The Controllers (R&B band)

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The Controllers
OriginBirmingham, Alabama, United States
GenresSoul, R&B
Years active1975–1997
LabelsJuana (1977-1980); CMP (Private label/1982); MCA (1984-1987); Capitol (1989); Malaco (1997)
MembersLeonard Brown
Past membersRicky Lewis
Larry McArthur
Reginald McArthur

The Controllers are an American soul and R&B vocal group, originally from Birmingham, Alabama, who had a series of successful recordings in the late 1970s and the 1980s.[1]


Originally part of an eight-member gospel group, the group became four in number by the time they entered junior high school, comprising Reginald McArthur (baritone lead), Ricky Lewis (tenor lead), Larry McArthur and Lenard Brown. Their growing reputation in the Birmingham area led to an introduction to Cleveland Eaton, bassist for the Ramsey Lewis Trio. Under Eaton's guidance, The Soul Controllers, as they were then called, recorded their first single, called "Right On Brother, Right On". It became a regional hit while they were still attending Fairfield High School.

In 1976, the group came to the attention of Juana Records, run by Frederick Knight, also from Birmingham. Recording at the Malaco Studios in Jackson, Mississippi, their first single on Juana charted, but it was their second release, "Somebody's Gotta Win, Somebody's Gotta Lose", that really established them. The song, a ballad lasting over eight minutes on the album, climbed to #8 on US Billboard R&B chart, and #3 on the Cash Box soul chart in 1977. The group's on-stage performances also helped them to open for Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson, B.B. King and The Temptations.

A follow-up ballad, "Heaven Is Only A Step Away" climbed to #37 R&B, but despite the release of two more albums on Juana, the group failed to find another major single success.

In 1983, the group signed with the late Jimmy Bee, a San Francisco based manager, and got a recording contract with MCA Records. Their first release on the label, "Crushed" (which featured Stevie Wonder on harmonica) returned them to the charts, reaching #30 R&B, in 1984 and two years later, "Stay" climbed to #12. Their cover version of the Marvin Gaye song, "Distant Lover" also proved popular. These hits led to a series of appearances on Soul Train and performances at the Radio City Music Hall and Carnegie Hall. During this time, the group also performed on MTV, BET's Video Soul and on HBO.

Under the guidance of Bee, the Controllers made a move to Capitol Records in 1989 for the album Just In Time, which failed to produce any hits but rekindled their popularity among the group's loyal following.

After a break from touring and recording, the four returned in the late 1990s, and joined Malaco Records for their self-produced album, Clear View, which contained a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition", and a revised "Somebody's Gotta Win".[2]

The two remaining active Controllers, Lenard Brown and Reginald McArthur, are co-hosts of a syndicated talk show in the Southeastern United States, Inside The Juke Joint, where artists, songwriters, arrangers and musicians talk about their careers and lives.[3]

Reginald McArthur (born Reginald Duwayne McArthur on September 25, 1954) died on April 19, 2018 at age 63.[4]



  • 1977: In Control (US #146)
  • 1978: Fill Your Life With Love
  • 1979: Next in Line (R&B #47)
  • 1984: The Controllers (R&B #47)
  • 1986: Stay (R&B #25)
  • 1987: For the Love of My Woman (R&B #72)
  • 1989: Just in Time
  • 1997: Clear View



  • "The People Want Music" (1976) - (R&B #82)
  • "This Train" (1976)
  • "Somebody's Gotta Win, Somebody's Gotta Lose" (1977) - (US #102 / R&B #8)
  • "Heaven Is Only One Step Away" (1978) - (R&B #37)
  • "If Somebody Cares" (1978) - (R&B #65)
  • "I Can't Turn The Boogie Loose" (1979) - (Dance #42 / R&B #90)
  • "Let Me Entertain You" (1980) - (Dance #84)
  • "We Don't" (1980) - (R&B #43)
  • "I Gambled On Your Love And Lost" (1981)
  • "My Love Is Real" (1981) - (R&B #76)
  • "Crushed / Nothing Can Stop This Feeling" (1984) - (R&B #30)
  • "Distant Lover" (1986) - (R&B #34)
  • "Stay" (1986) - (UK #77 / R&B #12)
  • "Break Out The Love" (1986)
  • "Sleeping Alone" (1987) - (R&B #24)
  • "Play Time" (1988) - (R&B #69)
  • "Temporary Lovers" (1989) - (R&B #43)
  • "I Wanna Be With U (Right Now)" (1989)
  • "Just In Time" (1989) - (R&B #87)



  1. ^ [1] - The Controllers - Biography. Retrieved on 07-01-2012.
  2. ^ [2] The Malaco Music Group. Retrieved on 11-30-2015.
  3. ^ [3] 98.7 Kiss FM - The Juke Joint with Lenard Brown and Red G McArthur, saturday : 8am – 10am. Retrieved on 11-30-2015.
  4. ^ Reginald McArthur September 25, 1954 - April 19, 2018 accessdate July 22, 2018
  5. ^ [4] Soul Walking. Retrieved on 11-30-2015.
  6. ^ Chart information @ Music VF Retrieved 13/11/2017
  7. ^ The Controllers Discography @ Discogs Retrieved 13/11/17