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The Sylvers in 1972
|Also known as||The Little Angels (early tenure)|
|Origin||Watts, Los Angeles, California; United States|
|Genres||R&B, soul, disco|
|Labels||Pride, MGM, Capitol, Casablanca, SOLAR, Geffen|
|Past members||Olympia Ann "Olan" Sylvers
Leon Frank Sylvers III
Charmaine Elaine Sylvers
James Jonathan Sylvers
Edmund Theodore Sylvers
Joseph Richard "Ricky" Sylvers
Angelia Marie "Angie" Sylvers
Patricia Lynn "Pat" Sylvers
Foster Emerson Sylvers
Prior to becoming "The Sylvers", the four eldest members (Olympia, Leon, Charmaine, and James) recorded as The Little Angels, appearing on shows such as Make Room for Daddy and You Bet Your Life, and opening for such acts as Johnny Mathis and Ray Charles. During this time, two singles were released: "Santa Claus Parade" b/w "I'll Be a Little Angel" on Warwick Records (United States) and "Says You" b/w "Olympia" on Capitol Records.
The Sylvers consisted of ten siblings:
- Olympia Ann "Olan" Sylvers (born October 13, 1951) — vocals
- Leon Frank Sylvers III (born March 7, 1953) — bass, vocals
- Charmaine Elaine Sylvers (born March 9, 1954) — vocals
- James Jonathan Sylvers (born June 8, 1955) — keyboards, vocals
- Edmund Theodore Sylvers (January 25, 1957 – March 11, 2004) — vocals, percussion
- Joseph Richard "Ricky" Sylvers (born October 13, 1958) — guitar, vocals
- Angelia Marie "Angie" Sylvers (born April 11, 1960) — vocals
- Patricia Lynn "Pat" Sylvers (born March 25, 1961) — additional keyboards, vocals
- Foster Emerson Sylvers (born February 25, 1962) — additional bass, vocals
- Christopher Sylvers (1968 – June 18, 1985) — never performed with The Sylvers
In 1972 Edmund and Ricky joined the act. The sextet changed their name from The Little Angels to The Sylvers and released three albums on the MGM/Pride label, titled simply The Sylvers, The Sylvers 2, and The Sylvers 3. Released between 1972 and 1974, these LPs offered soulful numbers written by Leon and produced by R&B legends Jerry Butler (of The Impressions) and Keg Johnson. Four singles from these self-titled albums charted on the Billboard R&B charts.
"Fool's Paradise" was a thought-provoking song that reached 14 in the autumn of 1972. The single featured Charmaine, Edmund, and Ricky as lead singers, backed by the sumptuous harmonies of Olympia, Leon, and James.[peacock term]
"Wish That I Could Talk to You" was the next single and during early 1973 became the siblings' first top 10 song. The track, featuring Leon, Edmund and Ricky on lead, is considered a classic by old-school R&B fans. "Stay Away From Me" (#33) and "Through the Love in My Heart" (#50) followed; and album tracks such as "I'll Never Be Ashamed" and "Cry of a Dreamer" received significant airplay at R&B radio outlets.
In early 1973, Leon wrote "Misdemeanor" for Foster, which featured Angie and Pat and received major airplay on many R&B radio stations. (Though the song originally featured Edmund on lead, it was passed to Foster due to Edmund's voice change.) This song later regained popularity in the late 1980s and 1990s after it was sampled by rapper/producer Dr. Dre for a song by The D.O.C. entitled "It's Funky Enough".
In 1975, Foster, Angie, and Pat joined their older brothers and sisters and signed an exclusive contract with Capitol Records, the same label they recorded at as The Little Angels. Now nine members strong, the label teamed the family with legendary R&B producer Freddie Perren (The Jackson 5). The marriage paid off immediately, as Perren, with co-writer Keni St. Lewis produced the two-million seller "Boogie Fever" which topped the R&B and Billboard Hot 100 charts, along with the RPM national singles chart.
