Thursday, 4 April 2013
Major Lance born 4 April 1939
Major Lance (April 4, 1939, — September 3, 1994) was an American 6'6 foot tall R&B/Northern soul singer. Allmusic journalist, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, states "blessed with a warm, sweet voice, Lance was one of the leading figures of Chicago soul during the 1960s and the top-selling artist for OKeh Records during the decade. During the height of his success, the majority of his songs were written by Curtis Mayfield and produced by Carl Davis, and the pair developed a smooth, Latin-flavored sound that was punctuated by brass and layered with vocal harmonies, usually from The Impressions."
Born in Winterville, Mississippi, Major Lance moved to Chicago as a child, where he was initially raised on the west side of the city, before he moved near the north. While studying at Wells High School -- where Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler also attended -- Lance began boxing, but his attention soon turned to music and he formed the Floats with Otis Leavill. Although the Floats never released any records, his dancing earned him a spot on a local American Bandstand-styled program hosted by disc jockey Jim Lounsbury. The DJ helped Lance secure a one-shot single for Mercury Records in 1959, and the singer recorded "I Got a Girl," which was written and produced by Mayfield. The single disappeared and Lance spent the next three years working odd jobs.
In 1962, Lance was signed to the revived OKeh Records, based on his connections with Otis Leavill and, especially, Curtis Mayfield, who signed with the Impressions to ABC Records and had hits with his own group. Later that year, Lance recorded his first single, "Delilah," for the label. Though "Delilah" wasn't a hit, Lance's second single, "The Monkey Time," was a monster.
Released in the summer of 1963, "The Monkey Time" reached number two on the R&B charts and number eight pop, establishing not only Lance as a singer but the revitalized OKeh Records as a pop music force. "Hey Little Girl" was a Top 15 pop and R&B hit later that year, followed by the Top Ten "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" early in 1964.
Over the next eighteen months, Lance continued to record more singles, nearly all of which reached the R&B Top 40, but only a handful — "The Matador" (which Mayfield did not write), "Rhythm" and "Come See" — were pop hits. Following personnel changes at OKeh, Lance was sent to work with Billy Sherrill in Nashville, Tennessee, but out of this partnership only "It's the Beat" was a Top 40 hit. Lance worked with a number of producers during 1966 and 1967, with only "Without a Doubt" scraping the R&B charts in 1968, and he left OKeh shortly after that single, moving to Daka Records the following year, where he had the R&B hit "Follow the Leader." Within a year, he moved to Mayfield's Curtom Records label, which resulted in his last two decent hits with "Stay Away From Me (I Love You too Much)" and "Must Be Love Coming Down."
Lance had less success after breaking his relationships with Mayfield and OKeh, releasing records on several record labels into the early 1970s, including Osiris Records, which he set up with Al Jackson. In 1972, he relocated to England, where Northern soul -- a phenomenon of dance clubs playing rare, underappreciated, and just plain obscure American soul and R&B records -- was in full force. For the next two years, Lance was a staple on the Northern soul circuit, eventually returning to Atlanta in 1974. He signed with Playboy and released a disco version of "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" that became a minor hit, which was followed by a pair of minor hits in 1975.
Shortly afterward, his career entered a downward spiral, and in 1978, he hit rock bottom when he was convicted of selling cocaine. Lance spent the next four years in prison. Upon his release, he began playing the beach music circuit on the Carolina coast, but a 1987 heart attack prevented him from launching a full-scale comeback. In 1994, Lance gave a final, triumphant performance at the Chicago Blues Festival, which turned out to be his last. He died of heart failure on September 3, 1994 at the age of 55, leaving behind a recorded legacy that stands among the best Midwestern soul of the '60s.
He was interred at Washington Memory Gardens Cemetery in Homewood, Illinois. (Info edited mainly from All Music)