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Leone's Legends: The three best R&B singers you've probably never heard of

Boy do I like to talk about classic rhythm and blues singers, it's passion of mine, and hopefully after you peruse my meanderings it will become a passion of yours. Now we all have heard of the greats like Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, but what about Anthony Gourdine or Joe Tex? You may never have heard their names but I bet you've heard them sing. So let's get down for the crown and talk "classic R&B singers".

Anthony Gourdine is the lead singer for Little Anthony and the Imperials. When you talk about crossing over from an African American audience to a pop white audience in the early to mid-60s, you must mention "Little Anthony." Anthony started out as the lead singer in the less then well known group called the Chesters, but it was when they changed their name to the Imperials that they became household names.

In 1958 they cut their first record which immediately caught on to be a top ten Billboard Pop Chart hit called "Tears on My Pillow."
The record was so popular that DJ Alan Freed started playing the b-side called "Just Two Kinds of People in the World." And after that record charted they released the novelty song "Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko Ko Bop" which became a hit as well. Spurred on by the success of the group, Gourdine decided to go out on his own and start a solo career. But he returned after a less then stellar solo career in 1963, reunited with producer/songwriter Teddy Randazzo, the hits came fast again. The first was "I'm on the Outside Looking In" and then the much covered "Going Out of My Head." Soon thereafter they recorded my personal favorite "Hurts So Bad" all classics. Growing up in Brooklyn I've known my fair share of "Little Anthony's" but this one takes the cake.

Joe Tex is a singer, a songwriter and a storyteller. During my years of playing in the South the name Joe Tex was a very popular name when folks would call out requests. It didn't take me long to notice that many ladies loved Joe's tunes. His lyrics were very simple and narrative. Joe possessed a sweet sound, and a kindness in his voice that was very endearing to his fans. You must take a listen to some of best tunes like "A Sweet Little Woman Like You," "Show Me," "Skinny Legs" and the sweet ballad "You Better Hold On To What You've Got."

And the good news is that there are some great Joe Tex live performances on YouTube, check'em out.

Then there's Phillipe Wynne the lead singer of the Spinners. When you talk about smooth singers with a signature unique sound you're speaking about cats like Phillipe Wynne. Phillipe started out again like many blues and R&B cats - as a gospel singer. Singing in church gave him the chance to learn how to move a crowd and to also improvise and get inside the music.

Phillipe got his first big break in 1968 singing with funk bass goliath Bootsy Collins' band, and soon thereafter did some backup with the great man himself James Brown. But it was his too short stint as the lead singer of the 70's giant group called the Spinners that gave Phillipe Wynne his biggest success. Wynne sang lead on Number One hits like "One of a Kind Love Affair," "Rubberband Man" and "How Could I Let You Get Away."

My personal favorite is his gospel influenced riffing on the awesome tune "Mighty Love," especially at the end tag of the song. Tremendous! After a less than successful solo career Phillipe sang with Parliment Funkadelic (aka P-Funk), before going back to the church. Phillipe Wynne passed away in 1984 at the young age of 43.

If you end up liking some of my suggestions, here's a few more names you can check out for yourself: Brook Benton, David Ruffin, Earl "Speedo" Carroll, and Levi Stubbs. That should keep your soul warm this fall and winter here on "Bourban Street North."

Peace, Love and Soul.

Joey

Tagged: Leone's Legends, Rhythm & Blues