Gamble and Huff

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Gamble (left) and Huff (right), 1995 Kenny Gamble Leon Huff.jpg
Gamble (left) and Huff (right), 1995

Kenneth Gamble (born August 11, 1943, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) [1] and Leon A. Huff (born April 8, 1942, Camden, New Jersey) [2] are an American songwriting and production team credited for developing the Philadelphia soul music genre (also known as Philly sound) of the 1970s. In addition to forming their own label, Philadelphia International Records, Gamble and Huff have written and produced 175 gold and platinum records, earning them an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the non-performer category [3] in March 2008.



Early years

Gamble's childhood in Philadelphia shaped his adult life: he recorded himself on various arcade recording machines, assisted the morning show DJs on WDAS, operated a record store, and sang with The Romeos. In 1964, before there was "Gamble & Huff" there was "Gamble & Ross." Gamble was discovered and managed by Jerry Ross when Gamble was only 17 years old and they collaborated for many years. Gamble teamed up with Leon Huff (keyboards) for the first time on a recording for Candy & The Kisses. Ross then signed Gamble to Columbia Records in 1963 as a solo recording artist, releasing "You Don't Know What You Got Until You Lose It". Gamble & Ross & Huff collaborated on the hit song "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me", originally recorded by Jay & The Techniques, who were a Jerry Ross group, and later covered by Dee Dee Warwick and later by Diana Ross & The Supremes and The Temptations. [4]

In 1967 they produced their first Top 5 hit: "Expressway to Your Heart" by The Soul Survivors. [5] In the spring of 1968, for their own Gamble Records label, they wrote and produced the top 10 hit "Cowboys to Girls" for the Philadelphia group the Intruders. They subsequently worked with Atlantic Records artists Archie Bell & the Drells, Wilson Pickett, Dusty Springfield, and The Sweet Inspirations, [6] as well as with Mercury artists Jerry Butler and Dee Dee Warwick, scoring numerous hits along the way. [7]

Philadelphia International

With a solid track record now behind them, Gamble and Huff formed Philadelphia International Records in 1971 as a rival to Berry Gordy and Motown. They originally approached Atlantic Records, which passed on the deal as being too expensive. CBS Records, headed at the time by Clive Davis, backed the venture and distributed Philadelphia International's records. Aided and abetted by in-house arrangers Thom Bell, Bobby Martin, [8] [9] and Norman Harris, Philadelphia International released a number of the most popular soul music hits of the 1970s, including "If You Don't Know Me by Now" by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, "Back Stabbers", "For the Love of Money", and "Love Train" by The O'Jays, as well as the Grammy-winning "Me and Mrs. Jones" by Billy Paul. According to an interview on BBC Radio 4 on June 28, 2006, Gamble and Huff were inspired to write "Me and Mrs. Jones" after seeing someone they knew who appeared to be involved in an affair, meeting a woman in a cafe frequented by the songwriters. In collaboration with Bell, Gamble and Huff also formed the music publisher Mighty Three Music.

Gamble and Huff's Philadelphia soul sound evolved from the simpler arrangements of the late-1960s into a style featuring lush strings, thumping basslines, and sliding hi-hat rhythms—elements that soon became the distinguishing characteristics of a new style of music called disco. By 1975, Philadelphia International and the Philadelphia soul genre it helped define had largely eclipsed Motown and the Motown Sound in popularity, and Gamble and Huff were the premiere producers of soul.

Nearly all of the Philadelphia International records featured the work of the label's in-house band of studio musicians, MFSB (Mother Father Sister Brother). MFSB cut a number of successful instrumental albums and singles written and produced by the Gamble & Huff team and arranged by Bobby Martin including the 1974 number-one hit "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)", now best known as the theme song from the American television show Soul Train.

