Describing the burned-out remains of their historic “Sound of Philadelphia” offices as “total devastation,” legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame songwriter-producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff held a press conference today to express their outrage and sorrow from seeing the iconic birthplace of Philly Soul Music ravaged early Sunday by a fire termed “suspicious” by officials.
Despite the extensive damage to the third-floor at 309 S. Broad St., where the Philadelphia International Records (PIR) offices and recording studio are located and the fire apparently originated, Gamble & Huff vow to rebuild their home of 40 years, a major tourist attraction where Michael Jackson, Teddy Pendergrass, Patti LaBelle, the O’Jays, Lou Rawls, Chubby Checker and dozens more created worldwide smash hits.
“Ain’t no stoppin’ us now,” said the seminal R&B songwriting team, citing the title of the McFadden & Whitehead classic that was part of the Gamble-Huff/PIR music machine which generated over 100 Gold and Platinum records and over 70 #1 hits, including “Love Train” by the O’Jays, “Me & Mrs. Jones” (Billy Paul), “if You Don’t” Me By Now” (Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes) and “Enjoy Yourself” by the Jacksons.
“Our space has been violated by someone who chose to set fire to it,” said Gamble & Huff in a joint statement. “But what’s most important is that we will build it again and continue to rebuild. Nothing is going to stop us.”
Following a preliminary survey of the monumental brick building, which they first took over in 1970 with legendary producer and songwriter Thom Bell in 1970, Gamble & Huff estimated they have lost approximately 40 percent of the memorabilia that adorned the walls, filled their offices and was kept in storage closets. The losses include numerous Gold and Platinum records and PIR’s personal inventory of CDs by Teddy Pendergrass, Michael Jackson and the Jacksons, Patti LaBelle and Lou Rawls.
“Some of the things we lost in the fire are irreplaceable,” said Gamble & Huff. “We will know better in the days ahead what our total losses will be.”
Gamble & Huff consider it a “blessing” that the third floor recording studio, where countless hit songs were partially created in conjunction with Sigma Sound Studios, appears to have suffered the least damage and may have been completely saved. Its functionality will ultimately be determined by fire officials and PIR technicians.
In recent years, the Philadelphia International Record offices has become a major tourist destination in the City of Philadelphia. From school children to celebrity VIPs, Philadelphia International Records has continually hosted visitors eager to see the historic rooms and hallways where the legendary “Sound of Philadelphia” music was created. The offices and recording studios also have been the site of several film documentaries and television specials and media visits, as well as special receptions, including a recent event honoring Motown founder and friend Berry Gordy. Gamble & Huff also originated their recent radio series on Sirius XM from the third floor recording studios.
As the corporate office for Gamble & Huff, the building has been serving primarily as the source of the vast music catalog’s worldwide licensing. Their music has been featured prominently in television programs (“The Apprentice”), films (“The Nutty Professor”) and advertising spots (Coors, Verizon, Old Navy, The Gap) for more than 30 years, entering the musical DNA of contemporary culture
Prior to the PIR era, this also was the building where Chubby Checker recorded “The Twist” and Dee Dee Sharp recorded “The Mashed Potato” as the home of the legendary Cameo-Parkway record label.
Gamble & Huff are determined to “get to the bottom of this” to find out who was responsible and why this “suspicious” fire broke out in the building that “has been our home for the last 40 years and also has been a refuge for so many other artists and singers. It’s been a tremendous part of our lives.”
“The No. 1 thing that went through our minds as we walked through the facility is that thankfully, no one was hurt. After all the years our building has been there, we’ve never had any problems that come close to this. The devastation is just horrible. It’s unbelievable.