Philly has plenty to offer besides cheesesteaks, the Liberty Bell and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In our May/June issue of Elmore, we take a look at the sound that grew out of the Philadelphia music scene. Here, we’ve compiled a list of a couple of the most notable songs and artists to come out of the City of Brotherly Love.
Chubby Checker—“The Twist”
Born in South Carolina and raised in the projects of South Philly, Ernest “Chubby Checker” Evans had all the young’uns in the ‘70s twisting their hips to the sound of this classic dance jam.
Charlie Gracie—“Boogie Woogie Blues”
This young Philly guitarist hit it big when he played Paul Whiteman’s TV Teen Club at just 15. In 1951, Gracie cut his first record, “Boogie Woogie Blues,” an influential early rock ‘n’ roll record.
Patti LaBelle (Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles)—“Lady Marmalade”
Patti LaBelle is one of the belles of the music industry, and she’s had her share of success both with Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles and on her own under the name LaBelle. Rouding out her musical range with songs that spanned the disco, pop and R&B genres, one of LaBelle’s ever-popular hits, “Lady Marmalade” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame—and for good reason.
Todd Rundgren—“Hello It’s Me” “I Saw the Light”
This Philly-born star started playing guitar as a teenager and was a member of bands like Woody’s Truck Stop, Nazz and Utopia. A successful solo artist and record producer, Rundgren is best known for the hit “Hello It’s Me,” which became a classic rock staple. Look out for our exclusive interview with Todd Rundgren in the May/June issue of Elmore.
Billie Holiday—“God Bless the Child” “Lady Sings the Blues”
Lady Day was another one of the best things to come out of Philly. Holiday encountered it all—abuse, drugs, drinking, etc.—and brought it all to the table with the profound emotional depth of her songs. Holiday was incredibly influential to the jazz genre; many of her songs have become jazz standards.
Jim Croce—“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” “Time in a Bottle”
A Philly guy all the way, Croce was born in South Philly and spent his formative years growing up in and around the historic city. His biggest hit, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” hit No. 1 in the charts in the summer of ‘73.
Joan Jett—“I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” “Bad Reputation”
Born in a suburb of Philadelphia, Joan Jett founded the Runaways and later ventured out on her own with a solo career and then later formed the Blackhearts. We dare you to find someone who hasn’t heard Jett’s classic “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Go on. We dare you.
Daryl Hall and John Oates—“Maneater” “Out of Touch”
A fan favorite here at Elmore, Hall & Oates fused rock ‘n’ roll with R&B in a combination of sounds that produced plenty of Billboard hits. Look out for our exclusive Elmore interview with Daryl Hall in the May/June issue of Elmore.
Frankie Avalon—“Venus” “Why”
It just wouldn’t have been the ‘60s without teen star Frankie Avalon. The star of a bunch of popular “beach party” films, Avalon was also a music hit-maker. And he also gave Frenchy some very important advice in his role as a teen angel in the 1978 hit musical film Grease.
Bobby Rydell—“Wild One” “Volare”
Here’s another ‘60s teen idol for the list. Like “Boogie Woogie Blues” singer Charlie Gracie, Rydell also got his start on Paul Whiteman’s TV Teen Club. He played alongside Frankie Avalon as part of Rocco and the Saints. He rolled out a consistent stream of Billboard hits throughout the ‘60s.
Fabian—“Tiger” “Turn Me Loose”
This Philly-born teen star was a regular on American Bandstand and became a popular singer and actor in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes—“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” “The Love I Lost”
Originally known as the Charlemagnes, this group produced plenty of hits on Gamble and Huff’s hometown Philadelphia International label. Sporting a repertoire of soul, doo-wop, R&B and disco, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes brought their share of soul to Philly.
The Delfonics—“La-La (Means I Love You)” “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”
The Delfonics were another big name in the world of Philly soul. Producer Thom Bell, who was known as one of the creators of Philly soul music, wrote all of the group’s hits, along with lead vocalist William Hart.
Marian Anderson—Giuseppe Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera”
No, she didn’t sing R&B or pop or soul, but we just had to put Anderson on the list. An African-American contralto singer, Anderson performed with orchestras and performed opera arias within her concerts. Her repertoire included opera, American songs, lieder and spirituals. With her performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” at the Metropolitan Opera in 1955, she became the first black person to perform at the venue. An award-winning singer and participant in the civil rights movement, Anderson is a part of Philadelphia history.
Solomon Burke—“Cry to Me” “Got to Get You Off My Mind”
This man is R&B and soul royalty. Nicknamed “King Solomon,” “The King of Rock ‘n’ Soul,” “Bishop of Soul” and the “Muhammad Ali of Soul,” Burke didn’t receive as much chart success as other soul artists, but is still critically acclaimed for his essential role in the development and growth of soul music. In 2001, this Philly soul star was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Dead Milkmen—“Punk Rock Girl” “Bitchin’ Camaro”
Let’s add a little satire to the list with the Dead Milkmen, a satirical Philly-based punk rock band. This band gained popularity for their tongue-in-cheek punk songs delivered with thick Philadelphia accents.
To read more about Philadelphia music, check out “The Philadelphia Story” by Mark Uricheck in the May/June issue of Elmore.