Political activism

Throughout the 1970s, Gamble and Huff made music that addressed political and social issues faced by the African American community. Many of their songs articulated the theme of black pride and highlighted the Black Power Movement's struggle for power and self-determination. Representative examples include Billy Paul's "Am I Black Enough for You?" (1972), the O'Jays' "Give the People What They Want" (1975), and the star-studded "Let's Clean Up the Ghetto" (1977), the latter of which was the title track from an album that characterized Philadelphia International's broader political and social designs. Scholar James B. Stewart wrote of the album and initiative: "The record company's ability to mount this type of community empowerment venture, while functioning essentially as a component of CBS's black music department, is an interesting contrast to the more traditional style of corporate control of lyrical content ... The title song ... implores listeners to participate in a physical clean up effort 'because the ghetto is our home.' The titles of several of the other songs on the album convey the album's broader thrust including, 'Now Is the Time to Do It,' 'Year of Decision,' 'New Day, New World Comin',' and 'Save the Children.'" [10] The album cover prominently displayed Gamble's message: "The only way we can clean up the physical ghetto is to first clean up the mental ghetto. With the help of almighty God, we will be able to turn this community into a positive system. Our first step is cleanliness, 'cause it's the closest thing to godliness." The album jacket also noted that all profits from the LP would be donated to charity for five years.

Gamble's "Clean Up The Ghetto" project, which involves the youth of blighted communities to help clean-up and repair damaged or neglected properties, started in Philadelphia, and has spread to Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago with similar events being held throughout the country. Gamble has also contributed his time and energy to the T. J. Martell Foundation and The AMC Cancer Research Center and Hospital. He has served on the board of directors for the Philadelphia Music Foundation, which honors the artists, songwriters, and producers from Philadelphia. He founded the organization Universal Companies which has opened a restaurant, a bookstore, a mosque, low-income housing, and several charter schools. These buildings, mostly built by locally hired labor, have served as springboards to revitalizing neighborhoods. For example, in 2003 Gamble and Universal Companies partnered with others for a $100 million plan to construct and renovate 400 homes in south Philadelphia. [11]

Later years

In 1975, Philadelphia International became involved in a payola-related scandal; Gamble was fined and Huff was not. By the late 1970s, however, the popularity of the Philadelphia soul sound began to decline. Disco had suffered a backlash, R&B was going back toward the ballad, and rock had returned to the American charts. Still, the label had its share of late 1970s success. Among the later hits were "Enjoy Yourself" by The Jacksons in 1976, and "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" by McFadden & Whitehead in 1979. One song they wrote, called "My Mood" was adopted in 1980 as the close of WRC's Friday Night 6pm newscasts. As of 2018, WRC was still using this music.

In 1982, Philadelphia International's biggest star, former Blue Notes singer Teddy Pendergrass, became paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident, and the future of the label came to be in doubt. That year, Philadelphia broke its ties with CBS and made a new deal with EMI. Although the hits had by now dried up, Gamble and Huff continued to write and produce for the label's artists.

1990 finally saw Gamble and Huff recognized with a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song, awarded for Simply Red's cover of the Blue Notes' 1972 hit "If You Don't Know Me By Now". Also in 1990, Mighty Three Music was acquired by Warner Chappell Music. [12] In 1999, Gamble and Huff were honored with the Grammy Trustees Award, joining musical luminaries like Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, and Walt Disney. Their career output of over 3,000 songs places them among the most prolific professional songwriters of all time.

Today,[ when? ] Kenneth Gamble continues to write, often with Leon Huff, and Philadelphia International continues. He still lives in South Philadelphia, and remains active in his community. Gamble owns the shuttered Royal Theater and surrounding properties.

On September 19, 2005, Gamble and Huff were inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame for their outstanding achievements as producers at a ceremony held in New York City. [13] [14]

In 2008, Gamble and Huff were the first recipients of the newly created "Ahmet Ertegün Award" by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The award replaces the former "non-performer" inductee category. [3] On May 20, 2009, Gamble & Huff were named BMI Icons at the 57th annual BMI Pop Awards. Together, the duo has collected an astounding 86 BMI Pop and R&B Awards. [15]

In May 2010, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff were each awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music. The ceremony was held at Boston University's Agganis Arena, where the songwriting duo gave the commencement address. [16]

On March 16, 2012, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an obituary for Ruby Gamble, the 96-year-old mother of Gamble, in which he attributes his success to her influence.

"Our mother was extremely special," Kenny Gamble said. "She was the kindest person in our lives. More importantly, she was the inspiration for everything I have done in life, including creating the wonderful music that others have enjoyed around the world." "As the matriarch of the family, she was a spiritual person who devoted her life as one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Her kindness and peacefulness will never be forgotten." [17]

In April 2014 Gamble & Huff was presented a tribute by TV One on their award show "The Trumpet Awards" which was the 22nd Annual Awards ceremony. Joe, Carl Thomas, Lyfe Jennings, SWV, & Billy Paul performed songs for the tribute. SWV performed "If Only You Knew"; with their lead singer Coko singing lead on the song. The song is one of Gamble & Huff's biggest hits produced.


