The Trammps

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The Trammps
The trammps-1554472728.jpg
Background information
OriginPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Years active1972–present
LabelsGolden Fleece Records
Atlantic Records
Buddah Records
Philadelphia International Records
WebsiteOfficial website
Past membersRonnie Baker (deceased)
Ed Cermanski
John Davis
Dave Dixon
Jimmy Ellis (deceased)
Dennis Harris
Norman Harris (deceased)
John Hart (deceased)
Reuben Henderson
Rusty Jackmon
Fred Joiner
Gene "Faith" Jones
Steve Kelly
Ron Kersey (deceased)
Roger Stevens (deceased)
Michael Thompson
Robert Upchurch
Harold "Doc" Wade
Stanley Wade
Harold Watkins
Priestly Williams
Earl Young

The Trammps are an American disco and soul band, who were based in Philadelphia and were one of the first disco bands.

The band's first major success was with their 1972 cover version of "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart". The first disco track they released was "Love Epidemic" in 1973. However, they are best known for their Grammy winning song, "Disco Inferno", originally released in 1976, becoming a UK pop hit and US R&B hit. After inclusion in the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, the song was re-released in 1978 and became a US pop hit.


From early 1970s to the dissolution in the early 1990s[edit]

The history of the Trammps grew from the 1960s group The Volcanos, who later became The Moods.[1] With a number of line-up changes by the early 1970s, the band membership included gospel-influenced lead singer Jimmy Ellis, drummer and singer (bass voice) Earl Young, with brothers Stanley and Harold 'Doc' Wade. Members of the Philadelphia recording band MFSB played with the group on records and on tour in the 1970s with singer Robert Upchurch joining later. The group was produced by the Philadelphia team of Ronnie Baker, Norman Harris and Young, all MFSB mainstays who played on the recording sessions and contributed songs.

Their debut chart entry came via an upbeat cover version of the standard "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart", featuring Young's bass voice, which became a Top 20 US R&B chart hit in 1972.[1][2]

Their first few recordings were released on Buddah Records, including "Hold Back The Night" which was a hit on the Billboard R&B chart in 1973, before a re-release saw it climb the UK two years later. Several R&B hits followed during a stay with Philadelphia International subsidiary, Golden Fleece (run by Baker-Harris-Young) before they signed to Atlantic Records.

Their single "Disco Inferno" (1976), which was included on the Grammy Award-winning Saturday Night Fever: The Original Movie Sound Track in 1977,[3] reached No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in May 1978.[4]

"In a time when real soul groups, especially of the uptempo persuasion, have become as rare as snail darters, the Trammps fill a gap."

Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981)[5]

Other major hits included "Hold Back the Night" (1975) (UK No. 5[6]) and "That's Where the Happy People Go" (1976). In late 1977, the Trammps released the song "The Night the Lights Went Out" to commemorate the electrical blackout that affected New York City on July 13–14, 1977.

Their signature song "Disco Inferno" has been covered by Tina Turner and Cyndi Lauper. In addition, Graham Parker covered "Hold Back The Night" on "The Pink Parker EP" in 1977, and reached No. 20 in the UK Singles Chart,[7] and Top 60 in the US.


On September 19, 2005, the group's "Disco Inferno" was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame at a ceremony held in New York. The song was part-written by Ron Kersey, a producer-arranger and a member of MFSB, who also played with Trammps in the 1970s for a time. During the ceremony, the original band members performed together for the first time in 25 years. Disco Inferno has also had a resurgence and has garnered new fans with the 2016 presidential political campaign of Bernie Sanders in the USA due to the song's refrain of burn, baby, burn (slightly altered to "Bern, baby, Bern").

Two versions of the group, with differing line-ups, currently tour the nostalgia circuit.[8]

On March 8, 2012, lead singer Jimmy Ellis died at a nursing home in Rock Hill, South Carolina (where he was born on November 15, 1937), at the age of 74. The cause of death was not immediately known but he suffered from Alzheimer's disease.[2]

Earl Young's Trammps still continue to record and as of August 2014 have recently released "Get Your Lovin While You Can" written by the Steals brothers renowned for their Philly hits such as "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" for The Detroit Spinners.

The music journalist Ron Wynn noted: "the Trammps' prowess can't be measured by chart popularity; Ellis' booming, joyous vocals brilliantly championed the celebratory fervor and atmosphere that made disco both loved and hated among music fans."[1]

On June 30, 2019, the Trammps appeared on HBO's Big Little Lies, Season 2, episode 4 entitled "She Knows".


Studio albums[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions Certifications Record label

1975 The Legendary Zing Album Buddah
Trammps 159 30 Golden Fleece
1976 Where the Happy People Go 50 13 65 42 Atlantic
Disco Inferno 46 16 65 27
1977 The Trammps III 85 27 64
1979 The Whole World's Dancing 184
1980 Mixin' It Up
Slipping Out
1984 This One Is for the Party Injection
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Compilation albums[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions Record label

1975 The Best of the Trammps featuring: MFSB & The Three Degrees 14 Philadelphia International
1976 The Best of the Trammps
1977 Disco Champs
1978 The Best of the Trammps 139 57 49 Atlantic
1991 The Collection 42 Arcade
1992 Golden Classics Collectables
1994 This Is Where the Happy People Go: The Best of the Trammps Rhino
2001 All The Hits & the "Disco Inferno" Goldenlane
2012 The Definitive Collection Music Club Deluxe/Rhino
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


