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The Commodores are a Grammy Award winning Americanmarker funk/soul band, most popular in the 1970s and 1980s. The group is best known for their ballads, such as "Easy" and "Three Times a Lady", but, for the most part, the group mainly recorded funky, driven dance-floor hit which include "Slippery When Wet" and "Brick House". Even though the band's 1969 debut album on Atlantic slipped out unnoticed, The Commodores became one of the 1970s most popular recording acts. The Commodores were one of the top bands during their long tenure at Motown. The group is credited with seven number one R&B songs and a host of other Top Ten hits on the Billboard charts, and their catalog includes more than 50 albums.


The members of the group met as freshmen at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee Universitymarker) in 1967, and signed with Motown in November 1972, having first caught the public eye opening for The Jackson 5 while on tour. The Commodores originally called themselves the Jays, but had to change their name because of the similarly named The O'Jays. To choose a new name band member William King opened a dictionary, and randomly picked a word. "We lucked out," he remarked with a laugh when telling this story to People Weekly. "We almost became The Commodes!"

"Machine Gun", the instrumental title track from the band's album, became a staple at Americanmarker sporting events, and is similarly featured in many films, including Boogie Nights and Looking for Mr. Goodbar. It reached #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975. Another instrumental, "Cebu" (named after an islandmarker in the Philippinesmarker), later became a staple in the Quiet storm radio format. Three albums released in years 1975 and 1976 (Caught in the Act, Movin' On, Hot on the Tracks) are considered the peak of their harder funk period. Only one such hit from that era scored big, the funk-driven "Brick House" which reached #5 in the US. After those recordings the group started to move towards softer sound. That move was hinted from their 1976 Top Ten hits "Sweet Love" and "Just to Be Close to You". In 1977 the Commodores scored a ballad hit with "Easy", which became the group's biggest hit yet, reaching #4 in the US.

After years of presence in the US Top Ten, the group finally reached #1 in 1978 with the Richie penned, "Three Times a Lady". It was a transatlantic chart-topper, spending five weeks at the chart pinnacle in the UK Singles Chart. Richie was nominated for the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for "Three Times a Lady" in 1979.

1979 saw the Commodores score another Top Five ballad hit "Sail On" before reaching the top of the charts once again with another ballad, "Still". The group had no major hits in 1980, but by 1981 they were back with a vengeance, scoring Top Ten hits with the ballad "Oh No" (#4 US) and their first upbeat single in almost five years, "Lady (You Bring Me Up)" (#8 US)

Many of their hit tunes were written or co-written by Walter "Clyde" Orange, the original lead singer before Richie came on board. Richie and Orange alternated as lead singers. Orange was also the lead singer on "Nightshift" and "Brick House" among others.

After Richie left to pursue a solo career, former Heatwave singer J.D. Nicholas assumed co-lead vocal duties with drummer Walter Orange. However, with the exception of the Grammy winning "Nightshift" (#3 in the US, a tribute to Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson) the band never achieved the same level of success it had enjoyed with Richie. Ironically, "Nightshift" earned the Commodores their Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 1985, their only such honour.

The Commodores made a brief appearance in the 1978 film Thank God It's Friday. They performed the song "Too Hot to Trot" during the dance contest; their songs "Brickhouse" and "Easy" were also played during the movie.

The Commodores Performing at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Flordia

Over time, the group's founding members began leaving. McClary left in 1982 (shortly after Richie left) to pursue a solo career and to develop a gospel music company. McClary was replaced by guitarist/vocalist Sheldon Reynolds. LaPread left in 1986 and moved to New Zealandmarker, and Reynolds departed to Earth, Wind & Fire in 1987. Williams exited the band in 1989. The group also gradually abandoned its funk roots and moved into the more commercial pop arena. In 1983, Skyler Jett, replaced Lionel Richie as the lead singer for The Commodores, and toured the world and performed in over 32 countries in a two year span.

In 1985, the group performed two commercial for NBC affiliate WXIA-TVmarker in Atlantamarker, Georgiamarker. The group left Motown the same year for Polydor, and released several additional albums, which were primarily compilations of previous material.

In August 1990 the group made an appearance at Seagulls Rugby League Football Club, on Gollan Drive, West Tweed Heads, in New South Walesmarker, Australia.

Freed from their commitments with Polydor, in August 1992, Commodores Records Entertainment was created to issue future recordings. They have re-recorded Commodores hits and have recorded a live album and a Christmas album.

Today, the Commodores consist of Walter Orange, J.D. Nicholas and William King, along with a backing band. The group continues to perform, selling out concerts around the world. They have been the opening act for Trump casinos and Hard Rock casinos.

Original band personnel

Personal lives

Orange now lives with his family in Florida, and has three children named Paula, Colin and Cody. Since the late 1990s, Orange has also been working in conjunction with the singer-songwriter Craig Deanto, and they have released an album, Who Hears The Cries.

King married the songwriter Shirley Hanna in 1976. Together they have four children, Adam, Ryan Hanna, Leah Hanna and Noah.



Year Album Title US Billboard 200 UK Albums Chart
1974 Machine Gun 138 -
1975 Caught in the Act 26 -
Movin' On 29 -
1976 Hot on the Tracks 12 -
1977 Commodores 3 -
Commodores Live! 3 60
1978 Natural High 3 8
1979 Greatest Hits 23 19
Midnight Magic 3 15
1980 Heroes 7 50
1981 In the Pocket 13 69
1982 Love Songs - 5
1983 All The Great Hits 37 -
Commodores 13 103 -
Commodores Anthology 141 -
1984 All the Great Love Songs - -
1985 Nightshift 12 13
The Very Best of the Commodores - 25
1986 United 101 -
1988 Rock Solid - -
1992 Commodores Christmas - -
1993 No Tricks - -
1995 The Very Best - 26
2003 The Definitive Collection - 10


Year Song US Hot 100 US R&B chart UK Singles Chart Album
1974 "Machine Gun" 22 7 20 Machine Gun
"The Zoo (The Human Zoo)" - - 44
"I Feel Sanctified" 75 12 -
1975 "Slippery When Wet" 19 1 - Caught In The Act
"This Is Your Life" - 13 -
1976 "Sweet Love" 5 2 32 Movin' On
"Just to Be Close to You" 7 1 62 Hot On The Tracks
1977 "Fancy Dancer" 39 9 -
"Easy" 4 1 9 The Commodores
"Brick House" 5 4 32
1978 "Too Hot ta Trot" 24 1 38 The Commodores Live!
"Three Times a Lady" 1 1 1 Natural High
"Flying High" 38 21 37
1979 "Sail On" 4 8 8 Midnight Magic
"Still" 1 1 4
1980 "Wonderland" 25 21 40
"Old-Fashion Love" 20 8 - Heroes
"Heroes" 54 27 -
"Jesus Is Love" - 34 -
1981 "Lady (You Bring Me Up)" 8 5 56 In The Pocket
"Oh No" 4 5 44
1982 "Why You Wanna Try Me" 66 42 -
"Painted Picture" 70 19 - All The Greatest Hits
1983 "Only You" 54 20 - Commodores 13
1985 "Nightshift" 3 1 3 Nightshift
"Animal Instinct" 43 22 74
"Janet" 87 65 -
1986 "Goin' To The Bank" 65 2 43 United
1987 "Take It from Me" - 38 -
"United in Love"

(#22 on the US Adult Contemporary chart)
- - -
1988 "Solitaire" - 51 - Rock Solid

Awards and recognition

The Commodores were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.

See also


  1. - accessed October 2009

External links

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