By Lola Rossi
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recipients, The O’Jays, brought their 5 decades of R&B music to the Special Events Center at Fantasy Springs Casino last Saturday.
Their stellar performance included songs written by Gamble & Huff of Philadelphia International Records, who signed with CBS in New York for distribution in the early 1970s. Mega O’Jays hits include: Love Train; Back Stabbers; Use Ta Be My Girl and I Love Music, to name a few.
Walter Williams and his musical partner, Eddie Levert, were childhood friends, born and raised in Canton, Ohio. His Father was the Choir Director for St. Mark’s Baptist Church and they sang in the Junior Choir.
Known as The Mascots, The five original members included: Williams, Levert, Bill Isles, William Powell and Bobby Massey, who all went to High School together. They moved to Los Angeles in 1962 and worked with H. B. Barnum, who got them a deal with Liberty Records. They recorded “Lipstick Traces” and had a Top 40 hit. They worked with The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, The Dave Clark Five and many other groups.
They moved back East in 1965 and started working in the Theaters. Eddie O’Jay, a Disc Jockey in Cleveland, eventually became their Manager. Their contract with King Records was ending and they signed with Thelma Gordy. Their new label didn’t like the name, so the Disc Jockey told them to call the band O’Jay’s Boys. Williams recalls listening to the radio at home and hearing a local AM Radio Disc Jockey say, “Here’s a new one by The O’Jays.” The name seemed to suit them, just fine.
Performing with them for the past 20 years is Eric Grant. He completes the Trio. Their success continues and talk of reuniting with Gamble & Huff for an upcoming album is in the works.