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Archie Bell & the Drells

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Archie Bell & the Drells
The group in 1968
The group in 1968
Background information
OriginHouston, Texas, U.S.
GenresFunk, R&B, soul, Southern soul
Years active1966–1980
Philadelphia International
MembersArchie Bell
Lee Bell
Joe Cross
Willie Parnell
James Wise
Lucious Larkins
Billy Butler

Archie Bell & the Drells was an American R&B vocal group from Houston and one of the main acts produced by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff in the late 1960s before the duo formed their highly successful label Philadelphia International Records in 1971. The group's hits include "Tighten Up", "I Can't Stop Dancing" (both 1968), "There's Gonna Be a Showdown", "Girl You're Too Young" (1969), "Here I Go Again" (also a UK hit in 1972[2]), "The Soul City Walk" (1975), "Let's Groove", "Everybody Have a Good Time" (1977), and "Don't Let Love Get You Down" (1976).[3]


Early days[edit]

Archie Bell (born September 1, 1944), who founded the group, was born in Henderson, Texas; his family moved to Houston before he was a year old.[4] He is the second oldest of seven brothers. His brother Ricky Bell (d. 1984) was a running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the San Diego Chargers in the NFL. Eugene Bell is the youngest. Archie formed the group in 1966 with his friends James Wise, Willie Parnell and Billy Butler.

They signed with the Houston-based record label Ovide in 1967 and recorded a number of songs including "She's My Woman" and "Tighten Up", which was recorded in October 1967 at the first of several sessions in which the Drells were backed by the instrumental group the T.S.U. Toronadoes.[5][6][7] The origins of "Tighten Up" came from a conversation Archie Bell had with Butler. Bell was despondent after receiving his draft notice, and Butler, in an attempt to cheer him up, demonstrated the "Tighten Up" dance to Bell.[4]

Bell's promoter, Skipper Lee Frazier, unsuccessfully began pushing the flip side of "Tighten Up", a song called "Dog Eat Dog". But at the recommendation of a friend he gave the other side a try. "Tighten Up", written by Archie Bell and Billy Butler.[8] Bell prodded listeners to dance to the funky musical jam developed by the T.S.U. Toronadoes;[9] It became a hit in Houston before it was picked up by Atlantic Records for distribution in April 1968. By the summer it topped both the Billboard R&B and pop charts. It also received a R.I.A.A. gold disc by selling 1 million copies.[8] According to the Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson, Bell heard a comment after the Kennedy assassination in Dallas that "nothing good ever came out of Texas." Bell wanted his listeners to know "we were from Texas and we were good."[10]

Many believe Bell was wounded in action in Vietnam while the band was still at the height of its fame, but he actually injured his leg in a truck accident while stationed in Germany.[4] The success of the single prompted the band to rush out an album, despite their incapacitated leader. In 1969 the group recorded their first full album with Gamble and Huff, I Can't Stop Dancing, which reached number 28 on the R&B album chart. By that time another of Archie's brothers, Lee Bell (born January 14, 1946 in Houston), had replaced Butler and became the band's choreographer.

Reid Farrell, who was from Houston was a guitarist who traveled and played with the group.[11]

Later career[edit]

The band backing Archie Bell & the Drells from 1975 to 1979 was called "The Melting Pot Band",[12] which featured musicians from several states. McNasty McKnight was the band leader playing trombone. Graduates of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) in Houston traveled with the group, including Don Pope and Tony Salvaggio on saxophone. Other musicians included Lonnie LaLanne and Calvin Owens (trumpet); Abel Salazar (keyboards), and Mike Hughes (drums). LaLanne and Owens were alumni of B.B. King's band.

In 1975, the band released their "total-disco comeback album," Dance Your Troubles Away.[13] The single "The Soul City Walk" made number 13 in the UK Singles Chart,[2] but reached only number 42 on the US R&B chart.[14] However, the album’s next single, “Let’s Groove”, reached number 7 on the R&B chart and became their biggest hit since 1969.

After moderate chart showings in the late 1970s, the group split in 1980. Archie Bell later released one solo album titled I Never Had It So Good in 1981 on Becket Records;[15] he continued to perform with the Drells for the next twenty years. During the 1990s the lineup also included Steve "Stevie G." Guettler (guitar, vocals), Jeff "JT" Strickler (bass guitar, vocals), Steve Farrell (guitar, vocals), Mike Wilson (keyboards, vocals) and Wes Armstrong (drums, vocals) of the Atlanta-based group The Rockerz. On April 16, 2013, the mayor of Houston Annise Parker honored Archie Bell, Lucious Larkins, and James Wise with a proclamation of Archie Bell and the Drells Day.[16]



