Lost but not least! Jocko – Rhythm Talk (Philadelphia International Records)
Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff‘s PIR label managed to be more than the epicenter of the Philly sound. They also happened to release one of the first Disco/Rap cuts ever by the likes of ‘Rhythm Talk’.
As a matter of fact, it would be quite tempting to compare it to ‘Rapper’s Delight’. Although Jocko kept the original arrangements of McFadden & Whitehead‘s classic ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’. Meanwhile Sugarhill Gang slightly retouched Chic‘s ‘Good Times’. A song which, just like ‘Good Times’ influenced many artists. From Charanga 76 who adapted it in Spanish (‘No nos pararan’). To Italian singer Pino D’Angio (‘Mi Quale Idea’), if not Sharon Redd (‘Never Give You Up’) to a lesser extend. Not to mention Stan Mosley‘s own cover version 38 years later…
As a result, Jocko came up with an interesting alternative version of ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’. And even though it didn’t generate the same following as the latter, it most definitely contributed to his reputation. Questlove seeing him as “the first MC”, adapting a Jazz style of scat singing by the end of the Disco days…
– Baltimore, PA native Douglas ‘Jocko’ Henderson essentially made his reputation as a radio personality. He started his broadcast career back in 1952 on Baltimore radio WSID. And, by the year after, he was on Philadelphia’s WHAT. This is where he first took on the name, “Jocko” and began talking over and often directly to the records he was playin’. Rolling his R’s and and rhyming everything he said in a unique style, he influenced countless other DJ’s and, decades later, Rap music.
As an artist, he released a handful of tracks. With his very first – ‘A Little Bit Of Everything / Blast Off To Love’ – back in 1961 on Wand. His most famous being his adaptation of McFadden & Whitehead‘s classic ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’. He soon after dropped ‘The Rocketship’ on PIR too. He then would deliver a one off by the likes of ‘Everybody’s Uptight (Tryin’ To Get Their Money Right)’ in 1983.
Diagnosed with liver and lung cancer in 2004, Jocko sadly died from the disease at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center on Jul. 15, 2000. He was 82.
– Olanta, SC native Gene McFadden and John Whitehead met in Philadelphia during their school days in the 60’s. Together, they formed The Epsilons along with Lloyd Parkes who later joined Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes.
When Otis Redding came to the city, he invited them to become part of his revue. This leading them to set up a deal with Stax Records where they released ‘The Echo’.
After the departure of Parkes, they started working with Gamble & Huff on their North Bay label. Then soon after on their PIR label where they mostly worked as songwriting and production team. Eventually becoming to Philadelphia International Records what Holland/Dozier/Holland happened to be to Motown.
They wrote and / or produced an incredible amount of standards. From ‘Back Stabbers’ for The O’Jays’ to ‘I’ll Always Love My Mama’ for The Intruders. But also ‘Wake Up Everybody’ for Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. Or ‘Style Of Life’ for The Jacksons. Not to mention ‘The More I Get The More I Want’ for Teddy Pendergrass. And ‘Let’s Groove’ for Archie Bell & The Drells to name a few.
As artists, they scored their biggest classic with the uplifting ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’, from their eponymous debut-album in 1979. A song soon after given a Rap/spoken word version by Douglas ‘Jocko’ Henderson (‘Rhythm Talk’). But also a Spanish one by Charanga 76 titled ‘No Nos Pararan’. It most likely also had a big influence on Italian Disco classic ‘Ma Quale Idea’ by Pino D’Angio the year after. With Stan Mosley addin’ his name to the list. Meanwhile givin’ it an extra cover version 38 years later.
Away from PIR, they also worked with luminaries such as Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson and Beau Williams among others. They eventually recorded a new version of ‘Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now’ back in 1984 for Sutra Records.
On May 11, 2004, John Whitehead was shot dead while fixing a car outside his home in Philadelphia, in an apparent case of mistaken identity. He was 55. The case remains unsolved…
Gene McFadden sadly died of liver and lung cancer on Jan. 27, 2006. He was 56.
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