Major Lance

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Major Lance
Born April 4, 1939, 1941 or 1942
Winterville, Mississippi, U.S.
Origin Detroit, Michigan, United States
Died September 3, 1994(1994-09-03) (aged 55)
Decur, Georgia
Genres R&B, Soul, Pop
Years active 1959–1994
Labels Mercury
OKeh
Dakar Records
Curtom
Volt
Playboy
Osiris
Columbia
Soul

Major Lance (April 4, 1939,[1] 1941[2][3] or 1942,[4][5] – September 3, 1994[6]) was a solo singer. 'Major' was his given name; it was not a nickname or stage name.[7] Born in Winterville, Mississippi, Lance moved to Chicago as a kid and became friends with Otis Leavill Cobb. Both of them took boxing and also worked at a drug store.

Although he was arrested a couple of times in his life and his earliest records were not successful, Lance was most known for his music hits in the United States called "Monkey Time" and "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um". He was considered the most successful Okeh artist.[8] After these hits, he became an iconic figure in Britain, where he lived throughout in the 1970s, among followers of Northern soul.

Lance continued to tour and perform at clubs and music festivals, such as in the United Kingdom and England, until he died in 1994 from a certain heart attack at the age of 55.[6][9] Lance is buried in Homewood, Illinois.

Early Days[change | change source]

Major Lance was born in Winterville, Mississippi. There has been something confusing over Lance's birth year; some sources say he was born 1941[2][3][10] or 1942 (as Lance claimed),[4][5] while his gravestone states he was born in 1939.[11] 'Major' was his given name; it was not a nickname or stage name.[7] Major Lance was one of 12 children. One of his hobbies was playing Baseball.[12]

Lance moved with his family on the northwest side of Chicago in the Cabrini-Green projects,[13] where there was a lot of crime in the area,[14] as a child. After moving to Chicago, he developed a boyhood friendship with another singer named Otis Leavill Cobb. They both attended Wells High School.[15] This was the same school Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler, who were also both singers too, went to.[16] Mayfield called him a "sparkly fellow, and a great basketball player, which is probably how we met. His hero was Jackie Wilson, and he was always coming round and looking through my bag for songs that I'd written but didn't want to do with the Impressions. He was pretty good at picking them, too."[17] Lance and Otis both toke boxing and were also singing as members of the Five Gospel Harmonaires.[18][19][20] Both of them also worked together at a drug store.[14]

Career[change | change source]

Lance and Otis Leavill formed a group named the Floats in the mid-1950s. However, they broke up before recording any songs. But Lance became a featured dancer on a local TV show named "Time for Teens",[21] and presenter Jim Lounsbury gacve him a one-off record deal with Mercury Records. Mercury released his single "I Got a Girl", written and produced by Curtis Mayfield, in 1959, which was not successful. Because of this, Lance worked at various jobs over the next few years.[18]

Lance signed with OKeh Records in 1962 as Curtis Mayfield recommended.[18] Major was constantly showing up at the Okeh offices, offering to run errands for Carl Davis, telling him about the record he'd once made and how he and Curtis Mayfield were friends from their childhood. Major Lance's first single was called "Delilah", which was made by Curtis Mayfield.[14] Although it was not successful, it made his partnership with a writing and arranging team for Curtis Mayfield, Carl Davis, and Johnny Pate, often with members of Mayfield's music group called The Impressions on backing vocals. Together they made a distinctive, Latin-tinged sound which epitomised Chicago soul unlike other music.[7][18]

Major Lance's second Okeh single was called "The Monkey Time". This song was also written by Mayfield. Unlike his first Okeh single, Monkey Time was a success, becoming #2 on the Billboard R&B chart. It was also the #8 pop hit in 1963. "The Monkey Time" became Okeh's first hit single for 10 years.[22] His hits quickly became more successful, including "Hey Little Girl", "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" (his biggest hit, reaching #5 in the US pop chart and #40 in the UK, where it was his only chart success. It was also one of the top 100 on the Billboard chart in 1964), "The Matador" (the only one not written by Mayfield), "Rhythm", "Sometimes I Wonder", "Come See", and "Ain't It A Shame".[23][24]

Lance and Davis continued to work together, during the time Pate and Mayfield left Okeh Records. "Too Hot To Hold" was a minor hit, but they had poor success before Davis left the company in turn.[18] During this period, Lance toured in the United Kingdom. This is where he was supported by Bluesology, a band including pianist Reggie Dwight (Reggie was later known as Elton John.[7]).[25] Over the next two years he began working with several music producers. Soon after Lance left OKeh Records in 1968[14] and moved to Dakar Records, where he had the Top 40 R&B hit "Follow the Leader." He then moved to Mayfield's label named Curtom Records, which resulted in his last two Top 40 R&B hits, "Stay Away From Me (I Love You too Much)" and "Must Be Love Coming Down."[18] One of Lance's song recorded at Curtom called "Stay Away From Me" was listed #4 in Jet Magazine's "Soul Brothers Top 20".[26] He left Curtom in 1971, and recorded Volt and Columbia Records labels for a short amount of time.

