Teddy Pendergrass Dead At 59; Gamble & Huff Reminisce

Teddy Pendergrass
Teddy Pendergrass

Teddy Pendegrass, former lead singer of Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes has died.

Relatives for Pendegrass, 59, made the announcement late last night (January 13, 2010).

According to reports, Pendergrass was suffering from colon cancer and had a difficult time recovering from the disease after undergoing, surgery almost eight months ago.

“Teddy Pendergrass was one of the greatest artists that the music industry has ever known, and there hasn’t been another one since,” Gamble & Huff told RareSoul.com in a statement today (January 14, 2010). “We’ve lost our voice and we’ve lost our best friend, but we’re thankful for what we had. It was beautiful. He was one of the best.”

Pendergrass had been paralyzed from the waist down since a 1982 car accident.

The Blue Notes were formed as a quartet in North Philadelphia in 1954. Harold Melvin joined the group in 1956 and in 1960, the group set out for success.

They had a minor hit with the single “My Hero,” which featured then lead singer John Atkins showcasing the signature Philadelphia falsetto.

The group could not find a sound as Doo-Wop faded and soul music emerged, so Harold Melvin turned The Blue Notes into a world class show group that played all the top club’s in the world.

Atkins left the group towards the end of the 1960’s which left The Blue Notes without a lead singer. Harold Melvin auditioned his then, 20-year-old drummer Teddy Pendergrass at a hotel in Puerto Rico. He knew he had something, because Pendergrass’ vocals sounded much like The Dells’ lead, Marvin Junior.

Teddy Pendergrass
Teddy Pendergrass

Since The Dells refused to sign with Gamble & Huff, the Philadelphia producers got their hands on Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, with Teddy Pendergrass signing lead vocals.

The first take they attempted to record was “I Miss You,” but Pendergrass couldn’t get the song down until the studio was filled with dozens of female fans.

Over the next four years, the group recorded hit after hit, including now classic’s like “If You Don’t Know Me By Now, “Wake Up Everybody,” “Bad Luck” and “The Love I Lost.”

Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (fea) Teddy Pendergrass – Bad Luck

In 1975, Pendergrass grew enchanted with The Blue Notes. He claimed to be broke, despite being the lead singer on all of the group’s hits and doing most of the studio work as well.

Even though he was in the group, as a singer he was signed as an individual to Philadelphia International Records. After “Wake Up Everybody,” The Blue Notes’ deal with Philadelphia International Records expired, so Pendergrass decided to quit the group.

Teddy Pendergrass – Wake Up Everybody

When Harold Melvin decided it was either he or Pendergrass that stayed with the label, Gamble & Huff decided to go with Teddy Pendergrass and dropped The Blue Notes at the height of their success.

Pendergrass dropped his self-titled debut album Teddy Pendergrass in 1977 and started a successful run of hits over the next five years that included songs like “Love T.K.O.,” “Close The Door,” “Turn Off the Lights” and “The Whole Towns Laughing At Me.”

Teddy Pendergrass
Teddy Pendergrass

In 1982, Pendergrass was paralyzed in an accident that occured in Philadelphia, when his Rolls-Royce hit a guard rail and struck two trees.

Later that year, after the release of Pendergrass’ album This One’s For You, Philadelphia International laid off half of their staff and eventually dropped Teddy Pendergrass from the label. Pendergrass remained upset at monies allegedly owed to him by Philadelphia International.

In 1984, despite his injury, Pendergrass would find success with “Hold Me,” a duet featuring a young singer named Whitney Houston.

Teddy Pendergrass and Whitney Houston – Hold Me In Your Arms

Pendergrass released material consistently until 2006, when he officially retired from singing in 2006.

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