First Choice (group)

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First Choice
Sal soul reunion.jpg
Background information
OriginPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
GenresSoul, R&B, disco
Years active1971–1984
2014–present
LabelsPhilly Groove, Gold Mind, Warner Bros. Records, Salsoul
MembersRochelle Fleming
Annette Guest
Wardell Piper
Joyce Jones
Ursula Herring
Debbie Martin

First Choice is an American girl group and vocal music trio from Philadelphia.[1] The group produced the Soul/disco hits "Armed and Extremely Dangerous", "Smarty Pants", "The Player", "Love Thang", "Let No Man Put Asunder" and "Doctor Love". They were signed to soul label Philly Groove Records and to disco label Gold Mind in addition to Warner Bros. Records and Salsoul.

Career[edit]

The First Choice began singing in high school as the Debonettes.[1][2] The group consisted of lead singer Rochelle Fleming, Annette Guest, Wardell Piper and Malanie McSears. They performed in clubs after school in and around Philadelphia. They were introduced to record man Norman Harris by radio DJ Georgie Woods.[2] Harris produced their first single "This Is the House Where Love Died".[2] The single failed to chart nationally but was played in Philadelphia and dance club across the U.S.[1] Their next release was "Armed and Extremely Dangerous".[2] The single quickly became an R&B top 11 hit in early 1973 and making the UK top 20.[2] Wardell Piper quit the group to go solo before their first album was released, and is not pictured on the sleeve although she did sing on the album. She was replaced by singer Joyce Jones.[2] Their new hit enabled the group to get national exposure on TV shows such as Dinah, Soul Train and American Bandstand. Other R&B hits followed. "Smarty Pants" went to number 25 R&B and became the group's biggest UK single reaching number 9 in the UK Singles Chart,[3] "Newsy Neighbors" and "The Player" which became their biggest R&B hit peaking at number 7.[2]

The band switched labels in 1976 for Warner Brothers Records.[1] Jones left the group and was replaced by Ursula Herring. At Warner's they recorded dance floor hits including "Gotta Get Away From You Baby", "Ain't He Bad" and the album title song, "So Let Us Entertain You". In 1977, the trio switched labels again this time recording for their producer Norman Harris' label, Goldmine Records,[1] where they got their biggest dance single, the infectious "Doctor Love".[2] The single was from their album, Delusions, that AllMusic critic Ed Hogan regarded as the trio's best LP.[1] The next release came in March 1979 called Hold Your Horses.[1] Ursula Herring left and was replaced by Debbie Martin.[1] The LP contained the dance hits "Love Thang", "Double Cross" and the title track "Hold Your Horses".

The trio officially disbanded in 1980 however, in 1983, Sal-Soul Records released "Let No Man Put Asunder" from their 1977 album, Delusions.[2] That single rose to number 13 on the Billboard dance chart and has become the group's signature song and still a current favorite on the house music scene.

Rochelle Fleming continued to record and perform internationally as a solo artist. Annette Guest became a successful songwriter writing for artists such as Stephanie Mills.

Official members Annette Guest and Ursula Herring, along with Andre Jackson, are currently performing again as The First Choice.

Legacy and re-union[edit]

Performing at the 2014 Salsoul reunion show

The group was influential to early house and techno music, because of sampling by many artists, including Todd Terry and The Jungle Brothers, mostly from First Choice's 1977 track, "Let No Man Put Asunder".[4] That track was also covered by Mary J. Blige on her 1999 album, Mary.

On August 6, 2014, First Choice performed a reunion concert at East River Bandshell, New York City, with original members: Rochelle Fleming, Annette Guest, Wardell Piper and Ursula Herring.[5] The concert featured many of the group's ex-label mates from Salsoul Records. The group is still performing, but without Rochelle Fleming. In 2019, rapper J. Cole sampled their song "Wake Up to Me" in his song "Middle Child."

Members timeline[edit]

1971–73 1973–75 1975–79 1979–80
Rochelle Fleming Rochelle Fleming Rochelle Fleming Rochelle Fleming
Annette Guest Annette Guest Annette Guest Annette Guest
Wardell Piper Joyce Jones Ursula Herring Debbie Martin

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions Record label
US
[6]
US
R&B

[6]
1973 Armed and Extremely Dangerous 184 55 Philly Groove
1974 The Player 143 36
1976 So Let Us Entertain You 204 53 Warner Bros./Philly Groove
1977 Delusions 103 Gold Mind
1979 Hold Your Horses 135 58
1980 Breakaway
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Compilation albums[edit]

  • The Best of the First Choice (1976, Kory)
  • Greatest Hits (1992, Salsoul)
  • Philly Golden Classics (1994, Collectables)
  • The Best of First Choice (1994, Southbound)
  • Greatest Hits (1996, The Right Stuff)
  • The Best of First Choice (1997, Charly)
  • The Best of First Choice: Armed & Extremely Dangerous (1999, Philly Groove)
  • The Ultimate Club Collection (2001, Philly Groove/The Right Stuff/Capitol/EMI)
  • The Anthology (2005, Suss'd)
  • The Greatest Hits: It's Not Over (2006, Koch)
  • The Best of First Choice (2007, Metro Doubles)

Singles[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions Album
US
[6]
US
R&B

[6]
US
Dan

[6]
AUS
[7]
CAN
[8]
NLD
[9]
UK
[3]
1972 "This Is the House (Where Love Died)" Armed and Extremely Dangerous
1973 "Armed and Extremely Dangerous" 28 11 55 16
"Smarty Pants" 56 25 99 9
1974 "Newsy Neighbors" 97 35
"The Player (Part 1)" 70 7 68 59[A] The Player
"Guilty" 103 19
1975 "Love Freeze" 61
1976 "First Choice Theme" / "Ain't He Bad" (medley) 7 So Let Us Entertain You
"Are You Ready for Me?"
"Gotta Get Away (From You Baby)" 64 16
"Let Him Go" 97
1977 "Doctor Love" 41 23 8 28 Delusions
"Love Having You Around" 68
1979 "Hold Your Horses" 73 5 Hold Your Horses
"Double Cross" 104 60
"Love Thang" 52
1980 "Breakaway" 80 Breakaway
1983 "Let No Man Put Asunder" 13 47 Delusions
1984 "Doctor Love" (Special Remix) 61
1997 "Armed and Extremely Dangerous" (1997 Remixes) 88
1999 "Doctor Love" (remixes) 22
2001 "The Player" (remixes) 7
2002 "Ain't He Bad" (remixes) 89
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Chart position is from the official UK "Breakers List".
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Hogan, Ed. "Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Soul Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 85. ISBN 0-85112-733-9.
  3. ^ a b "UK Charts > First Choice". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 11, 2011.
  4. ^ Mills, Matthew (September 30, 2016). "Desert Island Disco: Its Not Clever But It Is Big". BBC Music. Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  5. ^ "The SALSOUL Reunion Concert, New York, August 6, 2014". Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  6. ^ a b c d e "US Charts > First Choice". Billboard. Archived from the original on October 18, 2014. Retrieved December 11, 2011.
  7. ^ David Kent (1993). Australian Charts Book 1970—1992. Australian Chart Book Pty Ltd, Turramurra, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  8. ^ "CAN Charts > First Choice". RPM. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  9. ^ "NLD Charts > First Choice". MegaCharts. Retrieved August 8, 2014.

External links[edit]