Major Lance

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Major Lance
Major Lance 1965.jpg
Lance in 1965
Background information
Birth name Major Lance
Born (1939-04-04)April 4, 1939
Winterville, Mississippi, U.S.[1]
Died September 3, 1994(1994-09-03) (aged 55)
Decatur, Georgia, U.S.[2]
Genres Soul, pop, R&B
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1959–1994
Labels Mercury
Okeh
Dakar
Curtom
Volt
Playboy
Osiris
Columbia
Soul

Major Lance (April 4, 1939,[1] 1941[3][4] or 1942,[5][6] – September 3, 1994[2]) was an American R&B singer. After a number of US hits in the 1960s, including "The Monkey Time" and "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um", he became an iconic figure in Britain in the 1970s among followers of Northern soul. Although he stopped making records in 1982, Major Lance continued to perform at concerts and on tours until his death in 1994.

Early life[edit]

There has been some dispute over Major Lance's birth year; some sources say he was born 1941[3][4][7] or 1942 (as Lance claimed).[5][6] However, 1939 appears to be his correct year of birth. In the 1940 U.S. Census, there is a "Mager" Lance listed in Washington County, Mississippi as the one year old son of a widow, Lucendy Lance.[8] Lance's gravestone also states he was born in 1939.[9] 'Major' was his given forename, not a nickname or stage name.[10]

Lance, who was one of 12 children,[11] moved with his family on the northwest side of Chicago in the Cabrini-Green projects,[12] a high-crime area,[13] as a child where he developed a boyhood friendship with Otis Leavill, both attending Wells High School.[14] This was the same school Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler attended.[15] Mayfield called him a "sparkly fellow, and a great basketball player, which is probably how we met. His hero was Jackie Wilson, and he was always coming round and looking through my bag for songs that I'd written but didn't want to do with the Impressions. He was pretty good at picking them, too."[16]

Lance was also a baseball player.[11] Lance and Otis both did boxing, and also singing as members of the Five Gospel Harmonaires.[17][18][19] Both of them also worked together at a drug store.[13]

Career[edit]

Beginnings[edit]

Lance and Otis Leavill formed a group named the Floats in the mid-1950s but broke up before recording any material. Lance became a featured dancer on a local TV show named "Time for Teens",[20] and presenter Jim Lounsbury gave him a one-off record deal with Mercury Records. Mercury released his single "I Got a Girl", written and produced by Curtis Mayfield, in 1959; it was not successful. Lance worked at various jobs over the next few years.[17]

Okeh Records[edit]

In 1962 he signed with Okeh Records on Mayfield's recommendation.[17] Major was constantly showing up at the Okeh offices, offering to run errands for Carl Davis, telling him about the record he'd once made and how he and Curtis Mayfield were friends from their childhood.[13] His first single, "Delilah", was not successful,[13] but established his partnership with a writing and arranging team of Mayfield, Carl Davis, and Johnny Pate, often with members of Mayfield's group the Impressions on backing vocals. Together they developed a distinctive, Latin-tinged sound which epitomised Chicago soul in contrast to music recorded elsewhere.[10][17] Many of these hit records contained the same session musicians brought together by Lance's producer, Carl Davis. this usually included bass player Bernard Reed and future Earth Wind & Fire members Louis Satterfield and Maurice White on bass and drums. guitar players included Curtis Mayfield, Phil Upchurch, Gerald Sims, Billy Butler and Kermit Chandler, and Al Duncan on drums. piano players included Floyd Morris, Ken Boyd and John Young. the brass section Davis always used consisted of Maurey Watson and Paul Serrano on trumpet, Morris Ellis and John Avant on trombone, and Davis's brother, Cliff, on sax. the horn section at Okeh records contained a lot of lows. the different types of horn combinations included two trombones and baritone sax, a bass trombone and a regular trombone, or taking a bass trombone and a baritone sax and sustaining the note, like in "The Monkey Time".