Those two tracks were included on the first Capitol album with Perren. It was titled Showcase and featured rotating lead singers on songs written by both Perren and St. Lewis, as well as Leon Sylvers. Capitol followed up "Boogie Fever" with the bubble-gum confection "Cotton Candy". The group began playing their own instruments for certain live performances, with Ricky on guitar, James on piano, Edmund on drums, and Leon on bass guitar.
In 1976, following the recording of their next album, Something Special, Charmaine, one of the original Little Angels, left the group. Something Special was the family's biggest selling LP, reaching 13 on the Billboard album charts. Produced by Perren, the LP spawned another smash million-seller, "Hot Line" (#5 on Billboard Hot 100), as well as "High School Dance" (#17 on Billboard Hot 100). These two singles firmly entrenched the siblings in the bubble-gum, teeny-bopper demographic.
In an effort to reach a wider, more mature R&B audience, The Sylvers (now seven in number following Olympia's retirement to have children) opted not to re-team with Freddie Perren in the summer of 1977 and began writing and producing for themselves. Despite positive reviews, the resulting album, New Horizons, was a commercial disappointment, peaking at #43 on the Billboard album charts and spawning two short-lived singles: "Any Way You Want Me" and the title track.
The family went right back into the studio and, with Leon producing, recorded what would become their most critically acclaimed album. Capitol did not like the new sound and rejected the album. The Sylvers shopped the material elsewhere and by mid-1978 had signed with Casablanca Records. At the same time Leon was recruited by record executive Dick Griffey to become the in-house producer for a new label he had started with Soul Train impresario Don Cornelius.
With the family's new album already complete and his brothers and sisters now signed with Casablanca—Leon left the group to write and produce for such Solar Records artists as Shalamar, The Whispers, Lakeside, Carrie Lucas and Dynasty (of which he was a group member).
In the mean time Casablanca released the album Capitol had rejected. Forever Yours included a song on which Leon shared lead with Edmund. James performed Leon's parts in performances, while Foster replaced Leon as the bassist. The album's title track and a cover of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' "Swept For You Baby" got significant airplay in late 1978. However, due to management shake-ups at Casablanca, these two songs were never released as singles (although "Forever Yours" was sent to pop and R&B radio stations).
With Leon under contract at Solar, and the remaining six Sylvers still under contract to Casablanca, the label teamed the group with the Oscar-winning disco composer Giorgio Moroder (Midnight Express, Donna Summer). The result, released in the summer of 1979, was the aptly titled album Disco Fever. The first single, "Mahogany (Do You Know)", was a dance club smash and disco radio favorite, but the two follow-up singles, "Dance Right Now" and "Hoochie Coochie Dancin'", fizzled.
"Have You Heard", a solo effort from Edmund, who had sung lead on many of the family's bigger hits, was released on Casablanca in the summer of 1980. "That Burning Love" (#38) was the sole single to chart from the effort. "Have You Heard the News" and "Time" were also released, but did not chart. Also that year, Charmaine recorded a solo single of sorts, doing the vocal work on Gene Page's disco classic "Love Starts After Dark".
The Sylvers appeared in the 1979 film The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.
1980s and later careers
As the world's appetite for dance music waned in the early '1980s, so did The Sylvers' popularity. In 1981, five members of the group, now without Edmund, recorded a new album Concept for Solar Records, with Leon producing and playing bass but not performing vocally. The first single from that effort, "Come Back Lover, Come Back" (featuring a now grown-up Foster on lead) was a minor hit, reaching #63 in Billboard. "Take It to the Top" failed to chart; but both singles appear on the Solar Records retrospective box set.
In 1984, after a three-year hiatus, the siblings (now six strong, with Charmaine returning) regrouped with new management (Weisner–DeMann) and a new label (Geffen Records). The result was an unsuccessful album entitled Bizarre. The disc was not heavily promoted, but spawned two minor hits: "In One Love and Out the Other" (#42) and "Falling For Your Love" (#76).
The Sylvers' youngest sibling, Christopher, died of hepatitis on June 18, 1985 at age 17. He was never part of the performing family.
