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Archie Bell & The Drells

Archie Bell & the Drells from Houston,Texas hit #1 R&B/#1 Pop with the certified million-selling dance classic, "Tighten It Up." They also scored several hits produced or supervised by Philly Soul producers Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff such as "I Can't Stop Dancing," "(There's Gonna Be A) Showdown," and "The Soul City Walk." The Drells were -- at varying times -- Archie's brother Lee Bell, James Wise, Joe Cross, Billy Butler, Lucious Larkins and Willie Pernell. Because Bell wanted the group's name to rhyme and to avoid confusion with Harvey, IL based group The Dells, he came up with The Drells.

Born in Henderson, TX on September 1, 1944, Bell grew up in Houston in a household that included seven brothers, including All-American football star Ricky Bell. His mother, Ruthie Bell, sang gospel and made sure her sons were involved in church-based activities. Because of his mother, Bell began singing in church at an early age. In his teens, he formed Archie Bell & the Drells and began performing at various talent shows around Houston. While performing, they were discovered by KCOH Radio DJ Skipper Lee Frazier. Frazier has his own record label, Ovid Records, and on a handshake-based management deal, they began recording for him. The group scored a regional hit with "She's My Woman, She's My Girl." Soon after, Bell was drafted into the Army to serve in Vietnam. While on a short leave, he recorded the single "Tighten It Up" with musical backing by The TSU Tornadoes. Issued in December 1967, "Tighten It Up" became a huge hit in Houston and was picked up for distribution by New York-based Atlantic Records.

"Tighten Up," written by Bell and Billy Butler sold more than three million copies, holding both the #1 R&B and the #1 Pop spot for two weeks on Billboard's charts in spring 1968. The Tighten Up LP hit #15 R&B and #142 Pop in summer 1968. Unfortunately, Bell was stationed in Germany while all of this was happening. With the concert offerings rolling in, James Wise sang lead in the group's concerts with Charles Gibbs brought in to add background vocals.

Graciously, the Army allowed Bell to sporadically return to the US to do club dates. While performing at a New Jersey club, the group was approached by Philadelphia-based songwriting/production duo, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. After getting an OK from Frazier and Atlantic, this new collaboration hit with "I Can't Stop Dancing," "Do The Choo Choo," "Love Will Rain On You," "(There's Gonna Be a) Showdown," "Girl You're Too Young" and "My Balloon's Going Up." Their last charting single for Atlantic was the David Crawford-produced cover of the Sam & Dave hit B-side, "Wrap It Up."

Switching to Henry Stone's Glades label, they had a hit with songwriter/producer Philip Mitchell's "Dancing To Your Music." The group began recording for Philly Soul's CBS Records-distributed TSOP label, a subsidiary of Gamble and Huff's Philadelphia International Records. Their first hit single for the imprint was the Bunny Sigler-produced "I Could Dance All Night," followed by "The Soul City Walk" and "Let's Groove." The previous three releases as well as "Strategy" featured the Instant Funk rhythm section were on Dance Your Troubles Away.

A curious situation happened with the group's next LP, Where Will You Go When the Party's Over. While "Glad You Could Make It" was released as a low charting single, the thump funkin' "Don't Let Love Get You Down" received massive radio airplay in Chicago and other markets. Mysteriously the track was never issued as a single, dooming Where Will You Go When the Party's Over to only reach the middle of the soul LP charts. The driving Sigler-produced "Everybody Have A Good Time" was a disco hit but only charted #68 R&B in spring 1977. The Strategy album made it to #37 R&B in fall 1979 and was reissued in the '90s by EMI/The Right Stuff. Another TSOP album was 1977's Hard Not to Like It. In 1981, Bell began recording for New York label, Becket Records as a solo artist. His album, I Never Had It So Good, included "Anytime Is Right," a midtempo dance track that charted #49 R&B in spring 1981.

Though Archie Bell & The Drells are best known for their joyous dance hits, they recorded several good ballads such as "Love Will Rain On You." Some like the Bunny Sigler/Ron Tyson song "Honey I Won't Leave You Never" from Dance Your Troubles Away and "Right Here Is Where I Want To Be" on Where Will You Go When the Party's Over were included on a mid '90s CD from Sony Music, Archie Bell & the Drells Greatest Hits. ~ Ed Hogan
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

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I love me some Archie Bell & The Drells !!!!!! Shell1965 oldies to sure
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I rember. The 8 tract
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I like to tighten it up like NOW! RQ/rlh
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Definitely coooooler than voodoo!
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listening to some good music couldn't ask for anything else
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No kiddin now... I see your feet tappin...... And the grin... Yeah busted on a groove. Better tighten up!
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Omg under grown oldies I remember when I first heard this song I loved it ;)♥·♥♡
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Nice)) 8 track tape, Classic))
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I was a kid when this song dropped back in 1967?? Daddy and momma played this to death and me and my sister's and brothers would dance on Saturday nights! This band was the bomb! I miss daddy.RIP Daddy.
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I remember Momma and daddy playing Tighten Up when I was a a kid in 67! I loved that song!! Memories of all of us kids dancing in the family room. RIP to all the family who have since passed.
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"I Just Want To Fall In Love"H-Town Listening
*978*5m14y~
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One of the best groups I know of. RASHON IBN ALMUHYI
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Add a little Bass...
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Groovin, My song! Miss hearing them! RQ/rxh
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<3
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jmorales3607
H-TOWN, stand-up, and get on down.
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I Could Have Danced All Night is still a great song.
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They just don't know today how to be clean free,and dance. Wowie
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Pure rhythm...goe s to your soul!
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rubenc2
One of the best group coming out from the texas area in the 60's.
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The Drells can groove
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everybody have a good time was their greatest hit!
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ONE OF THE VERY BEST OF TEXAS CHICANO OLDIES!
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This is a masterpiece here. Clean, crisp, sunshiny funk. you gotta love it.
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fhpetite
This is one of my favorites songs!
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THIS GROUP CAUSED A DANCE - KRAZE AND A MOVEMENT OF THE GENRE -"1960'S)
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wkillian
I enjoy listening to all the old groups that I grew up with, so of them I had forgotten but now since you are here I can relive my teenage years all over again. I could do all of the dances that came out. I wish that the kids of today could experince my childhood through our music instead of what their listening today. Thanks again. Winifred Killian Walker
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"Tighten Up" is just awesome! I gotta go groove now...
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I just love all these songs in this era
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One of my favorite groups of the sixties.

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