Archie Bell & the Drells
(Read about Archie Bell & the Drells after the video)
Archie Bell & the Drells was an American R&B vocal group from Houston, Texas, and one of the main acts on Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff's Philadelphia International Records. The band's hits include "Tighten Up", "I Can't Stop Dancing" (both 1968), "There's Gonna Be A Showdown", "Girl You're Too Young" (1969), "Here I Go Again" (also a UK hit in 1972), "Soul City Walk" (1975), "Let's Groove", "Everybody Have A Good Time" (1977), and "Don't Let Love Get You Down" (1976).
Archie Bell, who founded the group, was born in Henderson, Texas, his family moving to Houston before he was one. He is the older brother of lead vocalist of Motown's Dazz Band—and world karate champion—Jerry Bell. His brother Ricky Bell (d. 1984) was an NFL player. Eugene Bell was the final brother. Archie formed the group in 1966 with his friends James Wise, Willie Parnell and Billy Butler. They signed with the Houston-based record label, Ovide, in 1967 and recorded a number of songs, including "She's My Woman" and "Tighten Up", which was recorded in October 1967 at the first of several sessions in which the Drells were backed by the instrumental group the T.S.U. Toronadoes.
The origins of "Tighten Up" came from a conversation Bell had with Butler. Bell was despondent after receiving his draft notice, and Butler, in an attempt to cheer him up, demonstrated the "Tighten Up" dance to Bell. Bell asked Butler what it was, and Butler told him the name. Bell then put together the famous track, which hit the charts following his induction into the Army.
Bell's promoter, Skipper Lee Frazier, unsuccessfully began pushing the flip side of "Tighten Up", but at the recommendation of a friend gave the other side a try. "Tighten Up" was written by Archie Bell and Billy Butler, contained Archie Bell prodding listeners to dance to the funky musical jam developed by the T.S.U. Toronadoes, and it became a hit in Houston before it was picked up by Atlantic Records for distribution in April 1968. By the summer it topped both the Billboard R&B and pop charts. It also received a R.I.A.A. gold disc by selling 1 million copies. According to the Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson, Bell heard a comment after the Kennedy assassination in Dallas that "nothing good ever came out of Texas." Bell wanted his listeners to know "we were from Texas and we were good."
Many believe Bell was wounded in action in Vietnam while the band was still at the height of its fame, but he actually injured his leg in a truck accident while stationed in Germany. The success of the single prompted the band to rush out an album, despite their incapacitated leader. In 1969 the group recorded their first full album with Gamble and Huff, I Can't Stop Dancing, which reached number 28 on the R&B album chart. By this time another of Archie's brothers, Lee Bell (born January 14, 1946, Houston), had replaced Butler, and became the band's choreographer.
Reid Farrell, who was from Houston, was the guitarist who traveled and played with the group.
The band backing Archie Bell & The Drells from 1975-1979 was called "The Melting Pot Band", which featured musicians from several states. McNasty McKnight was the band leader playing trombone. Graduates of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) in Houston traveled with the group, including Don Pope and Tony Salvaggio on saxophone. Other musicians included Lonnie LaLanne and Calvin Owens (trumpet), Abel Salazar (keyboards), and Mike Hughes (drums). LaLanne and Owens were alumni of B.B. King's band.
The 1975 single "Soul City Walk" made number 13 in the UK Singles Chart, but reached only number 42 on the US chart. After moderate chart showings in the late 1970s, the group split in 1980. Archie Bell later released one solo album (I Never Had It So Good - 1981) on Beckett Records and continued to perform with The Drells for the next twenty years. During the 1990s the lineup also included Steve "Stevie G." Guettler (guitar, vocals), Jeff "JT" Strickler (bass guitar, vocals), Steve Farrell (guitar, vocals), Mike Wilson (keyboards, vocals) and Wes Armstrong (drums, vocals) of the Atlanta-based group The Rockerz.
On April 16, 2013, Houston Mayor Annise D Parke honored Archie Bell, Lucious Larkins, and James Wise with a proclamation of Archie Bell and Drells Day.