Monkey Time was Major Lance's first successful hit song, and became Okeh's first hit single for 10 years.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

The second Okeh single, "The Monkey Time" (also written by Curtis Mayfield), was Major Lance's first hit,[21] became a #2 Billboard R&B chart and #8 pop hit in 1963. "The Monkey Time" became Okeh's first hit single for 10 years.[22] "That was my introduction with working with Carl Davis," Pate said. "We had a ball, making some very great music."[23]

A succession of hits followed quickly, including "Hey Little Girl", "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" (his biggest hit, reaching #5 in the US pop chart and #40 in the UK, where it was his only chart success), "The Matador" (the only one not written by Mayfield), "Rhythm", "Sometimes I Wonder", "Come See", and "Ain't It A Shame".[24][25]

In 1965, Pate left Okeh and Mayfield began to concentrate on working with his own group. Lance and Davis continued to work together, and "Too Hot To Hold" was a minor hit, but they had diminishing success before Davis in turn left the company.[17]

Touring in the United Kingdom[edit]

During the 1960s, Lance toured the UK, where he was supported by Bluesology, a band including pianist Reggie Dwight, later known as Elton John.[10][26]

Over the next two years he worked with several producers, with only "Without a Doubt" becoming a minor hit in 1968. Soon afterwards Lance left Okeh and moved to Dakar Records, where he had the Top 40 R&B hit "Follow the Leader." He then moved to Mayfield's Curtom label, which resulted in his last two Top 40 R&B hits, "Stay Away From Me (I Love You too Much)" and "Must Be Love Coming Down."[17] One of Lance's song recorded at Curtom called "Stay Away From Me" was listed #4 in Jet Magazine's "Soul Brothers Top 20".[27] He left Curtom in 1971, and recorded briefly for the Volt and Columbia labels.

In 1972, he relocated to England, so as to capitalize on the success of his older records among fans of Northern Soul music, in dance clubs which played mostly rare and obscure American soul and R&B records. According to one writer, "the Major's contribution was truly phenomenal and unforgettable...[He] was to become legendary as a UK club act, known to deliver 110% at every performance."[10] In 1972 while in England he recorded an album, Major Lance's Greatest Hits Recorded Live At The Torch, recorded at The Torch, a club in Stoke on Trent,[28] which has been described as "perhaps the best Northern Soul album ever made".[10]

Later career[edit]

Lance returned to Atlanta in 1974, and recorded an updated disco version of "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" for Playboy Records.[29] He set up a new label, Osiris, with former Booker T and the MG's drummer Al Jackson, but again with little success,[10] and his career hit a downward spiral. But he later found that his recordings had become popular on the beach music circuit in the Carolinas, where he continued to undertake live performances. He recorded a comeback album, The Major's Back, and several tracks for the Kat Family label.[10]

Lance's final performance was in June 1994 at the 11th Chicago Blues Festival.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Major Lance was married to Christine Boular Lance, and had nine children.[30] He was 6 foot 6 inches tall.[31]

Lance was arrested twice in his life. In 1965, he was arrested in violation of the Paternity Act. A Chicago woman, Para Lee Thomas, claimed she had a son by Lance, Ronnie Maurice Lance, born (1964-01-13) January 13, 1964 (age 50). She asserted that Lance had promised to pay her doctor and hospital bills of around $375, but had defaulted on these payments. Judge Benjamin J. Kanter issued a warrant for Lance's arrest, setting Lance's bond at $1,000.[32] After recording briefly for the Motown subsidiary label Soul, he was convicted of cocaine possession in 1978 and served a four-year prison term.[17][33]

In 1987, Lance was diagnosed with a heart attack, and became nearly blind from glaucoma.[34] As a result, he made no more recordings.[17][19] In September 1994, he died in his sleep[34] at the age of 55 of heart disease in Decatur, Georgia. He was survived by his family.[2] He is buried at Washington Memory Gardens Cemetery in Homewood, Illinois.

Other media[edit]

Cover art for the short CD collection titled The Very Best of Major Lance

On February 28, 1995, shortly after Lance's death, Sony released a CD collection called Everybody Loves a Good Time: Best of Major Lance. It features 40 recordings for Okeh from 1962-1967 on 2 discs. Allmusic reviewer Richie Unterberger gave the CD 4 and a half stars, calling it a "Delightful 40-song, double-CD compilation of Lance's best work for Okeh between 1962 and 1967, including all of the chart singles, quite a few misses and B-sides, five previously unreleased cuts, and some Curtis Mayfield songs from his debut LP."[35] Sony later released a shorter version of the CD collection titled The Very Best of Major Lance.

