Bobby Nunn (R&B musician)

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This article is about the Motown recording artist. For the singer who was a member of The Coasters, see Bobby Nunn (Doowop musician).
For other people named Robert Nunn, see Robert Nunn (disambiguation).
Bobby Nunn
Genres R&B, Pop, Funk
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Record producer
Instruments Vocals, keyboards
Years active 1970s–1980s–present
Labels Motown, Gordy, Columbia, MCA, Sony, Daptone, A&M, Word, Virgin, Tommy Boy, RCA, So So Def, CCEG, MoDo
Associated acts The Jets, Philip Bailey, Rick James, Boys Club, Bob and Gene, Stetsasonic, Splendor

Bobby Nunn is an American R&B producer, songwriter and vocalist, best known for his Top 15 US Billboard R&B chart hit single, "She's Just A Groupie."

Life and career[edit]

Nunn's big opportunity came through his association with Rick James. Nunn played keyboards and sang background on some of James's early Motown recordings as a solo artist.[1]

Bobby Nunn co-produced his 1982 debut album, Second to Nunn, with Winston Monseque. Nunn also wrote or co-wrote all but one of the tracks.[2] The album was successful, hitting #14 on the R&B charts. The lead single, "She's Just A Groupie", hit #15 on Billboard′s R&B singles chart.[3] The album also spawned a club favorite, "Hangin' Out at the Mall," which featured Tata Vega.

Nunn's 1983 follow-up album, Private Party, despite some favorable reviews, failed to equal the success of his first release.[4] His single release, "Don't Knock It (Until You Try It)", peaked at #65 in the UK Singles Chart in February 1984.[5]

Nunn currently lives in Los Angeles and runs his own production company. His son, Robert Nunn Jr. also lives in Los Angeles and is the CEO of Digital Yearbook Page Inc.

Early Years[edit]

As a teenager, Nunn honed his writing, producing, singing, musician, and engineering skills at MoDo Records. The MoDo studio was located in the basement of the Nunn family home in Buffalo, New York. Bobby with childhood friend Gene Coplin, was half of the MoDo duo known as Bob and Gene. Along with Bob and Gene’s, the many records that came out of Modo have been rediscovered by classic record collectors around the world. In 2001, collector and soul music enthusiast David Griffiths came across a 45 from Bob & Gene, a cover of Marvin Gaye's "If This World Were Mine." Intrigued by what he heard, he contacted MoDo’s founder William Nunn Sr, who then gave Griffiths all of Bob & Gene's old tapes. Believing there was possibility in the collection, Griffiths encouraged the family to allow him to get them released. Daptone Records, a label that specializes in funk and soul, took interest in what Griffiths presented them and 40 years after they were recorded, released the full-length If This World Were Mine... in 2007, shortly after the elder Nunn's death. Bob and Gene’s songs have since been featured in movies like, Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too, Our Family Wedding, and Diverso da Chi?.

The 70’s[edit]

In 1977, a mutual friend introduced Bobby to Rick James who had returned to Buffalo from Toronto Canada and was beginning work on a bunch of new songs he’d recently written. At the time, Bobby was writing and producing songs in a recording studio located in a converted barn outside of Buffalo in the rural town of Clarence, NY. Bobby was familiar with Rick from his song “Get up and Dance” that was playing on Buffalo Radio stations. Nunn said, “When I met Rick my first thought was, ‘this guy ain’t from around here.’ You could tell he had traveled out of Buffalo a lot. He had a certain sophistication and confidence about him that demanded attention. All in all, he was a really nice guy”. James was set to record in a studio in downtown Buffalo when Bobby suggested he check out the spot where he was recording. A few days later he drove Rick out there to see it. He loved the vibe and seclusion of the studio and decided to record there instead of downtown using Bobby’s band and some other musicians he’d handpicked, to back him up. They rehearsed for two weeks before they started recording in the Clarence studio. “Rick was a master at getting the best from the musicians and singers he worked with. He could be extremely tough and demanding when necessary or encouraging and humble. Whatever it took to get there. I learned a lot working with him” said Nunn.

The 80’s[edit]

After working with Rick James in the late 70’s on songs that would become most of James’s first two Motown albums, Nunn moved to Los Angeles to work with Earth, Wind and Fire’s Philip Bailey on the Splendor album. It featured him, his brother Billy Nunn, who co-wrote “Mary Jane” with Rick and band mates Splendor for Columbia records. The members also played and sang background vocals on the Rick James project. It all started a year earlier when Billy recognized and introduced himself to Bailey in a music store in Los Angeles. Billy was on his way back from playing in Japan and gave him a tape of Bobby’s demos. A few days later, Philip actually called Bobby and expressed interest in what he'd heard. He even went to Nunn's house after an EWF concert in Buffalo to hear the band in person. Bobby says, “Can you imagine?, I picked Philip up in back of the old Memorial Auditorium in my old Mustang, drove him to my place and we played for him. It was probably 2 o’clock in the morning. How cool was that? He was totally down to earth. He’s still a good friend after all these years”. Although the Splendor album was not commercially successful, it also has a devoted cult following. It was recently re-released in Japan.

In 1981, Bobby was recording demos for his band on which he played and sang virtually everything on them. Motown’s Iris Gordy, who had earlier brought Rick James to the label, and her then husband Winston Monseque, who later became Nunn’s manager, convinced him to go solo keeping the same basic sound of the demos. They soon signed him to Motown Records. Bobby recorded three albums for Motown. Second to Nunn followed by Private Party. The third one Fresh was never released. It’s currently “in the can”.

After leaving Motown, Nunn spent time working as a writer/producer for many artists and labels. Among them were “Long Distant Love” and “Welcome to the Club”, produced by Nile Rodgers for Philip Bailey’s Inside Out album. He also wrote the hit single “Thank You” for Bailey’s Grammy winning Triumph album.

In 1986 while recording in a Hollywood studio, Nunn was chatting with Bobby Brown, who was just going solo, about career moves. That night, Brown introduced him to Louil Silas jr of MCA Records. Nunn was looking for a new record deal for himself at the time. They all went to an empty studio and he played them some new songs he had just written. One song titled “Rocket 2U” had Bobby’s signature sound and blew everyone away. Later, he got a call from his old friend Phil Bailey who had just played “Rocket 2U” for Maurice White. Maurice wanted the song for Earth, Wind and Fire’s Touch the World album. They met at Maurice’s house and ironed out the details. Not long after, MCA Records called and wanted “Rocket 2u” for their hot young group The Jets. MCA also sweetened the deal offering Nunn full production of the song and a possible solo deal for himself. After many talks with Philip and Maurice and with Philip’s blessing, Bobby chose The Jets to do “Rocket 2U”. The single from the Jets platinum selling album Magic, became a top 5 Pop and R&B hit. The group also received a Grammy nomination for the song in 1988. Bobby later said,” I knew I had something very special with that song. After I wrote it, to this day, I only made 5 copies of the demo. I think I still have two of them. As a freelance writer, that never happens”.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bueche, Rick A. "Bobby Nunn - Biography". United States: All Music Guide. Retrieved 2011-01-06. 
  2. ^ Second To Nunn (Media notes). Bobby Nunn. Motown Records. 1982. 
  3. ^ "Bobby Nunn - Charts & Awards". United States: All Music Guide. Retrieved 2011-01-06. 
  4. ^ Bueche, Rick A. "Private Party - Bobby Nunn". United States: All Music Guide. Retrieved 2011-01-06. "A heavy emphasis on computerized instrumentals makes an interesting set." 
  5. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 399. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.