Classics: AWB & Ben E. King – A Star In The Ghetto (Atlantic)
Scottish Funk combo Average White Band, equally known as AWB, is far from being limited to the sole ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ in terms of classics.
1977 saw them recording an album – ‘Benny And Us’ – along with late Soul icon Ben E. King. Among its highlights, the jazzy ‘A Star In The Ghetto’. A cut written by Phillip Mitchell and arranged by the great Arif Mardin. With Ray Baretto on congas and Tom Moulton in charge of the mixing work…
– Still active nowadays, Average White Band saw the light back in 1972. They made their debut on MCA the year after with the album ‘Show Your Hand’ although generating poor sales. Bruce McCaskill, who was Eric Clapton‘s tour manager, liked their music so much that he managed to get Atlantic Records to sign them. The group soon after released the ‘AWB’ album (also known as The White Album). It would be their first major success as for their producer, Arif Mardin, featuring the classic ‘Pick Up The Pieces’.
Steve Ferrone came on to replace drummer Robbie McIntosh soon after his sudden death back then. The group capitalizing on their success with tracks such as ‘Cut The Cake’ and ‘Queen Of My Soul’, 2 UK hits. They then recorded the ‘Benny And Us’ album along with Ben E. King.
Average White Band eventually partnered with producer Dan Hartman on ‘Cupid’s Fashion’ back in 1982, collaborating with songwriters such as Kashif and Harold Faltermeyer. They disbanded though a year later and reunited in 1989 to release a new album. ‘Aftershock’ (that’s its title) featured guest appearances by Chaka Khan, Ronnie Laws and The Ohio Players.
AWB have never ceased recording since, despite regular line-up modifications.
Alan Gorrie and Onnie McIntyre are the only remaining original members of the band.
– Born in Henderson, NC, Ben E. King launched his singing career in his father’s restaurant. Established in Harlem, NYC in 1947, he formed a Doo-Wop group (the Four B’s) during his high school days. He then would join The Five Crowns, another group in the genre, in 1958. He and his mates were soon after to replace the original members of The Drifters at the invitation of their manager, George Treadwell. From then, King would sing the lead on many of their hits, beginning ith the memorable ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’.
He left the band for contractual reasons before the release of the latter, although remaining with Atlantic Records as a solo artist. He would score his first success the following year with ‘Spanish Harlem’. Meanwhile its follow-up – ‘Stand by Me’ – (*) ultimately would be voted as one of the Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America (* Wikipedia).
The mid-70’s saw King flirting with groovier vibes. Along with producer Bert DeCoteaux, on ‘Supernatural Thing’ and ‘Music Trance’, in 1975 and 1979. He also teamed up with Scottish funk combo Average White Band on ‘Benny And Us’, an album which featured the memorable ‘A Star In The Ghetto’.
His last album for Atlantic was ‘Street Tough’, with its title track featuring Luther Vandross and Ullanda McCullough in the backing vocals.
Ben E. King died of natural causes on Apr 30, 2015 in Hackensack, NJ. He was 76.
You might also like…
Buying vinyl records: What? How?