The Gap Band

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The Gap Band
The Gap Band in 1983
The Gap Band in 1983
Background information
OriginTulsa, Oklahoma, United States
GenresFunk, boogie, electro-funk, R&B, soul, Disco
InstrumentsGuitar, synthesizer, drums, horns
Years active1974–2010
LabelsShelter Records, Tattoo/RCA, Mercury, Total Experience, Capitol
Associated actsDawn Silva Edit this at Wikidata
Past members

The Gap Band was an American R&B and funk band that rose to fame during the 1970s and 1980s. The band consisted of three brothers Charlie, Ronnie, and Robert Wilson; and it was named after streets (Greenwood, Archer, and Pine) in remembrance of the Tulsa race massacre[1][2] in the historic Greenwood neighborhood in the brothers' hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.[3] After 43 years together, they retired in 2010.


Early years[edit]

The band received its first big break by being the back up band for fellow Oklahoman Leon Russell's Stop All That Jazz album released in 1974.[4][5]

Early on, the group took on a funk sound reminiscent of the early 1970s.[6] This style failed to catch on, and their first two LP's, 1974's Magicians Holiday which was recorded at Leon Russell's historic The Church Studio and 1977's The Gap Band (not to be confused with their 1979 album), failed to chart or produce any charting singles. Afterwards, they were introduced to Los Angeles producer Lonnie Simmons, who signed them to his production company, Total Experience Productions (named after his successful Crenshaw Boulevard nightclub), and managed to secure a record deal with Mercury Records.


On their first album with Simmons, The Gap Band, they found chart success with songs such as "I'm in Love" and "Shake"; the latter became a Top 10 R&B hit in 1979.

Later that year, the group released "I Don't Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance (Oops!)" on their album The Gap Band II.[3] Although it did not hit the Billboard Hot 100, it soared to number 4 in the US Billboard R&B chart, and the album went gold. The song, and the band's musical output as a whole, became more P-Funk-esque,[7] with expanded use of the synthesizers and spoken monologues within songs (see audio sample). The song "Steppin' (Out)" also reached the top 10 R&B.[8]

Charlie Wilson provided background vocals on Stevie Wonder's 1980 hit "I Ain't Gonna Stand For It" from Wonder's album Hotter Than July (1980).

The band reached a whole new level of fame in 1980 with the release of the number 1 R&B and number 16 Billboard 200 hit, The Gap Band III. That album had soul ballads such as the number 5 R&B song "Yearning for Your Love", and funk songs such as the R&B chart-topper "Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)" and "Humpin'".[9] They repeated this formula on the number 1 R&B album Gap Band IV in 1982 (the first album released on Simmons' newly launched Total Experience Records), which resulted in three hit singles: "Early in the Morning" (number 1 R&B, number 13 Dance, number 24 Hot 100), "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" (number 2 R&B, number 31 Hot 100, number 39 Dance), and "Outstanding" (number 1 R&B, number 24 Dance). It was during this time that former Brides of Funkenstein singer Dawn Silva joined them on tour.

Their 1983 album, Gap Band V: Jammin', went gold, but was not quite as successful as the previous works, peaking at number 2 R&B and number 28 on the Billboard 200. The single "Party Train" peaked at number 3 R&B, and the song "Jam the Motha'" peaked at number 16 R&B, but neither made it onto the Hot 100. The album's closer "Someday" (a loose cover of Donny Hathaway's "Someday We'll All Be Free") featured Stevie Wonder as a guest vocalist.[10]

Their next work, Gap Band VI brought them back to number 1 R&B in 1985, but the album sold fewer copies and did not go gold. "Beep a Freak" hit number 2 R&B, "I Found My Baby" peaked at number 8 on the R&B charts, and "Disrespect" peaked at number 18. That year, lead singer Charlie Wilson and singer Shirley Murdock provided backing vocals on Zapp & Roger's number 8 R&B "Computer Love".[11]

Later years[edit]

While their 1986 cover of "Going in Circles" went to number 2 on the R&B charts, and the album it was released on, Gap Band VII, hit number 6 R&B, the album almost became their first in years to miss the Billboard 200, peaking at number 159.

While they were beginning to struggle stateside, the group found their greatest success in the UK when their 1986 single "Big Fun" from Gap Band 8 reached number 4 in the UK Singles Chart.[12] 1988's Straight from the Heart was their last studio album with Total Experience.

The Gap Band caught a small break in 1988 with the Keenen Ivory Wayans film, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka.[3] They contributed the non-charting "You're So Cute" and the number 14 R&B title track to the film (The first was not on the soundtrack, but was used in the film).[13] Their first song on their new label, Capitol Records, 1989's "All of My Love" (from their album Round Trip), is, to date, their last number 1 R&B hit. The album also produced the number 8 R&B "Addicted to Your Love" and the number 18 R&B ""We Can Make it Alright." They left Capitol Records the next year and went on a five-year hiatus from producing new material.

During the 1990s, the band released three non-charting studio albums and two live albums.


In 1992, Charlie ventured into a solo career and has had several moderate R&B hits on his own. Wilson's vocals were credited in part for inspiring the vocal style of new jack swing artists Guy, Aaron Hall, Keith Sweat, and R. Kelly. The band reunited in 1996, and issued The Gap Band: Live and Well, a live greatest hits album.

