Sunset Station presents Soul Jam with host Jimmie ‘J.J.’ Walker

July 09, 2002 3:24 AM
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The "dyn-o-mite" kid, Jimmie "J.J." Walker, will host 1970’s soul legends, The Stylistics, The Chi-Lites, The Delfonics, and Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes at 8 p.m., Friday at Sunset Station’s outdoor amphitheater. For information, call (702) 547-7777.

Walker gained fame in the early 1970s as J.J., the irrepressible eldest child of the Evans’ on the sitcom, Good Times. Long before he became a fixture on television, Walker worked his way through the nation’s comedy clubs, and spent 18 months as the opening act for The Last Poets, a group dedicated to performing militant poetry. He landed a spot as the warm-up for the CBS sitcom, Carlucci’s Department and in 1972, he was hired for the role that would change his life. During his career, Walker has earned praise as the recipient of the NAACP’s first Image Award, he has been twice-nominated for the Golden Globe Award and his Showtime specials have been nominated for the Cable Ace.

The Stylistics came together in the late 1960s when two high school singing groups became one. The quintet became one of the most famous "Philly Soul" groups produced by Thom Bell; the new style he created took soul into a new direction when he lightened up on the backbeat, brought in string sections, and created a smooth, airy sound. The Stylistics’ self-titled debut album included the hit single, You’re A Big Girl Now. The broad falsetto voice of lead vocalist Russell Thompkins, Jr. was the most unique in the business and can be heard on the Grammy-nominated hit, You Make Me Feel Brand New. The Stylistics’ emphasis on smooth and sweet ballads made the group a hit with fans.

The Delfonics, another "Philly Soul" vocal group, began in the late 1960s with William Hart, his brother Wilbert and high school friend Randy Cain. The trio rode the R&B wave when it released its first single, He Don’t Really Love You. In 1968, The Delfonics released La La Means I Love You, the hit song and album that was the first in a string of successes through the following decade. The hits included You Get Yours, I’ll Get Mine, I’m Sorry, and the Grammy-winning Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time). Their soulful voices, rich harmonies and precise choreography made them a favorite.

Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes actually pre-dates other groups on the Soul Jam tour by a decade as the group’s roots go back to 1954 when Melvin was just 15; he died in 1997. The group began to sing doo wop music and recorded My Hero, its first single, in 1960. The Notes’ most famous member, Teddy Pendergrass joined in 1970 as a drummer and performed as lead singer between 1973 and 1975.

The Chi-Lites began as the Hi-Lites; the "C" was added in 1964 to celebrate the group’s hometown, Chicago. Although Chicago is better known for its blues, The Chi-Lites’ sound was smooth with layered production values and four-part harmonies. Described as "psychedelic soul," "smooth soul," or "Chicago soul," the Chi-Lites racked up 11 top 10 hits in the early 1970s including, Have You Seen Her, Oh Girl, which also became a number one pop hit, and the political songs, (For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People, and There Will Never Be Any Peace.