Year Title Peak chart positions Album


1972 "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart" 64 17 5 29 The Legendary Zing Album
"Sixty Minute Man" 108 40
1973 "Pray All You Sinners" 34
"Love Epidemic" 75 11 Trammps
1974 "Where Do We Go from Here" 44
"Trusting Heart" 101 72 13
1975 "Shout" 5
"Stop and Think" 5
"Save a Place" 36
"Hooked for Life" 70 6 28 Where the Happy People Go
"Hold Back the Night" 35 10 11 29 5 The Legendary Zing Album
1976 "That's Where the Happy People Go" 27 12 1 56 35 Where the Happy People Go
"Disco Party" 1
"Soul Searchin' Time" 67 42
"Ninety-Nine and a Half" 105 76 8
"Disco Inferno" 53 9 1 70 16 Disco Inferno
"Body Contact Contract"
1977 "I Feel Like I've Been Livin' (On the Dark Side of the Moon)" 105 52
"The Night the Lights Went Out" 104 80 6 10 The Trammps III
1978 "Disco Inferno" (re-release) 11 32 6 13 Disco Inferno
"Seasons for the Girls" 50 The Trammps III
"Soul Bones" 91 31 The Whole World's Dancing
1979 "Teaser" 75
1980 "Hard Rock and Disco" 76 Mixin' It Up
"Music Freek"
"Looking for You" Slipping Out
1981 "Breathtaking View"
1983 "Up on the Hill (Mt. U)" 79 N/A
1984 "Move" 37 This One Is for the Party
"Twenty-Five Miles"
"I Will Be Here for You"
1986 "Let's Go Crazy" N/A
1992 "Hold Back the Night" (with KWS) 20 30 KWS
1997 "Mighty High" (with Gloria Gaynor) 12 The Answer
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Band members[edit]

  • Ronnie Baker (1947–1990) - bass, vocals
  • Ed Cermanski - keyboards
  • John Davis - saxophone
  • Jimmy Ellis (1937–2012)[18] - lead vocals
  • Dennis Harris - guitar
  • Norman Harris (1947–1987) - guitar, vocals
  • John Hart (1941–2008)[19] - organ
  • Reuben Henderson - saxophone
  • Rusty Jackmon - bass
  • Fred Joiner - trombone
  • Gene Jones (a.k.a. Gene Faith) - original lead vocalist
  • Steve Kelly - vocals
  • Ron Kersey b. Tyrone G. Kersey (1945–2005) - keyboards
  • Barrington McDonald (1942–2007) - guitar
  • Cubby St Charles - vocals
  • Roger Stevens - trumpet
  • Michael Thompson - drums (stopped 1995)
  • Robert Upchurch - vocals
  • Harold "Doc" Wade - guitar, vocals
  • Stanley Wade - bass, vocals
  • Harold Watkins - trombone
  • Priestly Williams - trumpet
  • Earl Young (b. 1940) - drums, vocals

Later members[edit]

  • Jerry Collins - vocals
  • Jimmy Williams - lead vocals[20]
  • Van Fields - vocals
  • Lafayette Gamble - vocals
  • Michael Natalini - drums 1995 to present

Stan & Doc Wade & Robert Upchurch Trammps (original) the now touring group

  • Ed Cermanski - keyboards
  • Harold "Doc" Wade - vocals
  • Robert Upchurch - vocals
  • Fred Vesci - keyboards
  • Lafayette Gamble - vocals
  • David Nobles - vocals
  • Van Fields - vocals
  • Mike Natalini - drums 1985–present
  • Rusty Stone - bass
  • David Rue - guitar
  • Dennis Harris - guitar
  • "Don't Mess With Bill" Hosbach, Jr. - Trumpet
  • George Bussey - saxophone
  • Carmen Tornambe - Trumpet

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Biography by Ron Wynn". Retrieved February 23, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Dys, Andrew (March 8, 2012). "'Disco Inferno' singer Jimmy Ellis of Rock Hill dies at 74". The Herald. Rock Hill, SC. Retrieved March 9, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ / Grammy Awards
  4. ^ "Charts & Awards / Billboard Singles". Retrieved February 23, 2011.
  5. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: T". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 16, 2019 – via
  6. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 564. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  7. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 417. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  8. ^ Biography at - accessed February 2011
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "US Charts > The Trammps". Billboard. Retrieved 2015-03-03.
  10. ^ a b David Kent (1993). Australian Charts Book 1970—1992. Australian Chart Book Pty Ltd, Turramurra, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  11. ^ a b "CAN Charts > The Trammps". RPM. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2015-03-03.
  12. ^ "SWE Charts > The Trammps". Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 2015-03-03.
  13. ^ "American certifications – Trammps". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved September 28, 2020.
  14. ^ a b "NLD Charts > The Trammps". MegaCharts. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
  15. ^ "IRE Charts Search > The Trammps". Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved 2012-05-05.
  16. ^ "NZ Charts > The Trammps". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 2012-05-05.
  17. ^ "UK Charts > The Trammps". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2015-03-03.
  18. ^ "Jimmy Ellis Dies at 74; Lead Singer in Dance Band Trammps". March 8, 2012. Retrieved March 9, 2012.
  19. ^ John Hart Jr., 67, an original Trammp
  20. ^ Lyrics Vault Trammps

External links[edit]