Wed. Nov. 22, 2017 - 02:08 AM CET

Ain’t no stoppin’ McFadden and Whitehead!

‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now…’ So strange to realize how despite released back in 1979, the magnetism of this gem remains so alive. Mind you, here we most likely have the song of a lifetime. Pretty much embodying a genre – Disco – and even more – a deliberately positive mood that nothing seemed to be able to stop at the time, unless the Demolition Night which took place a few weeks after its release date. Illustrating what Indamixworldwide is about. And last but not least, standing as McFadden and Whitehead‘s biggest success ever as singers. Even though they did much more than that…

Spring 1999. I’m offered to go to America and spend a few days along with Kevin Yost for a cover story due to be published later on on French mag, Coda. There, I would stay a few days at the man’s place before accompanying him at an event in Philadelphia, PA where he’s due to spin on a Saturday night. He’ll get back home the morning after. Meanwhile, I would spend the (Sun)day off in the city. Hopefully, the capital of Pennsylvania is full of resources, with its center being the home of numerous record shops. But also the one of restaurants serving the best burgers one may think of in the whole state. This being where I started chattin’ with a man sittin’ next to mine at the bar. Soon after discoverin’ this was no one else but John Whitehead of the McFadden and Whitehead fame.

Needless sayin’ how I was miles away thinkin’ of such a thing to happen. And even less that he would end up lettin’ me more about his venture with Gene McFadden. This in front of my ol’ tape recorder which never leaves me whenever I may be goin’ out. The release of Stan Mosley‘s cover version of their classic ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’ givin’ me the ideal opportunity to share this unpublished story today with you…

McFadden and WhiteheadMcFadden and Whitehead: the beginning…
“Gene and I? Man, that’s a long story.”, he started. “We became friends at school, meaning we’ve come a long way.” Eventually forming a group – The Epsilons – with Allen Beatty, James Knight and Lloyd Parks who later woud join Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. Their first big blow comin’ when Otis Redding offered them to become part of his revue. With this bringing them to release their very first single – ‘The Echo’ – on Stax Records back in 1968.

“This has been like a 50-50 thing for us at the end”, explained John. “50% good, as touring with a superstar such as Otis ended up being such a fantastic experience for us. But in the meantime, it happened to be so demanding. We’d been touring non stop for a couple of months and told Otis how we would enjoy spending a few days off home with our families. But he had a song he wanted us to record. We told him he would have to find somebody else coz’ we felt so out of juice. This is how he brought Arthur Conley to do it (‘Sweet Soul Music’). And guess wot! We didn’t even get back home, but instead of that ended up doin’ the backin’ vocals for him. Speakin’ of which we never got any credit for…

McFadden and Whitehead: the genesis…
Otis Redding tragically died a few weeks after the recording of ‘Sweet Soul Music’, which got McFadden and Whitehead to return to Philadelphia. The twosome formed a new group soon after and approached Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff who’d just signed a distribution deal for their P.I.R. label with CBS. “I was working at the stock room in the old building. Meanwhile Kenny had turned the name of our group into Talk Of The Town. But nothing really exciting happened for us. Meaning we had to take like regular jobs. I have to say I learnt a lot from this period. You know, things like songwriting, recording, production.

I felt I could do that and one night Gene came to my place and we started writing our first song. He came up with a melody on his guitar and we went to put the words together. We decided to call it ‘Back Stabbers’, and the next day I thought about submitting it to Leon. It didn’t come off the hat like this though. I mean Leon was so busy, dealing with so many things around. But we ended up catching his attention for a while and played it in front of him and Kenny who were sharing the office. Leon okayed it and told us he would give it a try with The O’Jays.

No need saying how we felt kinda disappointed at first coz’ we wanted it for Talk Of The Town. But c’mon, the perspective of havin’ such a group who’d already have so many hits before recording our material happened to be so exciting in the meantime…” ‘Back Stabbers’ becoming the first Gold single for Philadelphia Intenrnational Records. Meanwhile opening the path to an impressive series of classics which McFadden and Whitehead would write and or produce for countless luminaries. From The Intruders (‘I’ll Always Love My Mama’) to Harold Melvin & The Blues Notes (‘Back Luck, ‘Wake Up Everybody’). But also Archie Bell & The Drells (‘Let’s Groove’) and Teddy Pendergrass (‘The More I Get, The More I Want’). Not to mention the outstanding ‘Style Of Life’ for The Jacksons to name but a very few.

Ain’t no stoppin’ McFadden and Whitehead…
With their contribution as songwriters and/or producers generating some 22 Gold Records, 2 Platinum albums and 2 Grammy nominations, Gene and John had come to the point thinkin’ it was greatly time to do something for their own selves. So, just the way they did with ‘Back Stabbers’ years before, they came to the P.I.R. label heads’ office. But this time to let them know they wanted to record ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’.

“Kenny (Gamble) eventually suggested us to stick to what we knew best. But we persevered and hopefully everything turned out the right way for us at the end.” With not only the twosome achieving the Gold status on their first single as a duo soon after its release. But also with radio jock Douglas ‘Jocko’ Henderson turnin’ it into one of the first ever Disco/Rap cuts. Meanwhile delivering the highly sought after ‘Rhythm Talk’ in his unique style. Then Charanga 76 givin’ it a Spanish version by the likes of ‘No nos pararan’. Stan Mosley completing the list some 38 years later along with Nigel Lowis responsible for the remixing duties. This with an awesome reinterpretation which we recently welcomed as our Single Of The Week.

John Whitehead finally left. Bringin’ with him so many things I wish we would have had the time to talk about. I couldn’t help thinkin’ of this impromptu meeting while on my way to the Big Apple the morning after. Most definitely far from figuring he would die of a gun shot while fixing a car outside his home. With his partner sadly following him 2 years later after battling against a liver and lung cancer.

Interview: McFadden and Whitehead

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