Discography[edit]

Singles[edit]

Year Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Label &
Cat. No.
U.S. R&B[36] U.S. Pop[36] UK[25] Album
1959 "I've Got A Girl"
b/w "Phyllis"
Mercury 71582
-
-
-
Non-album tracks
1962 "Delilah"
b/w "Everytime" (Non-album track)
Okeh 7168
-
-
-
The Monkey Time
1963 "The Monkey Time"
b/w "Mama Didn't Know"
Okeh 7175
2
8
-
"Hey Little Girl"
b/w "Crying In The Rain" (Non-album track)
Okeh 7181
12
13
-
Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um -
The Best Of Major Lance
1964 "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um"
b/w "Sweet Music" (from Major's Greatest Hits)
Okeh 7187
1*
5
40
"The Matador"
b/w "Gonna Get Married" (Non-album track)
Okeh 7191
4*
20
-
Major's Greatest Hits
"Girls" / Okeh 7197
25*
68
-
"It Ain't No Use"
33*
68
-
"Think Nothing About It"
b/w "It's Alright"
Okeh 7200
-
-
-
Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um -
The Best Of Major Lance
"Rhythm"
b/w "Please Don't Say No More" (Non-album track)
Okeh 7203
3*
24
-
Major's Greatest Hits
1965 "Sometimes I Wonder"
b/w "I'm So Lost" (Non-album track)
Okeh 7209
13
64
-
"Come See"
b/w "You Belong To Me My Love" (Non-album track)
Okeh 7216
20
40
-
"Ain't It A Shame"
b/w "Gotta Get Away"
Okeh 7223
20
91
-
"Too Hot To Hold"
b/w "Dark and Lonely"
Okeh 7226
32
93
-
Non-album tracks
"Everybody Loves A Good Time"
b/w "I Just Can't Help It"
Okeh 7233
-
109
-
1966 "Investigate"
b/w "Little Young Lover"
Okeh 7250
-
132
-
"It's The Beat"
b/w "You'll Want Me Back" (from Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um -
The Best Of Major Lance
)
Okeh 7255
37
128
-
1967 "Ain't No Soul (In These Old Shoes)"
b/w "I"
Okeh 7266
-
-
-
"You Don't Want Me No More"
b/w "Wait Till I Get You In My Arms"
Okeh 7284
-
-
-
1968 "Without A Doubt"
b/w "Forever"
Okeh 7298
49
-
-
"Do The Tighten Up"
b/w "I Have No One"
Dakar 1450
-
-
-
1969 "Follow The Leader"
b/w "Since You've Been Gone"
Dakar 608
28
125
-
"Sweeter As The Days Go By"
b/w "Shadows Of A Memory"
Dakar 612
-
-
-
1970 "Stay Away From Me (I Love You Too Much)"
b/w "Gypsy Woman"
Curtom 1953
13
67
-
"Must Be Love Coming Down"
b/w "Little Young Lover"
Curtom 1956
31
119
-
1971 "Girl Come On Home"
b/w "Since I Lost My Baby's Love"
Volt 4069
-
-
-
"I Wanna Make Up (Before We Break Up)"
b/w "That's The Story Of My Life"
Volt 4079
-
-
-
1972 "Ain't No Sweat"
b/w "Since I Lost My Baby's Love"
Volt 4085
-
-
-
1974 "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" (New version)
b/w "Last Of The Red Hot Lovers"
Playboy 6017
59
-
-
1975 "Sweeter As the Days Go By" (New version)
b/w "Wild and Free"
Playboy 6020
58
-
-
"You're Everything I Need"
b/w "You're Everything I Need" (Instrumental)
Osiris 001
50
-
-
"I've Got A Right To Cry"
b/w "You Keep Me Coming To You"
Osiris 002
-
-
-
1977 "Come On, Have Yourself A Good Time"
b/w "Come What May"
Columbia 10488
-
-
-
1978 "I Never Thought I'd Be Losing You"
b/w "Chicago Disco"
Soul 35123
-
-
-
Now Arriving
1982 "I Wanna Go Home"
b/w "I Wanna Go Home" (Instrumental)
Kat Family 3024
-
-
-
The Major's Back
"Are You Leaving Me"
b/w "I Wanna Go Home"
Kat Family 4182
-
-
-

* Billboard magazine did not publish an R&B chart during 1964; these chart positions are from Cashbox magazine.