On August 26, 2005, The Gap Band was honored as a BMI Icon at the 57th annual BMI Urban Awards. The honor is given to a creator who has been "a unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers". "Outstanding" alone remains one of the most sampled songs in history and has, astonishingly, been used by over 150 artists.[14]

Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl credits The Gap Band for inspiring the drum intro on their hit "Smells Like Teen Spirit."[15]

Robert Wilson died of a heart attack at his home in Palmdale, California on August 15, 2010, at the age of 53.[16]



Since the 1990s, many of The Gap Band's hits have been sampled and or covered by R&B and hip hop artists such as II D Extreme, Brand Nubian, Tyler, the Creator, 69 Boyz, Ashanti, Big Mello, Blackstreet, Mary J. Blige, Da Brat, Ice Cube, Jermaine Dupri, Mia X, Nas, Rob Base, Shaquille O'Neal, Snoop Dogg, Soul For Real, Tina Turner, and Vesta.[17] Other musicians inspired by The Gap Band include Guy, Aaron Hall, Jagged Edge, Bill Heausler, Mint Condition, R. Kelly, Ruff Endz, Keith Sweat, Joe Miller, GRiTT, The Delta Troubadours, and D'Extra Wiley.

Producer Heavy D sampled "Outstanding" for "Every Little Thing" a 1995 hit single by his boy band prodigies Soul for Real,[18] which reached number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100.

British singer George Michael incorporated parts of Burn Rubber on Me in his 1997 single Star People.


  • Charlie Wilson – Lead vocals, piano, synthesizer, clavinet, organ, drums, percussion
  • Ronnie Wilson – Vocals, trumpet, flugelhorn, piano, synthesizer, percussion, songwriter
  • Robert Wilson (1956-2010) – Bass, guitar, percussion, vocals[19]

Support musicians[edit]

  • Lonnie Simmons – Guitar, percussion
  • Rudy Taylor – Keyboard, programming, back vocal
  • Raymond Calhoun – Percussion, drums, vocals
  • Rastine Calhoun - Saxes
  • Val Young – Vocals
  • Penny Ford - Vocals
  • Billy Young - Keyboard
  • Cavin Yarbrough – Keyboard
  • Robert "Goodie" Whitfield – Piano, synthesizer, saxophone
  • James Gadson – Drums
  • James "Jimi" Macon – Guitar (1977–1986)
  • Ronnie Smith – Drums
  • Chris Clayton – Saxophone, vocals (1974–1983)
  • Alvin Jones – Trombone (1974)
  • Tommy Lokey – Trumpet (1974–1983)
  • Carl Scoggins – Congas, percussion (1974)
  • Roscoe Smith – Drums (1974)
  • O'Dell Stokes – Guitar (1974)
  • Lawrence "Lukii" Scott – Guitar (1974)
  • Tim Fenderson (Rabbit) – Bass
  • LaSalle Gabriel – Guitar (1994–1997)
  • Malvin "Dino" Vice – Trumpet, vocals, horn and string arrangements
  • Oliver Scott – Piano, synthesizer, trombone, vocals
  • Ronnie Kaufman – Drums
  • Fred "Locksmith" Jenkins – Guitar
  • Glenn Nightingale – Guitar
  • Earl Roberson - Horns, saxophone
  • Jimmy Hamilton – Piano, synthesizer
  • Maurice Hayes – Guitar
  • Ira Ward – Drums, Bass, guitar, piano
  • Greg C Jackson — Piano, synthesizer, vocal rhythm arrangements and sequencing


  • Charlie Wilson
  • Ronnie Wilson
  • Robert Wilson
  • Lonnie Simmons
  • Oliver Scott
  • Jonah Ellis
  • Malvin "Dino" Vice
  • Raymond Calhoun
  • Rudy Taylor
  • Greg C Jackson



  1. ^ http://Tulsa%20Massacre%20100%20years%20later:%20Black%20Wall%20Street%20reimagined%20as%20Black%20tech%20hub
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Soul Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 97/8. ISBN 0-85112-733-9.
  4. ^ "Stop All That Jazz - Leon Russell | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic.
  5. ^ "Inductee Explorer". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
  6. ^ The Gap Band (1977) at Allmusic
  7. ^ The Gap Band II on AllMusic
  8. ^ RIAA Certifications at Archived 2013-02-25 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "The Gap Band III - The Gap Band - Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  10. ^ Gap Band V: Jammin' at AllMusic
  11. ^ "Charlie Wilson Remembers Rivalry With Roger Troutman, Making "Computer Love"". The Urban Daily. 2011-03-24. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  12. ^ "Artists".
  13. ^ Soundtrack Listing at
  14. ^ "Lil Jon, R. Kelly, Kanye West and EMI Take Top Honors at BMI Urban Awards". 2005-08-26. Retrieved 2010-10-11.
  15. ^ "Dave Grohl Inspired By Disco Drum Beats". YouTube. Retrieved 2 July 2021.
  16. ^ Jennifer Chancellor, "Robert Wilson of the Gap Band, 'Godfather of bass guitar,' dead at 53", Tulsa World, August 16, 2010.
  17. ^ The Gap Band Music Sampled by Others on WhoSampled
  18. ^ "Soul for Real's 'Every Little Thing I Do' - Discover the Sample Source". Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  19. ^ Lipschutz, Jason (2010-08-16). "Robert Wilson of the Gap Band Dies at 53". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-03-01.

External links[edit]