Leon Huff has a son, Leon Huff Jr., who produces for the elite record companies of today, as well, working with notable artists such as 8Ball & MJG, Beanie Sigel & State Property, Ruff Ryders, Lil’ Bow Wow, and more. Leon Huff Jr. goes by the stage name Pop Traxx, and he is the owner of the luxury HDE Studios in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Studio albums produced

1967 The Intruders Are Together The Intruders
1968 Cowboys To Girls The Intruders
1968 The Ice Man Cometh
(non-PIR album)
Jerry Butler
1970 A Brand New Me
(non-PIR album)
Dusty Springfield
When We Get Married The Intruders
Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia
(non-PIR album)
Wilson Pickett
Now I'm a Woman
(non-PIR album)
Nancy Wilson
1971 Gonna Take a Miracle
(non-PIR album)
Laura Nyro and Labelle
1972 I Miss You Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
Drowning in the Sea of Love
(non-PIR album)
Joe Simon
Back Stabbers The O'Jays
360 Degrees Of Billy Paul Billy Paul
1973 Ship Ahoy The O'Jays
Love Is The Message MFSB
The Sound Of Philadelphia '73 Various Artists
Black & Blue Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
1975 Dance Your Troubles Away Archie Bell & the Drells
Wake Up Everybody Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
To Be True Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
Universal Love MFSB
Philadelphia Freedom MFSB
Survival The O'Jays
Family Reunion The O'Jays
1976 We Got the Rhythm People's Choice
Message in the Music The O'Jays
All Things in Time Lou Rawls
Jean Carn Jean Carn
The Jacksons The Jacksons
1977 Goin' Places The Jacksons
Travelin' at the Speed of Thought The O'Jays
Teddy Pendergrass Teddy Pendergrass
Unmistakably Lou Lou Rawls
When You Hear Lou, You've Heard It All Lou Rawls
1978 So Full of Love The O'Jays
Life Is a Song Worth Singing Teddy Pendergrass
1979 Identify Yourself The O'Jays
Teddy Teddy Pendergrass
Let Me Be Good to You Lou Rawls
Live! Coast to Coast Teddy Pendergrass
1980The Year 2000 The O'Jays
TP Teddy Pendergrass
Sit Down and Talk to Me Lou Rawls
1981 Get as Much Love as You Can The Jones Girls
The Spirit's in It Patti LaBelle
1983 I'm in Love Again Patti LaBelle
1984Keep It Comin' The Jones Girls

Singles produced

"Expressway to Your Heart" The Soul Survivors
"Cowboys to Girls" The Intruders
"I Can't Stop Dancing" Archie Bell & the Drells
"Only the Strong Survive" Jerry Butler
"I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" Dee Dee Warwick
(later covered by Diana Ross & the Supremes and The Temptations)
"One Night Affair" Jerry Butler
"(We'll Be) United" The Intruders
"A Brand New Me" Dusty Springfield
"Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You" Wilson Pickett
"Silly, Silly Fool" Dusty Springfield
"Slow Motion"Johnny Williams
"Me and Mrs. Jones" Billy Paul
"Regina" Bunny Sigler
"The Bells" Laura Nyro and Labelle
"Drowning in the Sea of Love" Joe Simon
"If You Don't Know Me by Now" Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes / Simply Red
"992 Arguments" The O'Jays
"You're the Reason Why"The Ebonys
"I Miss You" Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
"When the World's at Peace" The O'Jays
"That's How Long I'll Be Loving You" Bunny Sigler
"Back Stabbers" The O'Jays
"Love Train" The O'Jays
(later covered by Bunny Sigler)
"The Love I Lost" Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
"Now That We Found Love" The O'Jays
"Yesterday I Had the Blues" Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
"I'll Always Love My Mama" The Intruders
"For the Love of Money" The O'Jays
"Bad Luck" Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
"Don't Call Me Brother" The O'Jays
"Zach's Fanfare (I Hear Music)" MFSB
"Love Is the Message" MFSB
"Am I Black Enough for You" Billy Paul
"Sunshine" The O'Jays
"When Will I See You Again" The Three Degrees
"Livin' For the Weekend" The O'Jays
"Wake Up Everybody" Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
"Enjoy Yourself" The Jacksons
"I Could Dance All Night" Archie Bell & the Drells
"I Love Music" The O'Jays
"Love Epidemic" The Trammps
"Stairway to Heaven" The O'Jays
"Show You the Way to Go" The Jacksons
"Do It Any Way You Wanna" People's Choice
"My One and Only Love" MFSB
"Rich Get Richer" The O'Jays
"Hope That We Can Be Together Soon" Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
"Ooh Child" Dee Dee Sharp

