Luther was one of the main vocalists for this Disco studio group. Hot Butterfly was Luther’s first featured studio group recording in 1978. A Timeless classic and later recorded by David Lasley (Gregg Diamond asked him to take a swing at it after Luther recorded it since David was on the Hot Butterfly album as well providing background vocals and lead vocals on a song titled Paradise), The Sweet Inspirations (1979 Hot Butterfly LP a great album), and Chaka Khan. In 1979 Bionic Boogie’s last album TIGER TIGER has 2 songs co-written by Luther and Gregg Diamond with Luther singing lead vocals. Lay It On The Line and Crazy Lady Luck are worth listening too. I love Crazy Lady Luck it has fun and bouncy lyrics and I love the line: That’s her mother I’d like to have another please…I have a feeling that was a Gregg Diamond line.
Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards and other members of what was to become CHIC were in Luther’s band touring on the road after the 1976 release of LUTHER. In 1977 during one of Luther’s shows at Radio City Music Hall Nile Rodgers describes what happened. “The first song I wrote for Chic was “Everybody Dance” and I remember at the beginning of Chic I was the only composer. Bernard hadn’t written a song with me yet. So the first was “Everybody Dance”, it was (plays guitar). It’s not the typical chord changes for an r&b song ‘cause in those days they’d be like (plays guitar) and you would just groove (plays guitar). Just one chord, staying in the groove, but because I wanted to hear more harmonically, I wrote (plays guitar). Will you all pretend like I sound good, pretend like I’m in tune? So the first song was C-minor 7, B-flat 11 to C-11, A-flat-major 7. And this was the cool thing, this was the real Nile thing. You can look at this many different ways, but I like to look at it as a D-minor 11 with an A in the bass. So we’d do the passing ‘cause I wanted to have Bernard do this chromatic thing (plays guitar). I’m so traditional, whatever’s in the root, I would think of it as the chord. So I think of that as a A-minor 7 with a raised 5. Because if I hear that in the root, I want to hear an A chord, I don’t want to call it a D. The reason I think of it like that is ‘cause… Well, anyway, that’s what I call it, I’m not going to explain it. So the first song I wrote I came up to Bernard and was: “Here’s how the song goes.” (plays guitar) Then I got really into it and went (plays guitar). He was like: “OK, that shit is cool, but what am I going to play?” Then he started imitating me and we were both going (noise), then all of a sudden Bernard came up with that genius bassline and we both started chucking and I started out-chucking him and about a minute later, as the writer, I thought, ‘Maybe I should just play simple and let him play the song’. Remember, no one had played this song except for me until we got to the studio. So we get there – and by the way, we’re playing with Luther Vandross, two shows a day at Radio City, so during the intermission we ran to the recording studio, where my boy was the maintenance engineer, and he paid the elevator boy $10 to keep quiet and not tell the boss that we record after hours. So our first session cost $10 and we had Luther Vandross, David Lasley, all these great singers who were working with us at Radio City. After we wrote that first song, we didn’t have a chance to hear it back, only in the studio, ‘cause we didn’t have cassettes. The only way you could hear your music was if the engineer cut a lacquer and they’d cut it right there in the studio and you’d take that and take it home and listen on your record player. Or you could make a reel-to-reel tape but then had to have a reel-to-reel tape player. So we never heard the song again until three weeks later we were going to a disco and my man says: “Hey, come down and check this out.” “Check what out?” “You just got to see this.” And it was basically an instrumental that went (plays guitar, sings): “Everybody dance, clap your hands, clap your hands.” Then for an hour we’d play (plays guitar). Then we’d break it down, do that thing, break it down again, then get to my part where I go (plays guitar) with the clavinet playing. This is going on for eight and a half minutes. We walk into this club, and my boy is playing this. Those are the only vocals on the record and everyone is losing their minds. As soon as the opening drum hits everyone went (screams) and ran out to the dancefloor. I don’t remember what dance they were doing in those days, probably the rock or something. The people in the audience were playing air bass and stuff. This went on for an hour. I’d never seen anything like that and I realised the power of the groove, the power of the DJ to talk to the audience, and it had nothing to do with the radio. It had something to do with being in that environment and hitting you with something that moved your soul, moved your heart, moved your feet, and all of a sudden we really believed in ourselves. We thought, ‘Damn, if they like that, what if we develop more stuff?’ And after ‘Everybody Dance’ it took a long time to get record companies to believe in us. Even though we took A&R people down and showed them the reaction, this was not staged, this was real. And the DJ would play the record for an hour at a time. He took two acetates and played them back and forth. Crazy! But the A&R people didn’t quite understand it, they didn’t understand the repetitive breakdowns and basically an instrumental track. A few months later, Bernard was hired to do a record and they had to have a B-side to sell it commercially. And the B-side, a lot of the time producers would just say: “OK, here’s some money, I’ll finish the song later.” And they’d write the song and become the writers. You’d do your track and they’d finish it later ‘cause it was a filler song. There are a lot of filler songs that have become huge, like “I Will Survive”. Gloria Gaynor’s biggest song was a B-side and she hated it. So Bernard – I wasn’t on this session – cut this B-side and it was basically what would become “Dance, Dance, Dance”. Since I was the only writer with Chic at the time, the guy who produced the session called me up to write it with him.” (Nile Rodgers 2011 Red Bull Music Academy)
Luther was a background member from that point on until 1979.
