickey McGill, and Chuck Barksdale banded together and became a club act. It was many years to come before they enjoyed success as recording artists. In 1965, STAY IN MY CORNER, an extremely long song...six minutes and 10 seconds, was released and they were on their way ! It was a huge pop hit and their first major seller to white audiences. For over forty years, this group has been an institution in soul music. They should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you think so too, go here...
Patti, Lorraine, and Cynthia Drew formed their group while students at Evanston Township High School. Carlton Black was married to older sister, Erma. Their first record, TELL HIM was a huge success. In 1964, THE DREWVELLS had their shining moment on stage at THE REGAL with GENE CHANDLER and MAJOR LANCE. They had moderate success with a few other recordings. Shortly thereafter, the group disbanded.
THE DUKAYS, who consisted of Eugene Dixon, aka GENE CHANDLER, Earl Edwards, James Lowe, Ben Broyles, and Gene's cousin, Shirley Jones hailed from the Englewood area. The group had great success with NITE OWL and later recorded THE DUKE OF EARL. At his time, Chandler decided he wanted to go solo. He had planned on releasing the record solo and later return to the group. But the song took on a life of it's own and had a tremendous success, which resulted in a very lucrative career for Gene. He decided to stay solo. THE DUKAYS recruited new members, with relatively little success. They soon disbanded.
A native of Greenwood, MS, Betty started her singing career at an early age singing in the church choir with her family. In 1957, she moved to Chicago with her sister. She began singing in local clubs. After several years of playing clubs and recording, Betty finally got a hit with the release of YOU'RE NO GOOD in 1963. IT'S IN HIS KISS followed. She had tremendous success with LET IT BE ME, a duet with JERRY BUTLER.
THE FIVE STAIRSTEPS AND CUBIE
THE FIVE STAIRSTEPS aka, The Fisrt Family of Soul won first prize a Regal talent show. The group of four brothers and sister all attended Harlan High School. Clarence Jr., James, Dennis, Kenneth, and Alohe Burke teamed up with Curtis Mayfield and his Windy C label and released a huge hit, DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME. Their first album charted five singles. Their father, Clarence Sr., a Chicago police detective, was also their bass guitar player, songwriter, and manager. Windy C label collapsed and they moved to BUDDAH records and added three year old Cubie to the lineup.
Darrow began his singing career at the age of six. While a freshman at Hirsch High School (later attended South Shore) he released PAIN GETS A LITTLE DEEPER and began working the 'chitlin circuit.' SITTING THERE THAT NIGHT was a major hit in Chicago but the small label, Jacklyn did not have the resources to heavily promote it. It surely would have skyrocketed! He shared the Regal stage with performers such as B.B. KING, STEVIE WONDER and JIMMY RUFFIN.
At the age of fifteen, while attending DuSable High School, JoAnne won a talent show at the Regal; her prize was a recording contract. In 1966, STAY BY MY SIDE was released and became a huge local hit. She then recorded YOU CAN'T COME IN and THOUSAND MILES AWAY with THE DELLS. Her most notable hit was ONE WOMAN, which was released in 1968.
In 1963, THE GEMS were born out of another group, THE LOVETTES. They consisted of Theresa Washum, Minnie Riperton, Jessica Collins, and Dorothy Hucklebee, accompanied by Raynard Miner, a blind piano player. I CAN'T HELP MYSELF was their biggest hit. Although the group was not very successful, it produced two musical GREATS, MINNIE RIPERTON and RAYNARD MINER. Miner has composed tunes for FONTELLA BASS, LITTLE MILTON, THE DELLS, JACKIE WILSON, and RITA COOLIDGE. RIPERTON went on to a very successful solo career and remained at the top of her game until she succumbed to cancer in 1979.
In 1958, THE IMPRESSIONS, recorded FOR YOUR PRECIOUS LOVE with JERRY BUTLER sang lead. Jerry then left the group. they floundered for the next few years before they released GYPSY WOMAN, which was a huge hit. The group then consisted of CURTIS MAYFIELD, SAM GOODEN, FRED CASH, ARTHUR AND RICHARD BROOKS. After a few hits, the Brooks brothers left leaving only Curtis, Sam, and Fred. This group continually produced hits for the next few years. The IMPRESSIONS clearly defined Chicago Soul!
WALTER JACKSON, as a child was crippled by polio, but not in the least handicapped. This Detroit native, who considered himself a pop singer, was brought to Chicago by Carl Davis, after Davis had seen him perform in a Detroit club. He was teamed with Curtis Mayfield, who added a touch of soul to Walter's richly sophisticated baritone style. They struck gold with IT'S ALL OVER, BURSTING THE CHARTS NATIONALLY. During the sixties, Walter released many splendid ballads such as WELCOME HOME, FUNNY, AND UPHILL CLIMB TO THE BOTTOM.
THE JACKSON 5
These five young boys hailed from Gary, Indiana. They performed at the Regal and other local clubs. They were quite entertaining to watch, bursting of talent. The lead, young Michael, did a fantastic James Brown imitation. They could also do the TEMPTATIONS as well as the TEMPTATIONS. Michael admired Tempts lead singer, DAVID RUFFIN, and later adopted some of his moves. They were later signed by Motown and became world class entertainers, with Michael eventually embarking a monumental solo career.
Joyce bursted on the scene while a high school student at Flower Vocational. She released a huge local hit, I STILL LOVE YOU. She later hooked up with Glenn Murdock, who she eventually married; together they formed MOTHER'S FINEST, the first BLACK ROCK BAND. Today they are still touring and recording. Joyce has released a duet with Jeffery Osborne,
MAURICE AND THE RADIANTS
Holly began her career while a student at Parker High School; she also studied classical music at the CHICAGO MUSICAL COLLEGE. In 1965, she released ONE THIN DIME, which was a local hit. She went on to release several more tunes and sang in local clubs such as the London House and Happy Medium.
Major grew up hanging out with his buddies JERRY BUTLER, CURTIS MAYFIELD, and, OTIS LEAVILL. According to CHICAGO SOUL author, ROBERT PRUTER, CARL DAVIS is said to have given Major his break because of his persistancy, his likability, and his Curtis Mayfield tunes. In 1963, Major released MONKEY TIME anf was totally surprised and caught off guard when it became a huge hit. For the next few years, he stayed on the charts and sold more than 5 million records.
PATTI AND THE LOVELIGHTS
Jackie began singing gospel at the age of three on her parents' radio show; both parents were preachers. In 1962, SAM COOKE, a family friend, recorded her on his label. It yielded little success. She later went to CHESS RECORDS where she recorded her biggest hit, SELFISH ONE.
By way of Washington, DC, Billy bursted on the Chicago Soul scene with a unique style of "doubling of words," inspired by his love of calypso. He was, by far, most original and innovative singer of his time. As a teen, he sang gospel with the STEWART GOSPEL SINGERS, led by his Mom. Billy was discovered by BO DIDLEY while tinkering around on a piano backstage. Didley asked Stewart to join his band and later took him to CHESS RECORDS. Here he recorded his first single, STRANGE FEELING, which was a huge success. He had great success with several other releases until he was killed in an automobile accident in 1970.
Special THANKS to Robert Pruter, author of CHICAGO SOUL! If you are a genuine Soul Music lover particularly Chicago soul, this book is a must have! A wealth of information can be found about your favorite sixties act.
MOTOWN AT THE REGAL
SHOWTIME AT THE REGAL
THE EARLY YEARS
COMEDY AT THE REGAL