Blue Magic (band)

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Blue Magic is an American R&B/soul music group and one of the most popular Philadelphia soul groups of the 1970s. Founded in 1972, the group's original members included lead singer Ted Mills with Vernon Sawyer, Wendell Sawyer, Keith Beaton, and Richard Pratt. Their most notable songs included smooth soul ballads such as "Sideshow", "Spell", "What’s Come Over Me", "Three Ring Circus" and "Stop to Start."

Origins[edit]

Blue Magic was formed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1972 when former member of The Delfonics Randy Cain brought in singer-songwriter Ted Mills to do some writing with the Philly-based WMOT production company to create a new band. A short time later the group Shades of Love, featuring Keith Beaton, Richard Pratt, Vernon Sawyer and his brother Wendell, came in to audition. (According to Marc Taylor in his book 'A Touch of Classic Soul of the Early 1970s',[1] "although the group performed admirably, they lacked a standout lead singer".) The execs decided to replace the Toppicks, the act Mills recorded with. They inserted Shades of Love (which they owned contractually) with Ted Mills and retitled the group Blue Magic. They were signed with Atco Records through WMOT in the same year.

Recording, early singles, and their first album[edit]

The group was one of the earliest acts produced by Norman Harris, a Philadelphia recording veteran. The group's harmonies were supported by the MFSB studio house band. Their first early song release in 1974 was "Spell" which went onto the Billboard R&B charts at number 30 (it was written and co-produced by Mills).

Their second release became their first Billboard US Top 10 hit single, "Sideshow". It was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in August 1974.[2] It climbed to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the R&B chart. A follow-up, "Three Ring Circus" also sold well, reaching #36 in the pop chart and #5 R&B. MFSB guitarist Bobby Eli wrote both "Sideshow" and "Three Ring Circus". Their debut self-titled album was released later in the year.

Because their first three singles releases were slower songs, the group became known mostly for their ballads.

Success, their second album and their first world tour[edit]

The album Thirteen Blue Magic Lane in 1975 maintained the group's popularity and spawned their version of the popular dance number "We're On The Right Track", as well as the ballad "Chasing Rainbows". The song "What's Come Over Me" from their debut album was re-worked as a duet with Margie Joseph dubbed in alongside Mills' original lead vocals. The new approach saw the song climb to #11 on the R&B chart again in 1975.In total the group had two R&B chart singles in 1975 and four in 1976.

The group had their first world tour that year which lasted for 42 weeks. The tour included 48 states in the United States, five countries in Europe and a 10-day stay in the Philippines. They concluded their tour with a two-week engagement in the Virgin Islands.

Blue Magic were known also for their choreography. As a visually oriented group, they had several major television appearances, including Soul Train, The Mike Douglas Show, The Jerry Blavat Show, Dancin' On Air, and A.M. Philadelphia.

In April 1975, they were chosen as the best new group of the year which earned two Ebony Awards. The first was presented in New York by Aretha Franklin, the second in Florida by the female recording artist Vanity.

They have shared the stage with other performers such as The Jacksons, Lionel Richie, The Commodores, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Natalie Cole, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Spinners, Earth, Wind & Fire, New Edition, The Stylistics, Mick Jagger and others.

The group also contributed background vocals for Alyson Williams and the Rolling Stones (on the song "If You Really Want To Be My Friend" from the album It's Only Rock 'n' Roll).

Decline of popularity[edit]

By 1977, the group's popularity was faded with the rise of disco music and changing music styles, and despite the group continuing to record consistently they failed to chart. Subsequent label moves to Capitol Records for a reunion with Norman Harris (who had left two years earlier) and then the smaller label Mirage resulted in some smaller R&B charting, but no major success.

The 1980s, disbanding, regrouping in the 1990s[edit]

Background singer Richard Pratt left in the early 1980s. After singers Vernon and Wendell Sawyer left, the remaining two members Mills and Beaton hired two other singers and traveled to Los Angeles, California to record with Skip Scarborough and some members of the popular group Earth Wind & Fire on the album "Message from the Magic."

In 1988, the original group got back together and had some renewed popularity in late 1989 with the album, "From Out of the Blue."