This was a Christmas release featuring Cotillion Records artists. Luther contributed two songs which are classics At Christmas Time and May Christmas Bring You Happiness. At Christmas Time is timeless and I love the lyrics here : I wish that everyday of the year could have the love that we feel on Christmas Day….Merry Christmas to the world
I wish happiness and love for every boy and every girl
‘Cause the holiday
Makes me feel this way
What a joy it is to find
Happy people joined together for the love of Christmas time
Ooh, and they feel that way
Every Christmas day
Every year at Christmas time I hear the people laughing, smilling, being happy again oooh at Christmas time… this is another great line in the song.
May Christmas Bring You Happiness is an uptempo song another classic.
Luther’s first release was for the Cotillion Records label back in June 1976. This album is great although it didn’t sell very well and Luther’s layout gives you a taste of what was to come in 1981. The 2nd Time Around, I’ll Get Along Fine (Duet with Diane Sumler), and This Strange Feeling (Duet with Anthony Hinton) are the introspective songs on the album. Funky Music (Is A Part Of Me), It’s Good For The Soul (Pts. I&2), and Emotion Eyes are the uptempo/dance songs of the album. Last but not least is Everybody Rejoice the song he wrote back in 1972 and included in the 1975 musical The Wiz. Everybody Rejoice is one of Luther’s greatest songs in my opinion for the message is about hope and change. This song demonstrates Luther’s genius as a singer and songwriter. This album deserves to be digitally remastered and commercially re-released. The 2nd Time Around deals with rejected love and the wisdom for the next love will be better than the previous love. The lyrics in this song that really brings it home are: I wish there could be
The kind of love
Where there would be no wrong
So that heartache and pain
And the misery of a bad love
Would all be gone
To get over the first love
Is kinda hard, baby
But, don’t let it get you down
Don’t you know that…
Love will be better, better than ever
The second time around
The Song I’ll Get Along Fine also deals with a love breakup and these lyrics in the song say it best:
How am I gonna get along, after loving you for so long, how am I gonna find good times when you’re gone, how will I fill this emptiness that sho nuff will leave me hungry for your love.
I bought a book back in 1991 titled Rocks Movers & Shakers and it had a section on Luther Vandross which explained the history of Luther forming a vocal group in 1975 called LUTHER and were signed to Cotillion Records a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. There were two albums from the group 1976 LUTHER and 1977 THIS CLOSE TO YOU which both albums flopped due to lack of promotion and as a result both albums did not sell well at all. Luther bought back the rights to both albums and retained the master tapes which was why they were rare. I knew I had to have both albums but I didn’t know where to look. Where I live they didn’t have any record stores that had those albums so I kind of gave up. My sister who was dating her soon to be husband lived in Ardmore PA and she was going up there on summer and winter breaks to work and spend time with him. My sister had to drive there and wanted to know did I want to come up there to visit and see Philadelphia. I said sure and we left after Christmas 1992. I remember the last day New Years Eve I had to catch a 4 o’clock train back home so we decided to go to this record store in Ardmore my sister said had everything called Plastic Fantastic. We go there and there were literally records all over the place all categorized. I go to the Luther section and try on a hunch to see if the Cotillion album would be there. To my disapointment there wasn’t any of his Cotillion albums there. I picked a record and proceeded to go to the counter. I noticed there were a lot of albums on the wall behind the clerk so I started scanning and noticed they were high dollar/rare records. Then to the right of the clerk I saw a record that caught my eye the album cover had in big metalic letters LUTHER in a style lettering you might see on a heavy metal album. I asked the clerk could I see that album and he said, “Do know who it is?” I said, “Luther Vandross I hope” and he said, “You’re right.” As I was staring at the back of the album which showed a five member group and Luther in a blue suit wearing a gold chain was too much for me. I said to the clerk “I don’t care how much this album is I AM BUYING IT” He laughed when I told him I was a fan and he told me a little bit about how when the album first came out potential buyers thought it was a heavy metal group because of the lettering and confused them seeing the back cover. The cost of the album was 25.00 dollars which I knew was worth it after reading the history about the album. I was so excited to get home and put the album on the turntable. I remember my sister saying it was too high to pay for an album and I told her don’t worry about what I buy. I remember the train ride back holding on to that album like I had a bag full of money. I remember the lady I was siting next to to thought I was odd holding on that bag the way I did. I just didn’t want a chance on it getting broke. My dad picked me up at the train station and the anticipation was just too much. I ran to my turntable and started listening to all the songs and that is how I spent my New Years Eve of 1992 listening to LUTHER on Cotillion when the ball dropped.
Luther first hit it big in late October and November till early December 1981 on TOP 40 radio with Never Too Much. I was nine years old then and listened to Casey Kasem’s TOP 40 on Sundays. I must have heard this song at that time but honestly don’t remember Luther making a huge impact on me until 1989/early 1990 when I heard Here And Now. I remember the first time I heard it on the radio and thinking: WOW what a voice, who is this? I remember the radio announcer saying Luther Vandross as the singer of the song. That moment changed the way I listened to a song and appreciated what a vocalist could do to make that song very real and personal like it was a page taken from your life. I was hooked on Luther from that point on and said to myself I have got to have everything this guy has ever sung. That is where the journey began for me researching and collecting Luther’s music. I remember the first album I bought was The Best Of Love from 1989. Not only did it have Here And Now on it but had all his greatest hits. I knew this was the place to start and I enjoyed every song. I remember hearing Searching and The Glow Of Love and loving those right from the start. I believe the next cassettes I bought were Never Too Much, Busy Body, Forever, For Always, For Love, The Night I Fell In Love, Give Me The Reason, and Any Love which completed the collection up to that point. I was soaking up all the songs on each album and really appreciating everything Luther had put into his music. I knew at that point I couldn’t wait for the next Vandross release which would come soon enough with Power Of Love/Love Power in early 1991.