Do the titles "Brick House" "Easy" and "Nightshift" sound familiar? The group that recorded those hit songs appeared Friday night for the Alabama Music Hall of Fame concert.
Their music is called soul, R & B sometimes even funk, but folks call them the Commodores. They've been flying high for 40 years now and original singer Walter "Clyde" Orange attributes most of their success to getting along. "It's a camaraderie. We got to like each other. We have to love each other, but we also like what we do. You must have disagreements though? There must be disputes? No-ooo! Here? Then they put their three heads together and smiled. broadly.
They reached their height in the 70's and 80's with a host of number one songs, but as Orange pointed out they haven't had many hits since then. "Time works against you. I'm a great songwriter. I can sing "Brick House" up down but they don't want me anymore. I don't care how great my music is. They want that 21, 22 year old out there with fine bodies selling sex."
And, there's another reason the group started going downhill. There are now only two of the original members left. The downhill slide began in 1982 when lead singer Lionel Ritchie left for a solo career. Original member William King says Ritchie walked off the stage one day and never came back. "When Ritchie left, no I didn't like it - not al all. I thought we would be together until we all died."
King says the group has never talked about that departure and probably never will. "Ritchie is kind of different in that respect. He's like not very forthcoming. He just likes to disappear. Everybody says let's talk about this. He just kind of like - ping."
They spend all of their time these days on the road touring. And, they have never been able to get Ritchie to join them for a reunion tour, but they hang on to hope. "We welcome him back. I really do, and hopefully and I pray that if it's going to be - it will be."
The group began when the original members were students at Tuskegee Institute - now Tuskegee University.
And, a personal note. My father claims he's responsible for the "Commodores" success. He was exalted ruler for the Elks and brought them here from Tuskegee to perform. A member of the group told me today he remembers that first performance at the Elks.