A Taste of Honey was the name of an American recording act formed in 1971 by associates Perry Kibble and Donald Ray Johnson. They later went on to score one of the biggest hits of the disco era. After their popularity waned in the early 1980s Johnson went on to record as a solo artist and release the album One Taste Of Honey which produced numerous minor hits. In 2004, Payne and (Janice) Johnson reunited for the first time in over 20 years to perform on the PBS specials Get Down Tonight: The Disco Explosion and My Music: Funky Soul Superstars.
Two ladies up front singing and playing bass and guitar, this innovation was unheard of in its time. Nonetheless, it created a whole wave of female bass and guitar players. Kibble had been the bassist in the band, which meant that he had to switch to keyboards. Learning a new instrument was nothing new to Kibble, he had already switched mid-way through a band tour in the late sixties from saxophone to bass. When the bass player dropped out of the band, Kibble took two weeks to practice each of the tunes just so that he could stay on the road. Johnson, who was already playing bass when she met Perry, gives him credit for teaching her the fundamentals of playing bass. In fact, Janice states that she learned more about bass from Perry than all of her other teachers combined. Perry had a way of helping the ladies to improve their musicianship, which proved to be important when they were being considered for a record deal.
The group began to tighten their sound over a period of six years prior to being "discovered" by Capitol Records. Hitting major cities outside of Los Angeles (especially discos as these started to appear), they also began doing USO tours, with spots in Spain, Morocco, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Alaska and returning several times to Japan. After one evening of failing to enthuse a particularly tough military crowd, Johnson announced, "If you think that you're too cool to boogie, we've got news for you! Everyone here tonight is going to boogie, and you're no exception to the rule." Thinking the line would make great lyrics, Johnson wrote it down that night, while Kibble discovered a funky bass line, which was to be the driving force behind the 1978 disco hit Boogie Oogie Oogie. The group knew they were on to something big as the song became a hit every where they performed it. They were on the road for several years, prior to signing a record deal, making sure not to saturate their hometown with their act as they had hoped for a fresh view from a record company A & R.
Upon returning to Los Angeles, while playing in a night club, they were spotted by producers Fonce and Larry Mizell who convinced Capitol Records' then vice-executive producer, Larkin Arnold, to give them an audition. Returning several times to hear them perform, Arnold finally decided to sign them to the label and negotiated a five album contract. The band, which had billed itself after Herb Albert's song "A Taste of Honey," stuck with the name when asked by Arnold what they "called" themselves. Their first single, "Boogie Oogie Oogie", from their debut album A Taste of Honey, tapped into the popular disco style and spent three weeks at number one (#1) on the Hot 100 in 1978. The single sold a record two million copies, which broke the record any single had had to date. The group was awarded two platinum records for the single and album; then they went on to win the Grammy Award for Best New Artist for the 20th Grammy Awards on February 15, 1979. This was the first song to achieve a double platinum single and the first Black group to receive a Grammy Award. Their subsequent disco releases, such as "Do It Good" (#79 in 1979) from Another Taste and "Rescue Me" (1980) failed to attract attention, and by 1980 the group had reduced to a duo consisting of Johnson and Payne. Some of the band's music (Boogie Oogie Oogie and Distant) has had a recent revival as it has been sampled by many Hip Hop and Rap artists, most notably Ice Cube. Boogie Oogie Oogie can be heard world wide.
When recording their cover version of the Kyu Sakamoto song ""Sukiyaki"" (from their third album - Twice As Sweet, released in 1980) they resisted suggestions to turn it into a dance tune, and as a soft and simple ballad it brought them the second and final major hit of their careers in 1981, when it reached number one (#1) on the Billboard R&B and Adult Contemporary charts and number three (#3) on Hot 100. The group was awarded a gold record for this single. The recording and release of the song also brought them some financial distress as Sakamoto sued Capitol Records for copyright infringement, a song Johnson had believed to be a Japanese "folk" song (and in the public domain).
A Taste of Honey released their final major album, Ladies of the Eighties in 1982. It featured their final Billboard Hot 100 charting single "I'll Try Something New" (#41). The Smokey Robinson and the Miracles cover also went to number nine (#9) on the R&B charts and Adult Contemporary #29 (their second and last AC charting hit).
After their popularity waned in the early 1980s Johnson went on to record as a solo artist and release the album One Taste Of Honey which produced the single "Love Me Tonight" and became a minor hit on the R&B charts. Payne went on to become an international stage actress, appearing in a number of theatre plays around the world including Oh! What A Night.
Upon moving to Calgary, Alberta, Canada in the early nineties to play in local night clubs and to write music for a television production, Kibble (keyboards) married a local school music teacher in 1993 and become stepfather to three children. In February of 1999, Kibble died of heart failure, at the age of 49. Donald Ray Johnson continues to live and play Blues in Calgary and surrounding regions, where he also married a local from Calgary. Johnson released several blues albums (under his own name) and is well known in Western Canada as a Blues singer/drummer. The following year (Janice) Johnson released her second solo album, Hiatus Of The Heart. and "Until The Eagle Falls (Native American Music Award winning song. In 2004, Payne and (Janice) Johnson reunited for the first time in over 20 years to perform on the PBS specials Get Down Tonight: The Disco Explosion and My Music: Funky Soul Superstars.
|Year||Album||Black Albums||Pop Albums|
|1978||A Taste of Honey||#2||#6|
|1980||Twice As Sweet||#12||#36|
|1982||Ladies of the Eighties||#14||#73|
|Year||Single||Album||Pop Singles||Black Singles||Club Play Singles||Disco Singles||Adult Contemporary|
|1978||Boogie Oogie Oogie||A Taste of Honey||1||1||1||1|
|1979||Disco Dancin'||A Taste of Honey||69|
|1979||Do It Good||Another Taste||79||13||72|
|1980||I'm Talkin' 'Bout You||Twice As Sweet||64|
|1980||Rescue Me||Twice As Sweet||16||77|
|1981||Sukiyaki||Twice As Sweet||3||1||1|
|1982||I'll Try Something New||Ladies of the Eighties||41||9||29|
|1982||We've Got The Groove||Ladies of the Eighties||75|
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