Archie Bell

ARCHIE BELL & THE DRELLS

Everything you learned about this group undoubtedly came from the first 20 seconds of "Tighten Up": "Hi, everybody! I'm Archie Bell of the Drells, from Houston, Texas, and we not only sing, but we dance just as good as we walk." Well, there's a wee bit more to their story than that. Archie Bell was actually born in Henderson, Texas in 1944. Later that year, his family moved to Houston, where his mother, Ruthie Bell, sang gospel and insisted that her boys (eight in all) participate in church functions. It was in his mother's church that Archie made his musical debut at age five. In the early 1960s, while attending E.L. Smith Junior High, Bell joined his first vocal group, Little Pop & The Fireballs. During his junior high school years, Archie formed several friendships that would lead to the evolution of his own group. In high school, Archie started the Drells. They comprised Archie, Billy Butler, James Wise, and Joe Cross, and they specialized in Major Lance and Impressions covers. In a short time, Archie Bell & The Drells were winning Houston-area talent shows left and right. At one of those contests, local disc jockey and talent scout Skipper Lee Frazier spotted the group and offered to record them on his record label, East-West. By 1966, Archie Bell & The Drells had a local hit with "She's My Woman, She's My Girl." In 1967, Archie was drafted and left for boot camp in Louisiana. While back in Houston on a three-week leave, he picked up on a phrase that Billy Butler liked to use, and set it to music. The group managed one quick recording session, with instrumentation by the TSU Toronados, before Archie was shipped out to Germany.

Skipper Lee Frazier released "Tighten Up" on his Ovide label in December of 1967. The single became so popular in the Houston area that Atlantic picked it up for national distribution. "Tighten Up" debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on March 30, 1968. By May 18th, it was the #1 song in America. For good measure, it also topped the R&B charts.

With a hit song, Archie Bell & The Drells were in great demand for tour dates. Problem was, their leader was off serving his country. Many an unscrupulous promoter took advantage of that fact, and sent fake Drells groups out on the road. In fact, when Archie returned from Germany to go on tour himself, he found his identity frequently called into question!

While playing at a nightclub in Longside, New Jersey, Archie Bell & The Drells were approached by the Philadelphia-based record production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Once Skipper Lee Frazier and Atlantic were consulted, the group worked with Gamble & Huff, who produced a string of lush soul-pop hits for them, including the top ten single, "I Can't Stop Dancing."

While Archie Bell & The Drells never landed another top forty pop hit after 1969's "(There's Gonna Be A) Showdown," the R&B charts were kinder. During the disco era, they were produced by Gene McFadden and John Whitehead ("Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now"), and regularly made the R&B top forty through 1979.

By 1981, Archie Bell was a soloist, and made the R&B top fifty with "Any Time Is Right." His most recent chart appearance was in the U.K. in 1986, with "Don't Let Love Get You Down." He continues to perform and record

taken from a CD notes

recordings

TIGHTEN UP DOG EAT DOG ATLANTIC AT584185 6 UK 45 - NORTHERN
YOUíRE SUCH A BEAUTIFUL CHILD CANíT STOP DANCING ATLANTIC AT584217 5 UK 45 - NORTHERN
TIGHTEN UP I CANíT STOP DANCING & (THEREíS GONNA BE A) SHOWDOWN ATLANTIC AT156 5 UK 45 - NORTHERN
HERE I GO AGAIN WORLD WITHOUT MUSIC ATLANTIC K10210 5/6 UK 45 - NORTHERN
(THEREíS GONNA BE A) SHOWDOWN TIGHTEN UP ATLANTIC K10263 4/5 UK 45 - NORTHERN
HERE I GO AGAIN ATLANTIC 2693 20 USA 45 - NORTHERN
TIGHTEN UP ATLANTIC 584185 UK 45 - ATLANTIC
I CAN'T STOP DANCING ATLANTIC 584217 UK 45 - ATLANTIC

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