Philadelphia soul men the Stylistics were anything but an overnight success story. Formed from members of mid-1960s groups the Percussions and the Monarchs, they first recorded locally on the independent Sebring label in 1969, but didn’t see soul chart action until 1971. What followed was five absolutely golden years on the Avco label, and then many more of continuing popularity, which sees the latter-day line-up touring to this day.
On 19 January 1974, the group hit the singles countdown for the fifth time in the UK, where they’d faltered somewhat after top 20 hits in 1972 with ‘Betcha By Golly Wow’ and ‘I’m Stone In Love With You.’ Both of their entries the following year, ‘Break Up To Make Up’ and ‘Peek A Boo,’ halted outside the top 30.
But the last weeks of 1973 had seen the soul stylists enjoy one of their biggest R&B hits to date in America with the typically smart Thom Bell and Linda Creed song ‘Rockin’ Roll Baby.’ It was from an album of the same name that also contained the song that would soon become the Stylistics’ next smash, ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New.’
‘Rockin’ Roll Baby,’ a tale of a toddler born in a theatre and thrust into showbusiness almost before he could walk, had been a No. 3 hit on Billboard’s R&B chart and reached No. 14 pop. Here are the group going through their paces and wearing their finest threads as they perform the song on Soul Train.
Entering the UK survey at No. 29, the single landed at its No. 6 peak three weeks later. It was the Stylistics’ biggest UK hit to date, but not for long: by August, they were climbing to No. 2 with ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New,’ as their tally of top ten hits grew ever longer.
‘Rockin’ Roll Baby’ is on The Very Best of the Stylistics, which can be bought here.
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