Following the disappointing performance of the Geffen LP, the brothers and sisters officially disbanded in 1985. They would continue to do studio work, playing and singing background vocals for artists including Janet Jackson.
Edmund recorded a solo album for Arista in 1985, but it was never released in the United States, although a single from the set, "I Love the Streets", was a minor hit in Japan.
Foster started his own group, Hy-Tech, in 1989, but two CDs went relatively unnoticed, as did a solo MP3 CD in 1998 called "Foster Vs. Foster".
In 2007, Pat shared lead on the Larry O. Williams gospel duet, "Thank You".
In the December 10, 2007 issue of Jet magazine The Sylvers were featured in the "Where Are They Now?" segment.
In early 2008, a few siblings did an interview with Damien Maurice on his show Just Chillin' with KPOO-FM in San Francisco. Both a Jet article and the radio interview hinted at the possibility of new Sylvers music in the near future.
During the summer of 2011, the Sylvers were featured on the TV One hit series, Unsung. Leon, James, Charmaine, Angie and Pat—along with their mother Shirley—all appeared on the show to discuss their career successes and aftermath. It was mentioned that both Foster and Ricky had been incarcerated for parole violations (at the time of taping). However, after the release of Foster, he and his sisters Angie and Pat made an television appearance on The Cindy Davis Show to discuss the politics of the music industry, and more. Leon is in the process of producing new material with a newer generation of the Sylvers family. Olympia, who had hurdled major obstacles in her life is sustaining with her daughter Tyava by her side. Foster, Angie and Pat are working on new music as well.
|Year||Album||Chart positions||Record label||Available on CD|
|1973||The Sylvers II||164||37|
|1974||The Sylvers III||—||—||MGM|
|year unknown||The Sylvers IV(unreleased)||—||—||Pride|
|"—" denotes the album failed to chart|
|Year||Album||Chart positions||Record label|
|1978||Best of the Sylvers||—||—||Capitol|
|1995||Boogie Fever: The Best of the Sylvers||—||—||Razor & Tie|
|2003||The Best of the Sylvers||—||—||EMI-Capitol|
|"—" denotes the album failed to chart|
|1971||"I'm Just a Lonely Soul"||—||—||—||—||—||Singles only|
|1972||"Time to Ride"||—||—||—||—||—|
|"Fool's Paradise"||94||14||—||—||—||The Sylvers|
|"Wish I Could Talk to You"||77||10||—||—||—|
|1973||"Stay Away from Me"||89||33||—||—||—||The Sylvers II|
|1974||"Through the Love in My Heart"||—||50||—||—||—|
|"I Aim to Please"||—||—||—||—||—||The Sylvers III|
|"Hot Line"||5||3||—||1||10||Something Special|
|1977||"High School Dance"||17||6||—||8||18|
|"Any Way You Want Me"||72||12||—||66||—||New Horizons|
|"Don't Stop, Get Off"||—||15||—||—||—||Forever Yours|
|"Dance Right Now"||—||—||—||—||—|
|"Hoochie Coochie Dancin'"||—||—||—||—||—|
|1981||"Come Back Lover, Come Back"||—||—||63||—||—||Concept|
|1982||"Take It to the Top"||—||—||—||—||—|
|1984||"In One Love and Out the Other"||—||42||—||—||—||Bizarre|
|1985||"Falling for Your Love"||—||76||—||—||—|
|"—" denotes the single failed to chart|
- "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- "The Sylvers US albums chart history". allmusic.com. Retrieved 2010-06-18.
- "The Sylvers US singles chart history". allmusic.com. Retrieved 2011-04-02.
- "Results - RPM - Library and Archives Canada - Top Singles". RPM. Retrieved December 11, 2010.
- "The Sylvers chart history". Lescharts.com. Retrieved 2011-04-02.
- The Sylvers at Soulwalking.co.uk
- The Sylvers at Yahoo! Music
- The Sylvers at AllMusic
- Jet Magazine
- Larry O. Williams' MySpace page