Related Research Articles

Philadelphia soul, sometimes called Philly soul, the Philadelphia sound, Phillysound, or TSOP, is a genre of late 1960s–1970s soul music characterized by funk influences and lush instrumental arrangements, often featuring sweeping strings and piercing horns. The genre laid the groundwork for disco by fusing the R&B rhythm sections of the 1960s with the pop vocal tradition, and featuring a slightly more pronounced jazz influence in its melodic structures and arrangements. Fred Wesley, the trombonist of the James Brown band and Parliament-Funkadelic, described the signature deep but orchestrated sound as "putting the bow tie on funk."

MFSB, officially standing for "Mother Father Sister Brother", was a pool of more than 30 studio musicians based at Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound Studios. They worked closely with the production team of Gamble and Huff and producer/arranger Thom Bell, and backed up such groups as Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the O’Jays, the Stylistics, the Spinners, Wilson Pickett, and Billy Paul.

Thomas Randolph Bell is a Jamaican-born American singer, songwriter, arranger, and record producer, known as one of the creators of Philadelphia soul in the 1970s. Bell is best known for his success with the Philadelphia sound in the 1970s, particularly with the Delfonics, Stylistics and Spinners. In June 2006, Bell was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2016, Bell was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.

Linda Diane Creed, also known by her married name Linda Epstein, was an American singer-songwriter and lyricist who teamed up with songwriter-producer Thom Bell to produce some of the most successful Philadelphia soul groups of the 1970s.

Philadelphia International Records (PIR) was an American record label that is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1971 by the songwriting and production duo, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, along with their long time collaborator Thom Bell. It was known for showcasing the Philadelphia soul music genre that was founded on the gospel, doo-wop, and soul music of the time. This 'Philly Soul' sound later became a prominent and distinct era within the R&B genre itself. During the 1970s, the label released a string of worldwide hits which emphasized lavish orchestral instrumentation, heavy bass, and driving percussion.

The Intruders (band)

The Intruders are an American soul music group most popular in the 1960s and 1970s. As one of the first groups to have hit songs under the direction of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, they were a major influence on the development of Philadelphia soul. The Intruders are also noted for having 24 R&B chart hits, including 6 R&B Top Tens, and 14 chart hits in the Billboard Hot 100, including their signature song, the million-selling Top 10 smash, "Cowboys to Girls." Other hits include the Top 10 R&B smashes "(Love Is Like A) Baseball Game", "Together", "I'll Always Love My Mama", "United", and "I Wanna Know Your Name". The original members, all natives of Philadelphia, were Samuel "Little Sonny" Brown, Eugene "Bird" Daughtry, Phil Terry, and Robert "Big Sonny Edwards.

Billy Paul

Paul Williams, known professionally as Billy Paul, was a Grammy Award-winning American soul singer, known for his 1972 No. 1 single "Me and Mrs. Jones", as well as the 1973 album and single War of the Gods, which blends his more conventional pop, soul, and funk styles with electronic and psychedelic influences.

<i>The Jacksons</i> (album) 1976 studio album by the Jacksons

The Jacksons is the eleventh studio album by the Jacksons, the band's first album for CBS and under the name "the Jacksons," following their seven-year tenure at Motown as "the Jackson 5". Jackson 5 member Jermaine Jackson stayed with Motown when his brothers broke their contracts and left for Epic, and he was replaced by youngest Jackson brother Randy. The album was released in 1976 for Epic Records and Philadelphia International Records as a joint venture.

Dee Dee Sharp is an American R&B singer, who began her career recording as a backing vocalist in 1961.