Lance moved to England in 1972. He was to become "legendary as a UK club act, known to deliver 110% at every performance."[7] During his time in England, he recorded an album, Major Lance's Greatest Hits Recorded Live At The Torch, recorded at The Torch, a club in Stoke on Trent,[27] which has been described as "perhaps the best Northern Soul album ever made".[7] Lance returned to Atlanta in 1974. He recorded an updated disco version of "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" for Playboy Records.[28] He set up a new label, Osiris, with Al Jackson, a former drummer for Booker T and the MG, but again with little success,[7] and his songs became less popular. But later found that his recordings had become popular on the beach music circuit in the Carolinas, where he continued to perform at live performances. He recorded a comeback album, The Major's Back, and several tracks for the Kat Family label.[7]

Personal life[change | change source]

Major Lance was married to Christine Boular Lance, and had nine children.[29] He was 6'6 foot tall.[30]

Lance was arrested two times in his life. In 1965, Lance was arrested in violation of the Paternity Act. A Chicago Women, Para Lee Thomas, told she had a son named Ronnie Maurice Lance (born January 13, 1964 (1964-01-13) (age 50). She declared Lance who promised to pay her doctor and hospital bills around 375$, but defaulted in the payment. Judge Benjamin J. Kanter issued for the arrest, setting Lance's bond at $1,000.[31] After recording briefly for the Motown Records subsidiary label Soul in 1978, he was convicted of cocaine possession and was sentenced to four years in Jail.[18]

In 1987, Lance was diagnosed with a heart attack, and he became nearly blind from glaucoma.[32] As a result, he made no more recordings since.[18][20] In June 1994, he gave his final performance at the 11th Chicago Blues Festival. In September of that year, he died in his sleep[32] at the age of 55 of heart disease in Decatur, Georgia. He was survived by his family.[6] He is buried at Washington Memory Gardens Cemetery in Homewood, Illinois.

Discography[change | change source]

Singles[change | change source]

Year Title Label &
Cat. No.
U.S. R&B[33] U.S. Pop[33] UK[24]
1959 "I Got a Girl"[34] Mercury 71582
-
-
-
1962 "Delilah"[35] Okeh 7168[36]
-
-
-
1963 "The Monkey Time"[37] Okeh 7175[36]
2
8
-
1963 "Hey Little Girl" Okeh 7181[36]
12
13
-
1964 "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um"[38] Okeh 7187[36]
1*
5
40
1964 "The Matador"[39] Okeh 7191[36]
4*
20
-
1964 "Girls"[40] Okeh 7197[36]
25*
68
-
1964 "It Ain't No Use"[41] Okeh 7197[36]
33*
68
-
1964 "Think Nothing About It"[42] Okeh 7200[36]
-
-
-
1964 "Rhythm"[43] Okeh 7203[36]
3*
24
-
1965 "Sometimes I Wonder"[44] Okeh 7209[36]
13
64
-
1965 "Come See"[45] Okeh 7216[36]
20
40
-
1965 "Ain't It a Shame"[46] Okeh 7223[36]
20
91
-
1965 "Too Hot to Hold"[47] Okeh 7226[36]
32
93
-
1965 "Everybody Loves a Good Time"[48] Okeh 7233[36]
-
109
-
1966 "Investigate"[49] Okeh 7250[36]
-
132
-
1966 "It's the Beat"[50] Okeh 7255[36]
37
128
-
1967 "Ain't No Soul (In These Old Shoes)"[51] Okeh 7266[36]
-
-
-
1967 "You Don't Want Me No More"[52] Okeh 7284[36]
-
-
-
1968 "Without a Doubt"[53] Okeh 7298[36]
49
-
-
1969 "Follow the Leader"[54] Dakar 608
28
125
-
1969 "Sweeter As the Days Go By"[55] Dakar 612
-
-
-
1970 "Stay Away From Me (I Love You Too Much)"[56][57] Curtom 1953
13
67
-
1970 "Must Be Love Coming Down"[58] Curtom 1956
31
119
-
1971 "Girl Come On Home"[59] Volt 4069
-
-
-
1971 "I Wanna Make Up (Before We Break Up)"[60] Volt 4079
-
-
-
1972 "Ain't No Sweat"[61] Volt 4085
-
-
-
1974 "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um"
New version
Playboy 6017
59
-
-
1975 "Sweeter As the Days Go By"
New version
Playboy 6020
58
-
-
1975 "You're Everything I Need" Osiris 001
50
-
-
1975 "I've Got a Right To Cry" Osiris 002
-
-
-
1977 "Come What May" Columbia 10488
-
-
-
1978 "I Never Thought I'd Be Losing You" Soul 35123
-
-
-
1982 "I Wanna Go Home" Kat Family 3024
-
-
-
1982 "Are You Leaving Me" Kat Family 4182
-
-
-

* Billboard magazine did not publish an R&B chart during 1964; these chart positions are from Cashbox magazine.

