Major Lance

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Major Lance
Major Lance 1965.jpg
Lance in 1965
BornApril 4 (year disputed, most likely 1939)
DiedSeptember 3, 1994 (aged between 52-55)
Years active1959–1994
SpouseChristine Boular
Children9, including Keisha Lance Bottoms
Musical career
GenresSoul, pop, R&B
Soul (Motown)

Major Lance (April 4, 1939,[3][1] 1941[4][5] or 1942[6][7] – 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. His daughter, Keisha Lance Bottoms, was the mayor of Atlanta.

Early life[edit]

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

Lance, who was one of 12 children,[11] moved as a child with his family to the midnorth side of Chicago in the Cabrini-Green projects,[12] a high-crime area,[13] where he developed a boyhood friendship with Otis Leavill, both of whom attended Wells High School.[14] This was the same school Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler attended.[15] Mayfield called Lance 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] The two of them also worked together at a drug store.[13]



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 television show, 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] Lance 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 it established his partnership with the 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]

The second Okeh single, "The Monkey Time" (also written by Curtis Mayfield), was Major Lance's first hit,[21] became a No. 2 Billboard R&B chart and No. 8 pop hit in 1963. "The Monkey Time" became Okeh's first hit single in 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 No. 5 in the US pop chart and No. 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; "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] "Stay Away from Me" was also listed No. 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 that played mostly rare and obscure American soul and R&B records. According to one writer, "[T]he 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, at the Torch, a club in Stoke on Trent, 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.[28] 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. He briefly recorded for Motown Records, releasing the last-ever single on its Soul Records subsidiary, "I Never Thought I'd Be Losing You," in 1978. 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] His final performance was in June 1994 at the 11th Chicago Blues Festival.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Major Lance was married to Christine (née Boular) Lance. He sired nine (9) children by different women.[29]

Lance died in 1994 in his sleep[30] from heart disease in Decatur, Georgia. He is buried at Washington Memory Gardens Cemetery in Homewood, Illinois.[2]

His daughter (with Sylvia Robinson), Keisha Lance Bottoms, was the mayor of Atlanta, Georgia from 2018 to 2022.


He was arrested twice in his lifetime. 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 58). 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.[31]

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][32]

In 1987, Lance had a heart attack. He later became nearly blind from glaucoma.[30] As a result, he made no more recordings.[17][19]

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 to 1967 on two 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."[33] Sony later released a shorter version of the CD collection titled The Very Best of Major Lance.




Year Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Label &
Cat. No.
Peak chart positions Album
US Pop
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
"Hey Little Girl"
b/w "Crying In The Rain" (Non-album track)
Okeh 7181
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
"The Matador"
b/w "Gonna Get Married" (Non-album track)
Okeh 7191
Major's Greatest Hits
"Girls" / Okeh 7197
"It Ain't No Use"
"Think Nothing About It"
b/w "It's Alright"
Release planned, but never pressed or issued.
Okeh 7200
Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um -
The Best of Major Lance
b/w "Please Don't Say No More" (Non-album track)
Okeh 7203
Major's Greatest Hits
1965 "Sometimes I Wonder"
b/w "I'm So Lost" (Non-album track)
Okeh 7209
"Come See"
b/w "You Belong to Me My Love" (Non-album track)
Okeh 7216
"Ain't It a Shame"
b/w "Gotta Get Away"
Okeh 7223
"Too Hot to Hold"
b/w "Dark and Lonely"
Okeh 7226
Non-album tracks
"Everybody Loves a Good Time"
b/w "I Just Can't Help It"
Okeh 7233
1966 "Investigate"
b/w "Little Young Lover"
Okeh 7250
"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
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
"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
"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
"Must Be Love Coming Down"
b/w "Little Young Lover"
Curtom 1956
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
1975 "Sweeter as the Days Go By" (New version)
b/w "Wild and Free"
Playboy 6020
"You're Everything I Need"
b/w "You're Everything I Need" (Instrumental)
Osiris 001
"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
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Major Lance profile". Retrieved April 7, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d "Major Lance, 55, Soul Singer in 60s". The New York Times. September 5, 1994. Retrieved December 30, 2009.
  3. ^ a b "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. May 7, 1940. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Major Lance". 2005. Retrieved April 5, 2012.
  5. ^ a b Soul music A-Z 1995 p. 185
  6. ^ a b The golden age of American rock 'n roll: Volume 3; 2002 p. 556
  7. ^ a b Hoffmann, Frank W. (2005). Rhythm and Blues, Rap, and Hip-hop. p. 161. ISBN 9780816069804.
  8. ^ Warner, Jay (2004). On This Day in Music History (illustrated ed.). Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 96. ISBN 9780634066931.
  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". Archived from the original on January 9, 2006. Retrieved April 7, 2015.
  11. ^ a b Billboard. August 10, 1963. p. 16
  12. ^ Talevski, Nick (2010). Rock Obituaries: Knocking On Heaven's Door. p. 390. ISBN 9780857121172.
  13. ^ a b c d Jack Kirby, Michael. "Major Lance". Way Back Attack. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
  14. ^ Pruter, Robert (1992). Chicago Soul (Music in American Life). University of Illinois Press. p. 272. ISBN 978-0252062599.
  15. ^ Contemporary Black, 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 Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Major Lance: Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved February 26, 2009.
  18. ^ Hamilton, Andrew. "Biography of Otis Leavill Cobb". AllMusic. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Major Lance Page". Retrieved April 7, 2015.
  20. ^ Pruter, Robert (1996). Doowop: The Chicago Scene. University of Illinois Press. p. 197. ISBN 9780252065064.
  21. ^ "New York Beat". Jet Magazine. Vol. 24, no. 20. Johnson Publishing Company. 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. ^ Davis, Carl H. (2011). The Man Behind the Music: The Legendary Carl Davis. p. 185. ISBN 9780983131724.
  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. ^ "Soul Brothers Top 20". Jet Magazine. Vol. 38, no. 26. Johnson Publishing Company. October 1970. p. 65.
  28. ^ Billboard. September 7, 1974. p. 18
  29. ^ "Major Lance: "Monkey Time" singer". Seattle Times. September 4, 1994.
  30. ^ a b "Major Lance". Soulful Kinda Music. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
  31. ^ "Issue Warrant For Major Lance In Paternity Case". Jet Magazine. Vol. 28, no. 23. Johnson Publishing Company. September 1965. p. 59.
  32. ^ The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, vol 3, p. 2070.
  33. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Everyone Loves a Good Time: The Best of Major Lance". AllMusic. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
  34. ^ a b "Major Lance - Charts and Awards". AllMusic. Archived from the original on August 2, 2013.

External links[edit]