The Commodoreswere friends in the Tuskegee Institute in 1968 as Freshmen. The Tuskegee Institute is now known as the Tuskegee University. They were successful in the 1970's and 1980's. They performed the opening act for the Jackson Five and it was here that they gained public popularity and signed with Motown Records. The group is well known for their ballads such as, Three Times A Lady and Easy but they mainly recorder funky dance hits like, Brick House, Say Yeah, Fancy Dancer, and Too Hot Ta Trot, as well as others.
There were three albums released in 1975 and 1976 and they were Caught In The Act, Movin’ On, and Hot On The Tracks. These three albums are considered as the peak songs of their hard funk career. After that they sang softer songs. The group originally called themselves The Jays. They had to change their name because of the similarity to O’Jays. They got their new name by William King opening a dictionary and picking it at random. William says they were lucky because they almost became the Commodes. He made this comment when he was telling his story to the People Weekly Magazine. The band members took turns as lead vocalists. After Richie to start a solo career, the former Heatwave singer J. D. Nicholas took on the co-lead vocalist duty with drummer Walter Orange. With the exception of the song, Nightshift, the group did not ever achieve the fame they had when Richie was a member. However, Nightshift was the only song to get them their only Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals.
Lional Richie’s, Oh No, was used in the movie, The Last American Virgin. The groups instrumental song, Machine Gun, is used in many sporting events. The group slowly lost some of their founding members. Thomas McClary left in 1982 just after Lional did. He also wanted to start a solo career and to start a gospel music company. Guitarist/vocalist Sheldon Reynolds replaced McClary. Ronald LaPread left the group in 1986 and moved to New Zealand. Reynolds left to join the group, Earth, Wind, and Fire in 1987. Milan Williams left the group in 1989 and the group that was left began singing more commercial material and got away from the funk music. The group still exists today and it now consists of Orange, King, and Nicolas. They have re-recorded the Commodore hits, recorded a live album, and also a Christmas album. The Commodores were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003. Their albums released are, Machine Gun, Movin’ On, Caught In The Act, Hot On The Tracks, Commodores, The Commodores Live, Natural High, Midnight Magic, Heroes, In The Pocket, Commodores 13, Nightshift, United, and Rock Solid.
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