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As the studio band of Philadelphia International, MFSB was responsible for the grooves behind dozens of classic tunes, including “Love Train,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “When Will I See You Again,” and “I’ll Always Love My Mama.” 

Their unique blend of danceable rhythms with a trace of latin influence and sweet string arrangements inaugurated a new chapter in soul music and made household names of the O’Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Blue Magic, and Billy Paul, most of whom failed to have much success without their backing.
In addition to their duties with PIR, they cut sessions for a variety of artists looking for some of that Philly magic.

The group was comprised of the cream of Philly musicians, many of whom had played together since the mid 60s, when they recorded “The Horse” for local producer Jesse James. Unfortunately, their experience in cutting “The Horse” foreshadowed the difficulty the band would have in terms of being properly compensated. 

Originally called in for what they thought would be a normal session with James, the musicians discovered there was no real tune to cut, and they set about crafting a backing track for the sparse vocal (“Love Is All Right”). James was so impressed with the results that he decided not to bother with a B-side, simply using the instrumental since he was confident he had a hit on his hands.  As fate would have it, the instrumental dwarfed the vocal in popularity and is one of the most memorable instrumentals in history. With “The Horse” riding the top of the charts, group leader Bobby Martin attempted to secure some extra compensation from Jesse James, but was flatly turned down.


That negative experience made it easier for the group to join forces with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff when they came calling in 1971.  Their production work with Dusty Springfield and Wilson Pickett had set them up as a possible successor to Motown and Stax for soul supremacy, and to ensure the stability of their sound, they secured a loose agreement with the musicians, now known as MFSB (Mother Father Sister Brother).  This arrangement was finalized with the signing of individual musicians to a contract.  The creative core of MFSB was drummer Earl Young, bassist Ronnie Baker, vibist Vince Montana, and guitarist Norman Harris.  Other prominent members were TJ Tindall, Bobby Eli, Lenny Pakula, and Roland Chambers.


MFSB had already cut an album of jazzy soul remakes when Gamble and Huff were contacted by Don Cornelius to create an original tune to serve as the theme for his show Soul Train.  The untitled instrumental proved to be extremely popular with the show’s audience, and once it was released as “TSOP,” MFSB found themselves with a number one single and Grammy in 1974 for best instrumental.

One can't talk about MFSB without mentioning their greatest tune, "Love Is The Message."  The 1973 song was almost immediately hailed as a club classic and continues to be recognized as one of the most influential dance songs of all time.  

By the end of 1975, Baker, Harris, Young and  Montana had become unhappy with their lack of songwriting royalties, since they frequently created the backing tracks themselves  only to watch Gamble and Huff claim sole credit for the compositions.  An ultimatum was issued to the label owners that reportedly demanded $100,000 each for their services.  When they balked at those terms, the disenchanted members struck out on their own, taking their sound to Salsoul Records.  As the newly titled Salsoul Orchestra, they backed First Choice, Loleatta Holloway and other Salsoul acts.

Meanwhile, Gamble and Huff quickly organized MFSB behind the skills of Dexter Wansel and McFadden and Whitehead.   But aside from their version of "K-Jee" from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and "Summertime And I'm Feeling Mellow" in 1976, subsequent MFSB recordings were largely ignored.

They did manage a final hit in 1980's "Mysteries Of The World" before disbanding in 1981.

     
MFSB's Deepest Grooves

MFSB (Philadelphia International, 1973)

Love Is The Message (Philadelphia Interntional, 1974)

Philadelphia Freedom (Philadelphia International, 1975)

Universal Love (Philadelphia International, 1975)

Summertime (Philadelphia International, 1976)

Phase One (Philadelphia International, 1978)

The Gamble-Huff Orchestra (Philadelphia International, 1978)

Mysteries Of The World (Philadelphia International, 1980)

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