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Barbara Stant launched her career at Norfolk's own, Shiptown Records. Starting as one of the Idets (the labels own version of Motown's Adantes), Barbara found herself singing in sessions for a variety of artists. But her own talent didn’t go unrecognized, and Noah Biggs (Shiptown’s mogul), soon realized it was time to feature Barbara (who entered the company as Barbara Holmes) as a feature artist in her own rights.
Some say they were Standing in the Shadow of Shiptown. They were one of the key elements of the Shiptown label both on the road and in the studio, The Positive Sounds ("I Almost Blew My Mind.)
Photo submitted courtesy of Charles Hunter
The Positive Sounds
The Positive Sounds came on the scene in the spring of 1962, as the remnants of a jazz band started by junior high school band director, Charles Jenkins. When the jazz group folded, five of the members decided to continue rehearsing together under the name of, The Sounds. The group included James Carver, (alto saxophone), George Miller (trombone), Hugh Williamson (Tenor saxophone), Eric Turner (bass guitar), and Amos Hunter, (drums). They decided to change the genre of their music and the group moved to the music of Motown and similar styles.
In 1963, the group was introduced to Noah Biggs, a local promoter, by John Askew, a local DJ from radio station WHIH. While working with Mr. Biggs, they were the backup band for local artists such as The Anglos, Little Ida Sands, Barbara Stant, The Showmen, Wilson Williams, The Idettes, and The Royal Robins. Backing up these groups required the Positive Sounds to travel up and down the east coast.
In the summer of 1967, while attending Norfolk State College, the group had increased their size to nine members. The new members included Sidney Buffalow (trumpet), Michael Harris (guitar), Michael Robinson (guitar), and Alex Boyd (lead vocals). They traveled to Mount Holy New Jersey to play engagements at Fort Dix Army Base, Mcguire Air Force Base, and other similar venues from June until August. While there, they were discovered by rhythm and blues artist, Ruth Brown, who happened to be the aunt of guitarist, Michael Robinson. It was Ruth who advised the group to add Positive to their name.
After becoming their manager in 1967, Ms. Brown successfully guided the group to perform for amateur night at the Apollo Theatre, winning three weeks in a row. Later in 1972 they were the house band for the summer. She lead them to performances in Montreal Canada, and a recording contract with United Artist Records. The association with Ms. Brown also brought the group to perform with artists such as Al Green, The Manhattans, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Millie Jackson, Kool and The Gang, Maxine Brown, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Jimmy Castor, Mandrill, The Chi-Lites, The Staple Singers, The Dramatics, The Ohio Players, and James Brown.
The first recording for the group was done with collaboration of vocalist Wilson Williams on tunes titled, “I Almost Blew My Mind,” and, “You’re The One I Need.” In later years, the group hooked up with the producers from A Dish A Tunes publishing in New York City and recorded, “The Creeper,” on Chelsea Records. Other recordings included tracts for Barbara Stant, The Anglos, The Showmen, and other local artists.
After several attempts over years to revive the group, the Positive Sounds disbanded after their last performance in March of 2007. The last version of The Positive Sounds included Clifford Clark (saxophone/flute), John Glass (bass guitar), and Stephanie Barnes (vocals). Only two original members, Amos Hunter and Hugh Williamson were a part of the final performance.
Tommy Facenda was born the son of Olivia and Milio Demasso Facenda on november 10th, 1939, in Portsmouth, Virginia - Portsmouth being virtually the twin town of Norfolk where Gene Vincent had been born some 4-3/4 years earlier. Tommy's father was of Italian descent. Apart from his times on the road in the late '50's and early '60's, Tommy has always remained a resident of Portsmouth and is quite proud of the fact that he went right through school from 1st to 12th grade at St. Paul's in Portsmouth. And it was straight from St. Paul's that Tommy was catapulted into the dizzy heights of the rock 'n' roll age early in 1957. His young friend Dickie Harrell had already been whisked from Portsmouth as a 15 year old the previous year to play drums for Gene Vincent. So Tommy already knew Gene through Dickie and, following the break-up of the short-lived original Blue Caps, he was invited to join the band as a background singer and dancer. On account of "young" looks, Tommy was immediately hailed as 'Bubba' by the other members of the Blue Caps - and the name has stuck right though to the '90's.
