The Commodores are one of the artists you’re likely to hear more than just a few songs from on THE BEAT.

Today we invite you to check out a great concert from them while on their summer tour back in 1977.

Like Patrice Rushen says, “got to get over, over the hump” and each Wednesday we help you do just that with a classic show/concert from an artist’s whose music is featured here on THE BEAT.

An interesting little side-note here, The Commodores once opened up for the Jackson 5!

This week we’ll take you back to 1977 when The Commodores were at the top of their game musically and presentation-wise. It was also the year they recorded those shows for a two album set that would become one of the decades best-selling Funk/RB live albums. You’ll see them perform “Zoom”, “Just To Be Close To You”, “Easy”, Brick House”, “Machine Gun” and more.

Let’s throw it back to 1977 with The Commodores as they throw it back even further.


The Commodores originally came together from two former student groups, the Mystics and the Jays. Richie described some members of the Mystics as “jazz buffs”. Together, a six-man band was created from which the notable individuals were Lionel Richie, Thomas McClary, and William King from the Mystics; Andre Callahan, Michael Gilbert, and Milan Williams were from the Jays. They wanted to change the name. To choose a new name, William “WAK” King opened a dictionary and randomly picked a word. “We lucked out,” he remarked with a laugh when telling this story to People magazine. “We almost became ‘The Commodes!”

In 1968 the group was formed while all the members were in college at Tuskeegee University. After being discovered by Berry Gordy, the Commodores went on to sell over 60 million records for Motown.

After winning the university’s annual freshman talent contest, they played at fraternity parties as well as a weekend gig at the Black Forest Inn, one of a few clubs in Tuskegee that catered to college students. They performed mostly cover tunes and some original songs with their first singer, James Ingram (not the famous solo artist). Ingram, older than the rest of the band, left to serve active duty in Vietnam, and was later replaced by Walter “Clyde” Orange, who wrote, or co-wrote, many of their hit tunes. Lionel Richie and Orange alternated as lead singers. (Orange was the lead singer on the Top 10 hits “Brick House” and “Nightshift”.)

The Commodores made a brief appearance in the 1978 film Thank God It’s Friday. They performed the song “Too Hot ta Trot” during the dance contest; the songs “Brick House” and “Easy” were also played during the movie.

“Machine Gun”, the instrumental title track from the band’s debut album, became a staple at American sporting events and is similarly featured in many films, including Boogie Nights and Looking for Mr. Goodbar. The song reached No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975.

Another instrumental, “Cebu” (named after an island in the Philippines), later became a staple on urban radio’s Quiet storm format. They released three album in ’75 and ’76 (Caught in the Act, Movin’ On, and Hot On The Tracks). After those recordings the group started to move towards a softer sound. That move was hinted at in their 1976 Top Ten hits “Sweet Love” and “Just to Be Close to You”. In 1977 the Commodores released “Easy”, which became the group’s biggest hit yet, reaching No. 4 in the U.S., followed by “Brick House”, also top 5, both from their album The Commodores, as was “Zoom”. The group reached No. 1 in 1978 with “Three Times a Lady”. In 1979 the Commodores scored another top-five ballad, “Sail On”, before reaching the top of the charts once again with another ballad, “Still”. In 1981 they released two top-ten hits with “Oh No” (No. 4) and their first upbeat single in almost five years, “Lady (You Bring Me Up)” (No. 8). In that period, Lionel Richie was writing songs for many artists including Kenny Rogers who took the Richie penned “Lady” to #1 in 1980.

In 1982, Lionel Richie left to pursue a solo career. Skyler Jett replaced Richie as co-lead singer. Also in 1982, their manager Benjamin Ashburn who also managed another band Platinum Hook died of a heart attack aged 54.

Over time, several founding members left – McClary left in 1983 (shortly after Richie) to pursue a solo career and to develop a gospel music company. McClary was replaced by guitarist-vocalist Sheldon Reynolds, while LaPread left in 1986 and moved to Auckland, New Zealand. Reynolds departed for Earth, Wind & Fire in 1987, which prompted trumpeter William “WAK” King to take over primary guitar duties for live performances. Keyboardist Milan Williams exited the band in 1989 after allegedly refusing to tour South Africa.

The group also gradually abandoned its funk roots and moved into the more commercial pop arena. In 1984 former Heatwave singer James Dean “J.D.” Nicholas assumed co-lead vocal duties with drummer Walter Orange.

The band remained hitless until 1985 when their final Motown album, Nightshift, produced by Dennis Lambert—all prior albums were produced by James Anthony Carmichael—delivered the Grammy Award-winning title track “Nightshift” (No. 3 in the U.S.), a loving tribute to Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson who had both died the previous year.

The Commodores now consist of Walter “Clyde” Orange, James Dean “J.D.” Nicholas, and William “WAK” King, along with their five-piece band, known as the “Mean Machine”. The group continues to perform, playing at arenas, theaters, and festivals around the world.

Source: WikiPedia and The Beat Staff


Find The Commodores playing in many of the mixes we feature each weekend on our Friday Night Jams and Saturday Night Live Ain’t No Jive Chicago Dance Party. Click here for mixes