Cheri Ross, daughter of songwriter/producer Jerry Ross, looks on as Kenneth Gamble reads a speech written by her father during the Philadelphia Music Alliance’s 2013 Walk of Fame ceremony, held Oct. 24. Jerry Ross is credited with mentoring Gamble; together they had a hand in writing “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” a 1968 hit for The Supremes and The Temptations. Longtime Philadelphia DJ and event MC Jerry Blavat is at the far left. Next to him is Joe Tarsia, the PMA’s chairman of the board and the founder of the Sigma Sound recording studio. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)
By Chris M. Junior
Philadelphia Music Alliance chairman Joe Tarsia said it best: This was a day to honor “the people behind the scenes” who have contributed to the city’s rich musical heritage.
On Oct. 24, the nonprofit PMA presented nine new replica Walk of Fame plaques during an induction ceremony held at the DoubleTree hotel on South Broad Street. (The actual bronze plaques will be installed in the near future.)
The 2013 honorees were MFSB, the Salsoul Orchestra, John Davis and the Monster Orchestra, Vincent Montana Jr., Gene Shay, Joel Dorn, John Madara & David White, Jerry Ross and Peter Richard Conte.
Prior to the outdoor induction ceremony, the honorees and other notable Philadelphia music figures participated in an indoor press conference, during which they shared memories and offered thanks.
Unexpected drama developed when Philadelphia International Records cofounder Kenneth Gamble (who later inducted Ross) referenced a recent news article in which certain musicians who played on his label’s recordings claimed they didn’t get enough credit for their efforts.
One of those musicians, MFSB drummer Earl Young (who also played with the Salsoul Orchestra), interrupted Gamble and asked for a chance to reply. Young said he never really heard Gamble or PIR partner Leon Huff say MFSB was part of the extended family.
The quick-reacting Tarsia — whose Sigma Sound recording studio was frequented in the 1970s by the songwriting/production tandem of Gamble and Huff, as well as Young — managed to steer the potential confrontation back to a celebration.
“We’re here to embrace everybody,” Tarsia said. “What [Gamble and Huff] did was a unifier. They didn’t care what you were if you could play, and I respect that.”
Afterward, White spoke to Goldmine about the upcoming film called “At the Hop,” named after the hit he and Madara wrote (along with Artie Singer) for Danny and the Juniors.
Based on a story by Madara, White and screenwriter Michael Killeen, the movie will be “a dramatic portrayal of the ’50s, when rock ’n’ roll was born,” according to White.
“It’s fictional,” White added, “but it’s based on our experiences in Philadelphia.” He anticipates filming to begin within the next six months.
John Madara (left) and David White wrote hits for Danny and the Juniors (“At the Hop”), Chubby Checker (“The Fly”) and Lesley Gore (“You Don’t Own Me”). A fictional film based on their experiences in Philadelphia, titled “At the Hop,” is in the works, according to White. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)
Leon Huff (front left) and Kenneth Gamble take in the Walk of Fame ceremony outside the DoubleTree hotel on South Broad Street. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)
The children of Vincent Montana Jr. speak on behalf of their father, who died in April at age 85. During his multifaceted career, Montana helped set up the legendary Sigma Sound recording studio, owned by engineer Joe Tarsia (at right). In addition, Montana played the vibraphones as part of MFSB and was the conductor for the Salsoul Orchestra. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)
Drummer Earl Young speaks on behalf of the Salsoul Orchestra, which scored such national chart hits in the 1970s as “Tangerine” and “Nice ‘N’ Naasty.” (Photo by Chris M. Junior)
WXPN-FM’s Gene Shay, who produces a weekly folk show for the station, holds his replica Walk of Fame plaque. With him are colleagues David Dye, Helen Leicht and Michaela Majoun. As a promoter, Shay was the first to bring Bob Dylan to Philadelphia. Shay is also the founder of the Philadelphia Folk Festival. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)
Kenneth Gamble is flanked by MFSB musicians Bobby Eli (left) and Charles Collins. As the house band for Philadelphia International Records, MFSB played on hits by The O’Jays and Billy Paul, among others. In addition, MFSB also did sessions for non-PIR acts who recorded in Philadelphia, such as The Stylistics and The Spinners. (Photo by Chris M. Junior)