The Sound of Philadelphia

Gamble and Huff were inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame in 2008, three years after their biggest stars, the O’Jays.

Gamble & Huff, with former PIR artist Patti Labelle
Gamble & Huff, with former PIR artist Patti Labelle

That soulful dude Arthur from down south (hemisphere) asked me: “Are you planning a post on the end of Philadelphia International Records “The Sound of Philadelphia” (TSOP)? I’d be really curious to hear your take.” I hadn’t heard the news. As you may know, I do take requests, and any excuse to fill a post with music links is welcome.

Even before the official Philadelphia International Records label, you had the songwriting/production team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, who produced one of the very few singles I actually bought in the 1960s, Expressway To Your Heart by the Soul Survivors, a US Top 4 hit in 1967. I love songs that lived on the bottom.

I just recently played that classic album Gonna Take A Miracle by Laura Nyro, with Labelle, and never knew that this was a Gamble-Huff production, prior to their PIR days. LISTEN to the title track.

It’s possible that I didn’t notice Gamble-Huff on records as songwriters until The Pointer Sisters’ Love In Them There Hills [LISTEN] in 1974.

It took me a while to recognize TSOP as a “sound.” I was familiar with Motown, whose move west in 1972 seemed to correspond with its lesser output, at least to my ears. Stax Records, out of Memphis, was in commercial decline around that same time. Philadelphia International filled that “soul” gap.

In fact, as it turns out when I hooked into that sound corresponds with that very year. LISTEN to these PIR songs:
Me And Mrs Jones – Billy Paul (#1 for three weeks in 1972).
If You Don’t Know Me by Now – Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (#3 in 1972)
When Will I See You Again – The Three Degrees (#2 in 1974)
TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)- MFSB (#1 for two weeks in 1974). This was the theme to the long-running television show Soul Train.
Enjoy Yourself – The Jacksons (#6 in 1977). This was the first hit after Michael and his brothers left Motown.

Still, in spite of a great roster of musicians, I most closely associate the O’Jays with the sound of Philadelphia. LISTEN TO:
Back Stabbers (#3 in 1972)
Love Train (#1 in 1973)
For the Love of Money (#9 in 1974)
I Love Music (#5 in 1976)

Gamble and Huff were inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame in 2008, three years after their biggest stars, the O’Jays.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on “The Sound of Philadelphia”

  1. Thanks! It’s interesting to see the various songs all laid out like that, because I’m struck by how much those songs were part of the soundtrack of my life in the early to mid 1970s. At that same time, though, I was pretty unaware of songwriters or labels, and the first time I ever heard of TSOP was when I bought a compilation record that included “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia” by MFSB. Which is why I find your posts so interesting.

    As a side note, I recently realised the value of including links to YouTube videos (as you do) rather than the actual videos. Several of the videos I posted during my NZ Music Month posts last May are already gone.

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