Renowned for the R&B hits "Just to Be Close to You," "Easy," and "Brickhouse," to name but a few, the Commodores were one of the top bands during their long tenure at Motown. The group is credited with seven number one songs and a host of other Top Ten hits on the Billboard charts, and their vast catalog includes more than 50 albums.
The members of the Commodores, all of whom attended Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, came together as a result of two groups disbanding: the Mystics and the Jays. Initially formed to simply play music as a pastime and to meet girls, the lineup consisted of William King (trumpet), Thomas McClary (guitar), Ronald LaPread (bass), Walter "Clyde" Orange (drums), Lionel Richie (saxophone), and Milan Williams (keyboards). The members nearly went stir-crazy trying to pick a name for the group, but with no success. As a last resort, Orange gave King a dictionary and told him to pick a name -- that name was the Commodores. With Clyde Orange the only learned musician in the group, the Commodores began spreading their music throughout their base, which included Tuskegee, Montgomery, and Birmingham, AL.
After success securing dates in their own backyard, the band ventured to New York City for a gig at Smalls Paradise. Told, in so many words by the club owner, that their sound was not happening, the self-contained band was nevertheless called back to the club to fill in for a last-minute cancellation. That night the Tuskegee alumni performed before a standing-room-only crowd -- most of which were friends and family of the band. Unaware of the planned crowd, the owner booked the band for two more weeks.
The Commodores' long association with Motown began as a result of a tour opening for the Jackson 5. That opportunity occurred in 1971, when the group auditioned in New York City for an unknown yet high-profile gig. Two weeks later, they made their first appearance in the prized support slot, and didn't give it up for more than two years. Their excellent shows naturally led to a deal with Motown, and they debuted with the up-tempo instrumental dance cut "Machine Gun." Written by Milan Williams, its Top Ten outing gave the group immediate attention. It was followed by the Top 20 single "I Feel Sanctified," which led to their third single -- and first number one record -- in "Slippery When Wet." Inside of 17 weeks, the septet was rocking the airwaves with their brand of Southern funk, spiced with an animated vocal delivery courtesy of Lionel Richie and Clyde Orange.
In September of 1976, they released "Just to Be Close to You," their second number one single and a number seven pop hit. The Top Ten hit "Fancy Dancer" followed, and then came "Easy." Different from their other tunes, "Easy" was very serene and not nearly as soulful or funky as the band's other tunes. Nonetheless, it claimed the number one spot on the charts, and it paved the way for the style of ballads the group became known for. One exception to the ballad-heavy approach was "Brickhouse," the song that soon became the group's anthem. The arrangement and candid vocal lead by Clyde Orange was complemented by the evenly saturated percussive and rhythmic attack, and it cracked the Top Ten at number four. Two consecutive number one singles would follow: the dance cut "Too Hot ta Trot" and the placid number "Three Times a Lady." And then there was "Still," the last number one for the group with Richie as a member. In 1981, Richie recorded "Endless Love" with Diana Ross. The song peaked at number one for seven and nine weeks, respectively, on the Billboard R&B and pop charts. Its success was a prelude to what Richie enjoyed upon his 1982 exit from the group.
In the absence of Richie, the group promptly courted tenor J.D. Nicholas (formerly of Heatwave) and ended up recording their biggest hit. Penned by Clyde Orange, "Nightshift" paid tribute to the late soul singers Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson. For four consecutive weeks it topped the charts, and it also won the group their only Grammy.
The Commodores finally left Motown in 1985. Consequently, the group signed with Polydor the same year and had another swing at the Top Ten with "Goin' to the Bank." During the '90s, the band was reduced to a core of three: Orange, King, and Nicholas. The threesome were nearly as active as they'd ever been, performing around the world and managing their own label, Commodore Records.
01. Machine Gun 02. Young Girls Are My Weakness 03. I Feel Sanctified 04. The Bump 05. Rapid Fire 06. The Assembly Line 07. The Zoo (The Human Zoo) 08. Gonna Blow Your Mind 09. There's A Song In My Heart 10. Superman
01. Wide Open 02. Slippery When Wet 03. The Bump 04. I'm Ready 05. This Is Your Life 06. Let's Do It Right 07. Better Never Than Forever 08. Look What You've Done To Me 09. You Don't Know That I Know 10. Wide Open (Reprise)
01. Let's Get Started 02. Girl, I Think The World About 03. High On Sunshine 04. Just To Be Close To You 05. Fancy Dancer 06. Come Inside 07. Thumpin' Music 08. Captain Quickdraw 09. Can't Let You Tease Me
01. Won't You Come Dance With Me 02. Slippery When Wet 03. Come Inside 04. Just Be Close To You 05. Funny Feelings 06. Fancy Dancer 07. Sweet Love 08. Zoom 09. Easy 10. I Feel Sanctified 11. Brick House 12. Too Hot Ta Trot
01. Sweet Love 02. Just to Be Close to You 03. Easy 04. Three Times a Lady 05. Say Yeah 06. Still 07. Lovin' You 08. Sail On 09. Old-Fashion Love 10. Jesus Is Love 11. Lady (You Bring Me Up) 12. Oh No 13. This Love 14. Lucy
01. Goin' to the Bank 02. Take It from Me 03. United in Love 04. Can't Dance All Night 05. You're the Only Women I Need 06. Land of the Dreamer 07. Talk to Me 08. I Wanna Rock You 09. Let's Apologize 10. Serious Love
01. Easy 02. 3 Times a Lady 03. Nightshift 04. Brick House 05. Machine Gun 06. Zoom 07. Old Fashion Love 08. Sail On 09. Lady You Bring Me Up 10. Oh No 11. Too Hot Ta Trot 12. The Zoo (The Human Zoo) 13. Still 14. Sweet Love 15. Janet 16. Flying High 17. Only You 18. Animal Instinct 19. Just To Be Close To You 20. Wonderland
01. Let's Get Started 02. Machine Gun 03. The Zoo (The Human Zoo) 04. Are You Happy 05. Don't You Be Worried 06. Slippery When Wet 07. I Feel Sanctified 08. Young Girls Are My Weakness 09. The Bump 10. This Is Your Life 11. Sweet Love 12. Just to Be Close to You 13. Easy 14. High on Sunshine 15. Fancy Dancer 16. Cebu 17. Zoom 18. Brick House 19. Too Hot Ta Trot 20. Three Times a Lady 21. I Like What You Do
01. Flying High 02. Still 03. Sail On 04. Wonderland 05. Old-Fashioned Love 06. Heroes 07. Jesus Is Love 08. Lady (You Bring Me Up) 09. Oh No 10. Why You Wanna Try Me 11. Painted Picture 12. Only You 13. Reach High 14. Turn off the Lights 15. Nightshift 16. Animal Instinct 17. Janet 18. Goin' to the Bank
01. Machine Gun 02. I Feel Sanctified 03. Are You Happy 04. The Bump 05. Slippery When Wet 06. This Is Your Life 07. Gimme My Mule 08. Sweet Love 09. Cebu 10. Fancy Dancer 11. High On Sunshine 12. Just To Be Close To You 13. Brick House 14. Zoom 15. Easy
01. Come Inside - Live 02. Too Hot Ta Trot 03. Flying High 04. Say Yeah 05. Three Times A Lady 06. Sail On 07. Still 08. Old-Fashioned Love 09. Heroes 10. Jesus Is Love 11. Lady (You Bring Me Up) 12. Oh No 13. Painted Picture 14. Lay Back 15. Nightshift