In 1990, The Amsterdam News carried the story of Mills' near-fatal car accident. The other members of the group brought in new lead Rod Wayne (real name Roderick Bronaugh), who remained with the group until 2004. Bronaugh now teaches at Tennessee State University.[1] After Rod Wayne, Wade Elliot and Leemy Walters, other leads. Ted Mills has reunited with Wendall Sawyer and Keith Beaton. Both Vernon Sawyer and Richard Pratt have their own groups.

After surgery in 1996, Mills returned to the music scene as a solo act, recording an album for Casablanca Records that year entitled "This Magic Is Real", featuring the remake of "Tear It Down."

The 2000s and incidental work[edit]

Mills appeared in the touring play, "Girl, He Ain't Worth It" with The Manhattans, Meli'sa Morgan and Tito Jackson, and appeared in the play "Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places". In 2007, Mills recorded the album "3 Tenors of Soul" with Russell Thompkins, Jr. and William Hart, released on Shanachie Records and produced by Bobbi Eli.

Three versions of the band touring[edit]

Officially, the group known as "Blue Magic", featuring members Keith Beaton, Wendell Sawyer, Fernando Kee, and lead vocalist Leemy Waiters tour worldwide. Waiters replaced Wade Eliot, who had replaced Rod Wayne in 2004. The name was formally trademarked by Wendell Sawyer and Keith Beaton some years earlier. Ted Mills has reunited with Wendell Sawyer and Keith Beaton May of 2013.

Vernon Sawyer tours with his own Blue Magic group, with members Freddie Ingleton, Bennie "BJ" Dixon and Reynardo. Richard Pratt has his own group as well.

Original 1974 Members[edit]

  • Ted Wizard Mills - lead tenor
  • Wendell Sawyer – baritone, lead
  • Keith "Duke" Beaton – tenor
  • Richard Pratt - bass
  • Vernon Sawyer- tenor

Discography[edit]

The group’s discography is represented in a number of compilations, although their original albums were generally unavailable on CD for some years, until their first four studio albums for Atco and a live album with Margie Joseph and Major Harris were re-released individually in the U.S. in 2006.

Studio albums[edit]

Year Album Peak chart positions Record label
US
[2]
US
R&B

[2]
1974 Blue Magic 45 4 Atco
The Magic of the Blue 71 14
1975 Thirteen Blue Magic Lane 50 9
1976 Mystic Dragons 170 44
1977 Message from the Magic
1981 Welcome Back Capitol
1983 Magic # 52 Mirage
1989 From Out of the Blue 48 Columbia
1995 My Magic Is Real Hot Prod.
"—" denotes the album failed to chart

Live albums[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Greatest Hits (1986, Omni)
  • The Magic of the Blue: Greatest Hits (1990, Atlantic)
  • The Best of Blue Magic: Soulful Spell (1996, Rhino)

Singles[edit]

Year Single Peak chart positions
US
[3]
US
R&B

[3]
US
A/C

[3]
UK
[4]
1973 "Spell" 30
"Look Me Up" 36
"Stop to Start" 74 14
1974 "Sideshow" 8 1 35
"Three Ring Circus" 36 5 26
1975 "Love Has Found Its Way to Me" 45
"Chasing Rainbows" 17
"What's Come Over Me" (with Margie Joseph) 11
"Magic of the Blue"
1976 "Grateful" 104 15
"Freak-N-Stein" 73
"Teach Me (It's Something About Love)" 48
"Summer Snow" 40
1977 "I Waited"
1981 "Land of Make-Believe" 77
"Seems I Haven't Seen Her
1983 "See Through"
"Magic #" 69
"Since You Been Gone"
1989 "Romeo and Juliet" 20 89
"It's Like Magic" 31
"Secret Lover"
"—" denotes the single failed to chart

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b "US Albums Charts > Blue Magic". Billboard. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  3. ^ a b c "US Singles Charts > Blue Magic". Billboard. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  4. ^ "UK Charts > Blue Magic". Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on 2013-01-19. Retrieved 2011-01-14. 

External links[edit]