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lucked out


[kom-uh-dawr, -dohr]
The Commodores were a highly successful funk/soul band of the 1970s and 1980s. The members of the group met as freshmen at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1968, and signed with Motown in November 1972, having first caught the public eye opening for The Jackson 5 while on tour.


This group is perhaps best known for its ballads, such as "Easy" and "Three Times a Lady", but, for the most part, the group mainly recorded funky, driven dance-floor hits which include "Brick House", "Say Yeah", "Fancy Dancer", and "Too Hot Ta Trot", among others.

Lionel Richie's "Oh No" is highlighted in the movie The Last American Virgin, and reached #4 on the U.S. charts. "Machine Gun", the instrumental title track from the band's debut album, became a staple at American sporting events, and is similarly featured in many films, including Boogie Nights and Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Another instrumental, "Cebu" (named after an island in the Philippines), later became a staple in the Quiet Storm format. Three albums released in years 1975 and 1976 (Caught in the Act, Movin' On, Hot On The Tracks) are considered the peak of their harder funk period. After those recordings the group started to move towards softer sound.

The Commodores originally called themselves the Jays, but had to change their name because of the similarly named O'Jays. To choose a new name William King opened a dictionary and randomly picked a word. "We lucked out," he remarked with a laugh when telling this story to People Weekly Magazine. "We almost became The Commodes!"

Many of their hit tunes were written or co-written by the original co-founder of the Commodores, Walter "Clyde" Orange, the original lead singer before Lionel Ritchie came on board. Lionel and Clyde alternated as lead singers. Clyde was also the lead singer on Nightshift and Brickhouse among others. Clyde now lives with his family in Coral Springs, Florida.

Band members typically alternated lead vocal duties. After Richie left to pursue a solo career, former Heatwave singer J.D. Nicholas assumed co-lead vocal duties with drummer Walter "Clyde" Orange. However, with the exception of the Grammy-winning "Nightshift" (a tribute to Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson) the band never achieved the same level of success it had enjoyed with Richie. Ironically, "Nightshift" won The Commodores their only Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals.

Over time, the group's founding members began leaving. McClary left in 1982 (shortly after Richie left) to pursue a solo career and to develop a gospel music company. McClary was replaced by guitarist/vocalist Sheldon Reynolds. Ronald LaPread left in 1986 and moved to New Zealand, and Reynolds departed for Earth, Wind and Fire in 1987. Milan Williams exited the band in 1989. The group also gradually abandoned its funk roots and moved into the more commercial pop arena.

In 1985, the group performed two commercials for NBC affiliate WXIA in Atlanta, Georgia. The group left Motown in 1986 for Polydor, and released several additional albums, which are primarily compilations of previous material.

Today, the Commodores consist of Orange, King, and Nicholas. They have re-recorded Commodores hits and have recorded a live album and a Christmas album.

Since the late 1990s, Orange has also been working in conjunction with singer/songwriter Craig Deanto. The group continues to be a sell-out, performing fifty concerts annually around the world. They have the opening act for TRUMP casinos and Hard Rock casinos. Their group record sales have only been exceeded by the Beatles.

Original band personnel

Album discography


Year Song U.S. Hot 100 U.S. R&B chart UK singles Album
1974 "Machine Gun" 22 7 20 Machine Gun
"The Zoo (The Human Zoo)" - - 44
"I Feel Sanctified" 75 12 -
1975 "Slippery When Wet" 19 1 - Caught In The Act
1976 "Sweet Love" 5 2 32 Movin' On
"Just to Be Close to You" 7 1 62 Hot On The Tracks
1977 "Fancy Dancer" 39 9 -
"Easy" 4 1 9 The Commodores
"Brick House" 5 4 32
1978 "Too Hot ta Trot" 24 1 38 The Commodores Live!
"Three Times a Lady" 1 1 1 Natural High
"Flying High" 38 21 37
1979 "Sail On" 4 8 8 Midnight Magic
"Still " 1 1 4
1980 "Wonderland" 25 21 40
"Old-Fashion Love" 20 8 - Heroes
"Heroes" 54 27 -
1981 "Lady (You Bring Me Up)" 8 5 56 In The Pocket
"Oh No" 4 5 44
1982 "Why You Wanna Try Me" 66 42 -
"Painted Picture" 70 19 - All The Greatest Hits
1983 "Only You" 54 20 - Commodores 13
1985 "Nightshift" 3 1 3 Nightshift
"Animal Instinct" 43 22 74
"Janet" 87 65 -
1986 "Goin' To The Bank" 65 2 43 United
1987 "Take It from Me" - 38
"United in Love" (hit on AC charts) - ?
1988 "Solitaire" - 51 Rock Solid

Awards and recognition

The Commodores were inducted into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.

External links

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