The Delfonics - Biography
By NIck Castro
The Delfonics have remained one of the most legendary soul groups of the 60's and 70's. They begun a sound in the late 60's, along with producer Thom Bell, that would predict the moves of other soul artists in the 70's. They are most famous for songs like, "La-La (Means I Love You)", "Ready or Not Here I Come (Can't Hide Your Love)", and "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)". Along with the other Bell produced group, The Stylistics, who members of Delfonics would join 40 years later, the group has been heavily sampled by rap artists as diverse as The Notorious B.I.G, Nas, Fugees and Missy Elliott. The pen behing most of the group's material was wielded by the hand of William Hart, who has been extensively covered by artists like Todd Rundgren, The 1ackson 5, Aretha Franklin and Prince.
The Delfonics can be traced back to their Philadelphia roots in the mid 60's, when brothers William and Wilbert Hart, and high school friend, Randy Cain, were singing at local dances and parties, mainly performing material in the leftover doo wop vein. They began to garner popularity locally, mainly for their superb harmonies, and soon this brought them into the sight of the local record label, Moonshot Records. In 1966 they recorded their first single, "He Don't Really Love You". The song shot up the regional charts and established the band throughout the North Atlantic. Producer Thom Bell was working with Chubby Checker at the time, and looking to apply his talents and classically trained background to a new sound. When he heard the first single by The Delfonics, he approached the band and offered to produce their next single for his up and coming label, Philly Groove. They went into the studio together on a shoe string budget, unable to afford the orchestral musicians they needed to fulfill Bell's vision for the group. Bell ended up playing most of the instruments himself to compensate. The results were astounding though, as the group recorded the song, "La La Means I Love You". The song became a huge top ten hit and established not only The Delfonics nationally, but Bell as well. The song did meet with some resistance from critics, as it still does. Many claim that the sounds of Bell and The Delfonics was a washed down version of the raw soul coming out of the south, but in actuality, they were creating a new sound, uniquely whole and their own. When one examines the work, execution and arrangements of the group, one sees the sophistication, nuance and subtlety that went into these musical endeavors.
The early effort created with Bell led the group to record their first full length LP, for Bell Records, at a time when the musical climate was barely shifting away from the single driven market, to a more LP driven one. The group's first full length album was La La Means I Love You (1968 - Bell), which consisted mainly of tracks co-written by Bell and Hart. The band scored another mild hit with the songs "I'm Sorry" and "Break Your Promise", which reached the top 20 on the r&b charts. This album may have singlehandedly created what became known as the Philly soul sound. The album distinctly set the group apart from the Memphis sound, Detroit sound or any other school of soul artists. Bell chose some tasteful covers for the group to perform, including two Burt Bacharach tunes, "Alfie" and "The Look of Love". The group also recorded a version of Little Anthony and The Imperials' song, "Hurt So Bad".
Following up on the success of the debut effort, The Delfonics released the album, The Sound of Sexy Soul (1969 - Buddha). The album helped the band to continue to reach audiences outside of the typical soul market, due to their slick production and smooth vocal harmonies. The first single released from the album was "Ready or Not Here I Come (Can't Hide Your Love)". the song reached the top 40 on the national charts and was also a hit in England. Although this would prove to be the only substantial hit from the record, including its b-side "Somebody Loves You", the album has become a classic of the genre. The album is often cited as a favorite among soul music collectors due to its heavy bass and drum grooves that dwell beneath the rich layer of string, brass and vocal harmonies that swim upon the surface. The band also creates a notable version of the standard song, "Going out of My Head".
One of the most commercially successful albums by The Delfonics was their self titled, The Delfonics (1970 - Bell). Although the album marked the impending end of their working relationship with Bell, the tension that existed between the various members could not be heard on their latest masterpiece. The band scored many hits from this disc, including the first single release from the album, "Funny Feeling", which just entered the top 100, and the song, "Didn't I "Blow Your Mind This Time)", which became an instant classic and reached the top ten national charts and number 3 on the r&b charts. That latter song has become one of the most recognizable staples of the soul genre.
by the next year, 1972, Cain left the band to pursue his other projects, including the formation of Blue Magic, a new soul vocal group. The Delfonics replaced Cain with Major Harris. Bell also left the group to begin his work with The Stylistics. Similar to what happened to the Stylistics when Bell left them, The Delfonics' career quickly began to falter without the ears and production of Bell. Although they released some more records and singles, some of which continued to chart on the top 100, the quality of their material is generally thought of as inferior to the efforts created with Bell in the production seat. Various members of the band made attempts to continue on with The Delfonics name, which became very confusing throughout the 80's. By the 2000's, some of the remaining Delfonics members joined The Stylistics for newly recorded and performed material.
Unfortunately, original Delfonics member, Randy Cain, died on April 9th, 2009 at his home. He had been suffering from failing health since he rejoined The Delfonics in 1999.