Propelled by one of the most audacious marketing gimmicks of the vinyl era, Tommy Facenda's "High School U.S.A." peaked at number 28 on the Billboard charts in 1959. Twenty-eight versions of the song were released, each one of which named real area high schools in targeted states and major cities.
From Virginia Beach, Virginia, the Original Rhondels are a music tradition who have performed their hit recordings in almost every major city in the United States. In 1969, Bill Deal and the Rhondels began a recording career that would take them to Madison Square Garden and across the country. With 3 top 10 hits, "May I", "I've Been Hurt", and "What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am", the band hit the road, delighting their audiences with outstanding vocals, powerful brass, and exciting showmanship. These hits also topped the charts in Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Germany and Mexico.
They even made a movie about the song, "Thin Line Between Love and Hate," a classic song by The Persuaders and written by Newport News' very own Richard Poindexter.
Richard Poindexter was born in the nation's capital of Washington D.C and raised in Newport News, Virginia. He and his brother Bobby sang locally with groups such as The Swans, The Silver Moon Gospel Quintet and The Gems, with whom he first performed at New York's famous Apollo Theatre. After graduating from Washington Carver High School, The Poindexter Brothers headed for the Big Apple hoping to find the streets paved with gold and to establish a successful career in the music business primarily as writers, arrangers and producers.
Amongst their catalogue of early work they penned and produced stand-out soul gems such as "Hypnotized" and "I'll Be Sweeter" for Linda Jones, "She's A Fox" for The Icemen (featuring Jimi Hendrix on guitar), "I Dig Your Act" for The O'Jays, and "Baby, Baby Please" for Timothy Wilson.
The first album distributed by Atlantic
and released on their own Win Or Lose label was entitled "Thin Line
Between Love And Hate'' and was a break-out success in both pop and
soul markets. Aside from the now-classic title track,
it also provided hit singles in "Peace In The Valley of Love" and
"Love's Gonna Pack Up". The Persuaders run of success continued with
their second album release, albeit with a new line-up that included an
exciting singer named Tommy Hill. The album contained a cut called "Trying
Girls Out" which although popular on its initial release was to get a
new lease of life more than 20 years later when Jay-Z and Kanye West
used the track on the remix of "Girls, Girls, Girls" for which Richard
received a Platinum Disc. The hip-hop scene also gave new life to
"Love's Gonna Pack Up" which Will Smith heavily sampled the for the cut
"Willow Is A Player" on 2002's "Born To Reign" set.
The hits for The Persuaders slowed up as disco took hold but not before
Richard and Bobby provided the two best songs on the last Persuaders
album release on Calla in 1976 in the form of "Gambling On A Sure Shot"
and "Trying To Love Two Women". Both cuts were produced by Norman
Harris and have that distinctive uptempo 70's Philadelphia sound that
was prevalent at the time and remain hugely popular on the dance floors
to this day.
From the late 60's and throughout the
1970's Richard also wrote and produced Florence Ballard , The
Manhattans, Dee Dee Warwick, Carl Hall, Pat Johnson, The Topics
(featuring one-time Persuader Charles Stodghill), Tony Mason and The
Young Gents. He also found his songs increasingly covered by artists
ranging from The Lost Generation, Bloodstone, David Hudson, The Escorts
and Teena Marie to the likes of H Town, The Pretenders and Annie
Lennox, all of whom scored big in the 80's and 90's with "Thin Line
Between Love And Hate". It also became the basis for the story-line and
title for a movie in 1996 starring Martin Lawrence.