Nobles was born in Grove Hill, Alabama; grew up in Mobile, Alabama; and began singing in high school as a member of a local group, The Delroys. He moved to Philadelphia and recorded three singles for Atlantic Records, none of which charted. While living in a commune in Norristown, Pennsylvania, he formed a group, Cliff Nobles & Co., with bassist Benny Williams, guitarist Bobby Tucker, and drummer Tommy Soul. They recorded demos and, with the help of songwriter/record producer Jesse James, landed a recording contract with Phil-L.A. of Soul Records.
Their second release for the record label was the single "Love Is All Right" b/w "The Horse", which featured the horn section from what would later be known as MFSB. "The Horse" was simply an instrumental version of the A-side, and Nobles, who was the lead singer, does not actually play on the track at all. Nevertheless, it caught fire at radio stations and became a hit, peaking at #2 for three weeks on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1968, as well as #2 on the R&B Singles chart. It was held out of the #1 spot by Hugh Masekela's "Grazin' in the Grass", on the week of 13 July 1968 - resulting in the extremely rare occurrence of instrumentals occupying both the #1 and #2 slots of the R&B charts in the same week. "The Horse" sold a million copies within three months of release, with the gold disc award from the R.I.A.A. made in August 1968.
Nobles' record label continued releasing instrumental singles on which Nobles himself did not play a note, though a later single on which Nobles actually sang narrowly missed the R&B Top 40. An album credited to Cliff Nobles & Co., entitled The Horse, was released consisting mostly of instrumentals, and hit #159 on the Billboard Hot 200 album chart. After his music career was over, Nobles worked in construction and later in the electricity generation industry.
The material Nobles recorded for Atlantic has never been reissued.
- Thedeadrockstarsclub.com Accessed April 2, 2010
- Timesherald.com Accessed April 2, 2010[dead link]
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 244–245. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Chart Positions, Allmusic.com
- Biography, Allmusic.com
- Billboard, Allmusic.com