Bobby Lance was a noted songwriter and blue-eyed soul man who enjoyed a successful career as a tunesmith and arranger, while winning a cult following for his recording career without making much of a dent on the sales charts. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Bobby lost his parents at a young age, and the primary responsibilities of looking after him fell to his sister Fran Lance, 17 years older than her brother. Fran was a classically trained pianist, and Bobby developed a strong interest in music. When Fran married Norm Robins, he noticed Bobby's budding talent as a singer and composer, and as Bobby started writing songs in collaboration with Fran, Norm believed Bobby had the potential to be a pop star. Norm kicked in the money to record Bobby's first single, "Baby, I'm Gone," and while the record didn't sell very well, it got Bobby's foot in the door of the music business. In 1962, the vocal group the Escorts (led by future record producer Richard Perry) cut one of Bobby Lance and Fran Robins' tunes, "I Can't Be Free," and a year later, when lead singer Goldie Zelkowitz left the Escorts, Bobby was brought in to sing with the combo. (Zelkowitz later enjoyed greater success as a singer and producer under the name Genya Ravan.) While the Escorts broke up after two more singles, Bobby and Fran continued to enjoy success as songwriters, and Bobby began branching out as an arranger. By 1968, Bobby had been hired as an arranger and songwriter for Atlantic Records; Bobby tried to place a song he'd written, "The House That Jack Built," with Aretha Franklin, but when Franklin's A&R people expressed an initial indifference, Bobby persuaded R&B diva Thelma Jones to cut the tune. To Bobby's surprise, Franklin and her producers had a change of heart about the song, and Aretha's version of "The House That Jack Built" ended up trouncing Jones' on the charts.
By the end of the '60s, Fran and Bobby began going their separate ways as songwriters, and in 1970 Bobby began work on his first solo LP as part of his Atlantic deal. However, in hopes of expanding his profile as a tunesmith, Bobby had signed a conflicting songwriting deal with Motown Records, and by the time the lawyers had settled the matter, Motown was owed part of the royalties on Bobby's upcoming album. By the time it was released by Atlantic's Cotillion subsidiary in 1971, Bobby's debut album, First Peace, received little notice, in part because Atlantic was reluctant to promote an album that would earn profits for another label. While First Peace was inspired by Southern soul -- and Bobby's vocals were a perfect fit for that style -- Lance took his music in a more rock-oriented direction for his follow-up, 1972's Rollin' Man, which was released under the moniker B. Lance. The album fared no better in the marketplace than First Peace, even though unlike the debut, Atlantic released a single from Rollin' Man ("Rock Your Own" b/w "Hot Wood and Coal") in hopes of promoting radio play. Rollin' Man marked the end of Bobby Lance's contract with Atlantic, and his lack of commercial success as a performer made it difficult for him to land a new record deal. Lance stepped away from music, relocated to Tarrytown, New York, and took up a career in education, though he continued to write and perform in his spare time. In 2015, Lance's two albums were reissued on a single CD by Real Gone Records. ~ Mark Deming