Teddy Pendergrass Part One

Teddy Pendergrass Part One

Teddy Pendergrass Part One

Here’s a performer who was famous in the 1970’s, but was born in 1950. Teddy Pendergrass Part One, is what I’m doing now, so I hope you stay and wait for Part Two, which might be next week.

Theodore DeReese Teddy Pendergrass (March 26th, 1950 January 13th, 2010) wasan American singer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he initially rose to musical fame as the lead singer of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. After leaving the group over monetary disputes in 1976, Pendergrass launched successful solo career under the Philadelphia International label, releasing five consecutive platinum albums, then a record for an African-American R&B artistPendergrass‘s career was suspended after a March 1982 car crash that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Pendergrass continued his successful solo career until announcing his retirement in 2007. Pendergrass died from respiratory failure in January 2010.

Teddy Pendergrass

Background Information

Birth Name

Theodore DeReese Pendergrass


March 26, 1950

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.


January 13, 2010 (aged 59).

Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S.


R&B soul discofunk.


Singer songwriter composer.


Vocals piano guitar drums.

Years Active

1972 2008.


Philadelphia International AsylumElektraCleopatra Records [2] Surefire/Wind Up.

Associated Acts

Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes Whitney Houston Eddie Levert Patti LaBelle Marvin Gaye Stephanie Mills.



Early Life

He was born Theodore DeReese Pendergrass on Sunday, March 26, 1950, in Philadelphia. He is the only child of Jesse and Ida Geraldine (née Epps)Pendergrass. When he was still very young, his father left the family; Jesse was stabbed to death on June 13, 1962. Pendergrass grew up in Philadelphia and often sang at church. He dreamt of being a pastor and got his wish when, at 10, he was ordained a minister (according to author Robert Ewell Greene). Pendergrass also took up drums during this time and was a junior deacon of his church.

He attended Thomas Edison High School for Boys in North Philadelphia. He sang with the Edison Master singers. He dropped out in the 11th grade to enter the music business, recording his first song, Angel With Muddy Feet. The recordinghowever, was not a commercial success. Pendergrass played drums for several local Philadelphia bands, eventually becoming the drummer of The Cadillacs. In 1970, he was spotted by the Blue Notes founder, Harold Melvin (1939 1997), who convinced Pendergrass to play drums in the group. However, during a performance, Pendergrass began singing along, and Melvin, impressed by his vocals, made him the lead singer. Before Pendergrass joined the group, the Blue Notes had struggled to find success. That all changed when they landed a recording deal with Philadelphia International Records in 1971, thus beginning Pendergrass‘s successful collaboration with label founders Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

Early Career

Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes: 1972 1975

In 1972, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes released their first single, a slowsolemn ballad entitled I Miss You. The song was originally written for The Dells, but the group passed on it. Noting how Pendergrass sounded like Dells lead singer Marvin Junior, Kenny Gamble decided to build the song with Pendergrass, who was only 21 at the time of the recording. Pendergrass sings much of the song in raspy baritone voice that would become his trademark. The song also featured Blue Notes member Lloyd Parks singing falsetto in the background and spotlighted Harold Melvin adding in a rap near the end of the song as Pendergrass kept singing, feigning tears. The song, one of Gamble and Huff‘s most creative productions, became a major rhythm and blues hit and put the Blue Notes on the map. The group‘s follow-up single, If You Don’t Know Me by Now, brought the group to the mainstream with the song reaching the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, while also reaching number one on the soul no. 1 singles chart. Like I Miss You before it, the song was originally intended for a different artist, fellow Philadelphian native Patti LaBelle and her group Labelle but the group could not record it due to scheduling conflicts. Pendergrass and LaBelle developed a close friendship that would last until Pendergrass‘s death.

The group rode to fame with several more releases over the years including The Love I Lost, a song that predated the upcoming disco music scene, the ballad Hope That We Can Be Together Soon, and socially conscious singles Wake Up Everybody and Bad Luck. One of the group‘s notable singles was their original version of the Philly soul classic Don’t Leave Me This Way, which turned into disco smash when Motown artist Thelma Houston released her version in 1976. By 1975, Pendergrass and Harold Melvin were at odds, mainly over financial issues and personality conflicts. Despite the fact that Pendergrass sang most of the group‘s songs, Melvin was controlling the group‘s finances. At one point, Pendergrass wanted the group to be renamed Teddy Pendergrass and the Blue Notes because fans kept mistaking him for Melvin. Pendergrass left the group in 1975, and the Blue Notes struggled with his replacements. They eventually left Philadelphia International and toiled in relative obscurity, until Melvin‘s death in 1997. As of 2014, a version of the group still tours the old school circuitperforming as Harold Melvin‘s Blue Notes.

Solo Career

Early Solo Success

In 1977, Pendergrass released his self-titled album, which went platinum on the strength of the disco hit I Don’t Love You Anymore. Its follow-up single, The Whole Town‘s Laughing At Me, became a top 20 R&B hit. Although not released as singles, the uptempo album tracks You Can’t Hide From Yourself and The More Get, The More I Want, as well as the ballad And If I Had were also hits. The debut album was quickly followed by Life Is a Song Worth Singing, in 1978. That album was even more successful with its singles Only You and the classic million selling number 1 R&B hit Close the Door. The latter song firmly established Pendergrass as the top male sex symbol in music. The album‘s popularity was furthered by the disco hit Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose, the ballad It Don’t Hurt Now, and the mid-tempo classic When Somebody Loves You Back.That double platinum number-one R&B triumph was followed up in 1979 by two successes, the albums Teddy (which stayed at number 1 on the Billboard R&B chart for 8 weeks and was named the 2nd biggest R&B album of the year), and the live release Live Coast to Coast. Hits off Teddy included the classics Come Go With Me, the legendary erotic ballad Turn Off the Lights, and the uptempo album cut Do Me. With his sex appeal at an all-time high after his 1979 tour, Pendergrass took a more mellow approach on his 1980 album TP. It included the classic number two R&B hit Love TKO, the Stephanie Mills duet version of Feel The Fire and the Ashford & Simpson composition Is It Still Good to You. Between 1977 and 1981, Pendergrass landed four consecutive platinum albums, which was a then record-setting number for a rhythm and blues artist.

Pendergrass‘s popularity became massive at the end of 1978. With sold-out audiences packing his shows, his manager the renowned Shep Gordon, who was known for his innovative approaches to publicizing his artists soon noticed that huge number of his audience consisted of women of all races. Gordon devised a plan for Pendergrass‘s next tour to play to just female audiences, starting a trend that continues today called women-only concerts. With four platinum albums and two gold albums, Pendergrass was on his way to being what the media called the black Elvis, not only in terms of his crossover popularity but also due to him buying a mansion akin to Elvis‘s Graceland, located just outside his hometown of Philadelphia. By early 1982, Pendergrass was perhaps the leading R&B male artist of his day, equaling the popularity of Marvin Gaye, and surpassing Barry White and all others in the R&B field. In 1980, the Isley Brothers released Don’t Say Goodnight (It‘s Time for Love) to compete with Pendergrass Turn Off the Lights, which sensed Pendergrass‘s influence on the quiet storm format of black music.


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