Soul Survivors (band)

The Soul Survivors are an American, Philadelphia-based, soul and R&B group, founded by New York natives Richie and Charlie Ingui along with Kenny Jeremiah. The Soul Survivors are known for their 1967 hit single "Expressway to Your Heart", which was the first hit by Philadelphia soul record producers and songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The Soul Survivors are still performing and recording new music and covers, most recently working with David Uosikkinen of The Hooters and his project "In the Pocket" which is paying tribute to the vast catalog of music created in Philadelphia.

Walter "Bunny" Sigler was an American R&B singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer who did extensive work with the team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, and was instrumental in creating the "Philly Sound" in the early 1970s.

For the Love of Money 1973 single by The OJays

"For the Love of Money" is a soul/funk song that was written and composed by Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff, and Anthony Jackson; it was recorded by Philadelphia soul group The O'Jays for the album Ship Ahoy. Produced by Gamble and Huff for Philadelphia International Records, "For the Love of Money" was issued as a single in late 1973, with "People Keep Tellin' Me" as its B-side. The single peaked at number three on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart, and at No. 9 on Billboard's Pop Singles chart in spring 1974. Though the album version of the song was over seven minutes long, it received substantial radio airplay. The song's title comes from a well-known Bible verse, 1 Timothy 6:10: "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." The song was also used as the opening theme song for NBC’s The Apprentice.

Jean Carn

Jean Carn, also spelled Jean Carne is an American jazz and pop singer. In mid career, she added a final e to her name. Carn is a vocalist credited with a five octave vocal range. She began her recording career with her then-husband, pianist Doug Carn, for Black Jazz Records. Carn has worked with some of the most prolific soul artists, producers and songwriters over the years, including Dizzy Gillespie, Norman Connors, The Temptations, Glenn Jones, Phyllis Hyman, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff.

<i>The Three Degrees Live</i> 1976 live album by The Three Degrees

The Three Degrees Live is a 1976 live album by Philadelphia-based female vocal trio The Three Degrees who scored major international success with 'When Will I See You Again?'. The album charted at #34 in the US R&B Album chart and at #199 in the Billboard Top 200.

<i>Identify Yourself</i> 1979 studio album by The OJays

Identify Yourself is a 1979 album by American R&B group The O'Jays, released on the Philadelphia International Records label. It was recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, with four tracks produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, three by group members Eddie Levert and Walter Williams and one by the esteemed Philadelphia producer and composer Thom Bell.

<i>Going East</i> 1971 studio album by Billy Paul

Going East is an album by soul singer Billy Paul. The album was arranged by Bobby Martin, Lenny Pakula and Thom Bell.

<i>360 Degrees of Billy Paul</i> 1972 studio album by Billy Paul

360 Degrees of Billy Paul is an album by soul singer Billy Paul. It was produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and arranged by Bobby Martin, Lenny Pakula and Norman Harris. Released in 1972, it includes the Grammy Award-winning number 1 pop and soul single "Me and Mrs. Jones" and its follow-up "Am I Black Enough for You?" which reached number 29 on the soul chart and number 79 on the pop chart. The album was expanded and remastered by Big Break Records for compact disc in 2012 with three bonus tracks, new liner notes by Andy Kellman, and new quotes from Billy Paul.

<i>War of the Gods</i> (album) 1973 studio album by Billy Paul

War of the Gods is an album by soul singer Billy Paul. The album was produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and arranged by Bobby Martin and Lenny Pakula. Released in 1973, the album reached number 12 on the Billboard soul chart and number 110 on the pop chart. The single "Thanks for Saving My Life" was a top 40 hit, reaching number 37 on the pop chart and was a top-10 soul record reaching number 9. In 2012, Big Break Records remastered and reissued the album on CD with bonus tracks and new liner notes.

Jerry Jan Ross was an American songwriter, A&R man, record producer, and record label owner. As a writer, his greatest success was with "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," which he co-wrote with his protégé Kenny Gamble. His greatest successes as a producer include "Sunny" by Bobby Hebb, and "Venus" by Shocking Blue. Jerry produced The Mob on their self-titled first album in 1970.

Cary Grant Gilbert was an American lyricist who wrote songs with Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff at Philadelphia International Records in the 1970s. Among the songs he co-wrote are the international #1 hits "Me and Mrs. Jones" and "Don't Leave Me This Way."


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