In the realm of entertainment, just about everyone knowledgeable of music history has heard of the legendary songwriting duo Gamble and Huff. These guys (whom I have worked with on several occasions) were the main people associated with the “Sound of Philadelphia.” Their accomplishments are “well documented” and they are already immortalized in music history. However, there was “another” piece to this history that wasn’t quite as well known, and his name is Thom Bell. In my opinion, Bell was a “musical genius.” He wrote most of the big hits for the Stylistics and the Delfonics, but it doesn’t stop there. He was also part of a legendary duo with the late Linda Creed, who I also knew years ago. A lot of the hits that were written in the studios of Philly International Records were often put together “in” the studio through experimentation. When it came to Thom Bell’s songs, he would actually bring charts with “each” musician’s part “written out.” Last night at my Wednesday night event here in Philadelphia I actually sang his hit song ” Betchabygollywow (your the one that I’ve been waiting for). This song was a big hit for the Stylistics and it was my pleasure to attempt to sing the high falsettos of Russel Thomkins, the lead singer (and friend of mine) who vocalized that track so well. Thom Bell was an independent type of guy, and that is why he didn’t opt to be a major part of Gamble and Huff. I could probably give you a lot of details about Mr. Bell, but if you like you can read them for yourself in this article:
This is a true story. One day I had to play for one of those R&B award shows where one of the honorees was Thom Bell. His music was being performed by Paul Shafer from David Letterman’s show. Paul was fun to work with and he even “sang” one of Thom Bell’s songs. I had heard previously that Thom took his music very seriously and if you questioned him about it he would get “extremely” hyped. I had the opportunity to talk to him at this function and of course, I just “had’ to push his buttons. I asked him about this particular song, and my question to him was “Would anyone REALLY go up to some woman and say the words “Betchabygollywow?” His face got “real” serious and he said “Of course, people say that all the time whenever they meet someone they are attracted to.” I told him that I had never heard “anyone” say a line like that to a woman unless he was actually quoting his song title for fun. I think Thom spent most of the rest of that evening trying to convince and rationalize to me as to how someone would say this. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was only “pushing his buttons.” Poogie (William Hart) claims to have written a lot of hits for the Delfonics (he was the lead singer on those songs), but I know that even though he may have gotten credit for it most (if not all) of that magic was created by Thom Bell. No offense to Poogie, but without Thom his songwriting abilities never come close to the magic that was created with those Delfonic hits. Yes, Thom Bell is the “unsung hero” of Philly International Records, and I invite everyone to Google his classics to see just how “great” his songwriting was. Last I heard his health was not well and he was residing out on the West Coast. I sincerely wish him a speedy recovery. Thank you for checking out today’s Daily Thought, and as always, I wish you the very best that life has to offer today.
Thom Bell (seated low on stool in front) Brett Jolly (in back center with red guitar) and Paul Shafer (on piano, far right) performing for award show