Year Album details Peak chart positions
US 200

1968 Tighten Up 142 1
1969 I Can't Stop Dancing 28
There's Gonna Be a Showdown 163
1975 Dance Your Troubles Away 95 11
1977 Where Will You Go When the Party's Over 47
Hard Not to Like It
1979 Strategy 37
1981 I Never Had It So Good
1990 Greatest Hits
  • Label: CBS Special Products
  • Best from the Philadelphia International era.
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US HOT 100
US Dance
1968 "Tighten Up" 1 1 55
Tighten Up
"I Can't Stop Dancing"
(with Leon Huff and the Bobby Martin Orchestra)
9 5 I Can't Stop Dancing
"Do the Choo Choo"
(with Leon Huff and the Bobby Martin Orchestra)
44 17
"Love Will Rain on You" 25
"There's Gonna Be a Showdown"
(with Thom Bell, Leon Huff and Bobby Martin's Orchestra)
21 6 36
There's Gonna Be a Showdown
1969 "I Love My Baby"
(with Thom Bell, Leon Huff and Bobby Martin's Orchestra)
94 40
"Just a Little Closer" 128
"Girl You're Too Young"
(with Leon Huff and Thom Bell's Orchestra)
59 13
"My Balloon's Going Up" 87 36
"A World Without Music"
(with the Roland Chambers' Orchestra)
90 46 Single only
"Here I Go Again"
(with Leon Huff and Thom Bell's Orchestra)
112 11
There's Gonna Be a Showdown
1970 "Don't Let the Music Slip Away"
(with the Roland Chambers' Orchestra)
100 Single only
"Wrap It Up"
(with the Wade Marcus Orchestra)
93 33
1973 "Dancing to Your Music" 61 11
"Ain't Nothing for a Man in Love" 36
"You Never Know What's on a Woman's Mind" FLIP
1975 "I Could Dance All Night" 25 60
Dance Your Troubles Away
"The Soul City Walk"[20] 42 13
1976 "Let's Groove (Part 1)" 7 3
"Don't Let Love Get You Down" 49
Where Will You Go When the Party's Over
1977 "Everybody Have a Good Time" 68 43
"Glad You Could Make It" 63 Hard Not to Like It
1978 "I've Been Missing You" 56
1979 "Strategy" 21 Strategy
1981 "Any Time Is Right"[E] 49 53 I Never Had It So Good
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Chart position is from the official UK "Breakers List".
  2. ^ "There's Gonna Be a Showdown" became a UK hit upon being re-released in January 1973.[19]
  3. ^ "Here I Go Again" became a UK hit upon being re-released in October 1972.[19]
  4. ^ "Don't Let Love Get You Down" became a UK hit upon being re-released in June 1986.[19]
  5. ^ Only charting solo single for Archie Bell.
  6. ^ "Dance Your Troubles Away", while never released as a single, reached number 11 on the US Dance Chart in 1975.[14]


  1. ^ Ed Hogan. "Archie Bell & the Drells | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 52. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  3. ^ Rice, Tim; Rice, Jonathan; Gambaccini, Paul (1990). Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums. Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness World Records and Guinness Publishing. ISBN 0-85112-398-8.
  4. ^ a b c Dansby, Andrew (August 26, 2007). "Archie Bell lets loose on his long, storied career". Chron. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  5. ^ "Atlantic Records Discography: 1967". Jazz Discography Project. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  6. ^ "Atlantic Records Discography: 1968". Jazz Discography Project. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  7. ^ Boone, Mike. "HISTORICAL ANALYSIS - Archie Bell & the Drells". Soul-Patrol Newsletter. Archived from the original on July 2, 2006. Retrieved April 30, 2006.
  8. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 236. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  9. ^ Gray, Chris; Koshkin, Brett (December 12, 2007). "The TSU Toronadoes: The twisted history of "Tighten Up"". Houston Press. Archived from the original on December 14, 2007. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  10. ^ Bronson, Fred (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (illustrated, revised ed.). Billboard Books. ISBN 9780823076772.
  11. ^ "Essential 8: Hunter Perrin". The Daily Country. November 23, 2018. Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  12. ^ Alexander, Otis (July 6, 2021). "Archie Bell & the Drells (1968-1980)". Retrieved February 19, 2022.
  13. ^ Aletti, Vince (April 1976). "I Won't Dance, Don't Ask Me". The Village Voice. Retrieved November 20, 2018 – via The Quietus.
  14. ^ a b c d e "Archie Bell & the Drells Top Songs / Chart Singles Discography". Music VF. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  15. ^ Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Soul Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 17. ISBN 0-85112-733-9.
  16. ^ "City Council Chamber, City Hall, Tuesday, April 16, 2013" (PDF). Houstontx.gov. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  17. ^ "Archie Bell & the Drells". Billboard Database. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  18. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1999). Joel Whitburn's Top R&B Albums, 1965-1998 (illustrated ed.). Record Research. ISBN 9780898201345.
  19. ^ a b c d "ARCHIE BELL & THE DRELLS - full Official Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  20. ^ The Soul City Walk on YouTube

Other sources[edit]

  • Whitburn, Joel (2011). Record Research Online Database. "Archie Bell" Billboard Chart Discography. Retrieved March 25, 2011.

External links[edit]