Selected albums[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Major Lance profile. Oldies.com.
  2. ^ a b c d "Major Lance, 55, Soul Singer in 60's". The New York Times. 1994-09-05. Retrieved 30 December 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "Major Lance". tsimon.com. 2005. Retrieved April 5, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Soul music A-Z 1995 p. 185
  5. ^ a b The golden age of American rock 'n roll: Volume 3; 2002 p. 556
  6. ^ a b Rhythm and Blues, Rap, and Hip-hop p. 161
  7. ^ On This Day in Music History p. 96
  8. ^ "Sixteenth Census of the United States (1940) [database on-line] , Beat 3, Washington County, Mississippi, Enumeration District: 76-25, Sheet: 10B, Line: 67, household of Lucendy Lance". United States: The Generations Network. 1940-05-07. Retrieved 2013-08-05. 
  9. ^ "Major Lance's Gravestone". Find a Grave. Retrieved April 5, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Biography at The Northern Soul Nightshift
  11. ^ a b Billboard August 10, 1963 p. 16
  12. ^ Knocking on Heaven's Door: Rock Obituaries. 2006. p. 390
  13. ^ a b c d Jack Kirby, Michael. "Major Lance". Way Back Attack. Retrieved April 6, 2012. 
  14. ^ Pruter, Robert (1992). University of Illinois Press. p. 272.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  15. ^ Contemporary Black biography: Volume 43 p. 136
  16. ^ Williams, Richard (September 13, 1994). "Obituary: Major Lance". The Independent. Retrieved April 5, 2012. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h "Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 26 February 2009. 
  18. ^ Biography of Otis Leavill Cobb by Andrew Hamilton at AllMusic. Accessed April 15, 2012
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Major Lance. Soulwalking.co.uk
  20. ^ Doowop: the Chicago scene p. 197
  21. ^ "Jet Magazine" 24 (20). September 1963. p. 65. 
  22. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony (1992). The Rolling stone illustrated history of rock & roll: the definitive history of the most important artists and their music. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 173. "The Monkey Time" not only became Okeh's hit in 10 years 
  23. ^ The Man Behind the Music: The Legendary Carl Davis p. 185
  24. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 397. ISBN 0-89820-155-1. 
  25. ^ a b Rice, Tim (1985). Guinness British Hit Singles (5th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 126. ISBN 0-85112-429-1. 
  26. ^ Buckley, David. (2007) Elton: The Biography. p. 47.
  27. ^ "Jet Magazine" 38 (26). October 1970. p. 65. 
  28. ^ "Major Lance's Greatest Hits Recorded Live At The Torch". www.discogs.com. Retrieved January 16, 2012. 
  29. ^ Billboard September 7, 1974 p. 18
  30. ^ "Major Lance, `Monkey Time' Singer". Seattle Times. September 4, 1994. 
  31. ^ Rock N Roll Gold Rush: A Singles Un-Cyclopedia p. 250
  32. ^ "Jet Magazine" 28 (23). September 1965. p. 59. 
  33. ^ The Guinness encyclopedia of popular music: Volume 3 p. 2070
  34. ^ a b "Major Lance". Soulful Kinda Music. Retrieved April 6, 2012. 
  35. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Everyone Loves a Good Time: The Best of Major Lance". Allmusic. Retrieved December 9, 2011. 
  36. ^ a b "Major Lance - Charts and Awards". Allmusic. 

37^http://books.google.com/books?id=2kkcmS0AzMEC&pg=PA76&lpg=PA76&dq=Major+Lance+floyd+morris&source=bl&ots=5jzKwLFXEg&sig=5zO9A52fGmdcbfeH00Mzp_WvuQ8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=HcYMVK2yKMmayAT5hoHQDA&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Major%20Lance%20floyd%20morris&f=false

External links[edit]