Classics: The Hues Corporation – Rock The Boat (RCA)
Then came 1974 and I reached 16. Finally allowed from then to step in a nightclub. And I just went Disco! And by sayin’ Disco, I mean the music we would hear in the clubs at the time. In other words, the “discothèques” as people used to say in France.
Nothing of a specific format though, but more of a spirit in itself. With uplifting vocals and lush arrangements over some intoxicating rhythm pattern. With the first names comin’ to mind being in no particular order William DeVaughn (‘Be Thankful For What You’ve Got’). But also The Trammps (‘Love Epidemic’) or The O’Jays (‘Back Stabbers’). Not to mention The Hues Corporation‘s ‘Rock The Boat’…
Featuring Wilton Felder on bass, ‘Rock The Boat’ sold over 2 million copies. Standing as The Hues Corporation‘s biggest success and eventually opening the door for extra hits such as ‘Love Corporation’ or ‘Rockin’ Soul’. Even though none of them managed to generate a similar following. With ‘Rock The Boat’ seen by some as the first ever Disco song to top the charts. Meanwhile others tend to quote The Love Unlimited Orchestra with ‘Love’s Theme’…
Speakin’ of ‘Rock The Boat’, Richard Finch of KC & The Sunshine Band said it had a role in inspiring the writing of George McCrae‘s classic ‘Rock Your Baby’
The Hues Corporation saw the light back in 1969 in Santa Monica, CA. This at the initiative of songwriter Wally Holmes together with his friend Bernard St. Clair Lee. Female singer Hubert Ann Kelly revealed herself during a talent show in L.A. Meanwhile notices left in local record stores led to the recruitment of Karl Russell whom Fleming Williams replaced not long afterwards. Russell nevertheless comin’ back to replace Tommy Brown who’d replaced Williams after the recording of ‘Rock The Boat’.
The Hues Corporation scored their first break 3 years after, when invited to appear in ‘Blacula’, a blaxploitation film starring William Marshall. Eventually recording 3 songs for its soundtrack then signing with RCA soon after.
‘Freedom For The Stallion’, their debut single from the 1973 album of the likes, achieved moderate success. But its follow-up – ‘Rock The Boat’ – most likely became their signature song. Selling more than 2 million copies.
Extra cuts followed such as ‘Rockin’ Soul’, ‘Love Corporation’ and ‘I Caught Your Act’. But the group finally disbanded in 1978, in the incapacity to duplicate their earlier success.
Hubert Ann Kelly became a minister after leavin’ the group.
Karl Russell released the ultra obscure (and rare) ‘Game For Love’ back in 1982 on Rome Records.
Fleming Wiliams sadly passed on Feb. 15, 1998. He died of a “long illness” acording to the Social Security Death Index, although many are those who said it was due a long struggle with drugs.
St. Clair Lee sadly died on Mar. 08, 2011, in Lake Elsinore, CA, from natural causes at the age of 66, according to the Los Angeles Times.