The Honey Cone
Hot Wax 7011
hen Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland left Motown after producing a string of number one hits for Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Four Tops, they formed their own company and signed artists to two labels -- Invictus, distributed by Capitol, and Hot Wax, distributed by Buddah.
Not surprisingly, the first two groups Holland-Dozier-Holland worked with were a female trio and a male quartet -- the Honey Cone and the Chairmen of the Board. Edna Wright, Carolyn Willis and Shellie Clark teamed to sing backing vocals for Burt Bacharach on a 1969 television special starring Andy Williams. Edna asked her friend Eddie Holland to watch the show, and he suggested they form a group. The Honey Cone had the very first single released on Hot Wax, "While You're Looking for Sugar."
Between 1965-1967, Edna recorded several singles as Sandy Wynns, including a minor hit called "A Touch of Venus." She continued to work as a background singer, first for Johnny Rivers and then for Ray Charles, who asked her to join the Raelettes.
Carolyn Willis had been a member of the 1964 girl group the Girlfriends ("My One and Only Jimmy Boy") and also did some work with Spector's Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. She worked often as a backing vocalist for artists like Lou Rawls and O.C. Smith. Shellie Clark moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles when she won a scholarship to the University of Southern California. She worked as an Ikette for Ike and Tina Turner and sang backing vocals for Little Richard and Dusty Springfield.
The Honey Cone recorded for almost two years on Hot Wax without a major hit. Meanwhile, Holland-Dozier-Holland's other label, Invictus, had scored a couple of top three hits -- "Give Me Just a Little More Time" by the Chairmen of the Board and "Band of Gold" by Freda Payne.
The lead singer on "Give Me Just a Little More Time" was General Johnson, who had written and sung lead on "It Will Stand," a 1961 hit for the Showmen. Brian Holland had been interested in his talent since a reissue of "It Will Stand" went to number one in Detroit in 1964, but his voice was too similar to Levi Stubbs of the Four Tops to bring him to Motown. When Invictus and Hot Wax were created, H-D-H signed Johnson to a contract and brought him to Detroit, where he lived in Lamont Dozier's house.
But Holland-Dozier-Holland were the primary songwriters in their company, and Johnson had to prove his talent. He teamed up with Greg Perry to write "Somebody's Been Sleeping (In My Bed)" for the Hot Wax group 100 Proof Aged in Soul. The record went to number eight in the fall of 1970.
Then Johnson and Perry wrote a song they thought would be right for a female singer, "Stick-Up." It was rejected, so they changed the chord progression and came up with new lyrics: "Wanted, young man, single and free..." The song was "Want Ads." First it was recorded with an Invictus group, Glass House, featuring lead vocals by Freda Payne's sister Scherrie (later a member of the Supremes). Unhappy with that version, Johnson and Perry had Freda give it a try. That didn't work either, so they recorded it a third time, with the Honey Cone.
"Want Ads" entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 79 on April 10, 1971. Nine weeks later it was number one. For a follow-up, the group recorded "Stick-Up," which peaked at number 11. They had two more hits, "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show -- Part 1" (number 15) and "The Day I Found Myself" (number 23).
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.
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