Selected albums[change | change source]

  • The Monkey Time (OKeh 1963)
  • Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um (OKeh 1964)
  • The Rhythm of Major Lance (OKeh 1968)
  • Major Lance's Greatest Hits Recorded Live At The Torch (Contempo 1973)
  • Now Arriving (Soul 1978)
  • The Major's Back (1983)
  • Live At Hinkley (1986)
  • Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um (Collectables 2003)[20]

References[change | change source]

  1. Major Lance profile Oldies.com
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Major Lance". tsimon.com. 2005. http://www.tsimon.com/lance.htm. Retrieved April 5, 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Soul music A-Z 1995 p. 185
  4. 4.0 4.1 The golden age of American rock 'n roll: Volume 3; 2002 p. 556
  5. 5.0 5.1 Rhythm and Blues, Rap, and Hip-hop p. 161
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Major Lance, 55, Soul Singer in 60's". The New York Times. 1994-09-05. http://www.nytimes.com/1994/09/05/obituaries/major-lance-55-soul-singer-in-60-s.html?sec=&pagewanted=print. Retrieved on the normal English Wikipedia 30 December 2009.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 Major Lance Biography The Northern Soul Nightshift
  8. Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 1 p. 746
  9. "Major Lance; Rock Singer Helped Shape Chicago Soul Sound". The Los Angeles Times. September 4, 1994. http://articles.latimes.com/1994-09-04/news/mn-34656_1_major-lance.
  10. On This Day in Music History p. 96
  11. "Major Lance's Gravestone". Find a Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=7129182&PIpi=19862746. Retrieved April 5, 2012.
  12. Billboard August 10, 1963 p. 16
  13. Knocking on Heaven's Door: Rock Obituaries. 2006. p. 390
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Jack Kirby, Michael. "Major Lance". Way Back Attack. http://www.waybackattack.com/lancemajor.html. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
  15. Pruter, Robert (1992). University of Illinois Press. p. 272.
  16. Contemporary Black biography: Volume 43 p. 136
  17. Williams, Richard (September 13, 1994). "Obituary: Major Lance". The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-major-lance-1448552.html. Retrieved April 5, 2012.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 18.7 "Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine". Allmusic.com. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p4724/biography. Retrieved 26 February 2009.
  19. Biography of Otis Leavill Cobb by Andrew Hamilton at AllMusic. Accessed April 15, 2012
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Biography at Soulwalking.co.uk
  21. Doowop: the Chicago scene p. 197
  22. DeCurtis, Anthony (1992) The Rolling stone illustrated history of rock & roll: the definitive history of the most important artists and their music Random House Digital, Inc. p. 173 ""The Monkey Time" not only became Okeh's hit in 10 years"
  23. Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc.. p. 397. ISBN 0-89820-155-1 .
  24. 24.0 24.1 Rice, Tim (1985). Guinness British Hit Singles (5th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 126. ISBN 0-85112-429-1 .
  25. Profiles in Popular Music p. 78
  26. Jet Magazine. 38. October 1970. p. 65.
  27. "Major Lance's Greatest Hits Recorded Live At The Torch". www.discogs.com. http://www.discogs.com/Major-Lance-Major-Lances-Greatest-Hits-Recorded-Live-At-The-Torch/release/2602189. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
  28. Billboard September 7, 1974 p. 18
  29. "Major Lance, `Monkey Time' Singer". Seattle Times. September 4, 1994. http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19940904&slug=1928783.
  30. Rock N Roll Gold Rush: A Singles Un-Cyclopedia p. 250
  31. Jet Magazine. 28. September 1965. p. 59.
  32. 32.0 32.1 "Major Lance". Soulful Kinda Music. http://www.soulfulkindamusic.net/mlance.htm. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
  33. 33.0 33.1 "Major Lance - Charts and Awards". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p4724/charts-awards/billboard-singles.
  34. I Got a Girl. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  35. Delilah. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  36. 36.00 36.01 36.02 36.03 36.04 36.05 36.06 36.07 36.08 36.09 36.10 36.11 36.12 36.13 36.14 36.15 36.16 36.17 36.18 Major Lance Okeh Discography. Accessed from April 10, 2012
  37. Monkey Time. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  38. Um Um Um Um Um Um. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  39. Matador AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  40. Girls. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  41. It Ain't No Use. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  42. Think Nothing About It. AllMusic Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  43. Rhythm. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  44. Sometimes I Wonder. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  45. Come See. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  46. Ain't It a Shame. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  47. Too Hot to Hold. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  48. Everybody Loves a Good Time. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  49. Investigate. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  50. It's the Beat. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  51. Ain't No Soul (In These Old Shoes). AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  52. You Don't Want Me No More. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  53. Without a Doubt. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  54. Follow the Leader. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  55. Sweeter as the Days Go By. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  56. Stay Away From Me. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  57. Stay Away from Me (I Love YouToo Much). AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  58. Must Be Love Coming Down. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  59. Girl Come on Home. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  60. I Wanna Make up (Before We Break Up). AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.
  61. Ain't No Sweat. AllMusic. Accessed from April 10, 2012.