Archie Bell and the Drells --"from Houston, Texas" -- had a few hits in the late 60's, including one that hit the top ten, and another that made number one.
Archie Bell was born in 1944 in Henderson, Texas. While a student at Leo Smith Junior High School in Houston, he formed a singing group with some fellow students. Others in the group included Willie Pernell (born 1945) and James Wise (born 1948). In high school they began to enter talent shows. They first recorded on the Houston-based Ovide label and by 1967 the R&B vocal group had a regional hit with She's My Woman.
In 1967 the Drells signed with Atlantic. They had some personnel changes and by 1968 the lineup included Archie Bell on lead vocals, James Wise, Joe Cross, and Huey "Billy" Butler. A song written by Archie Bell and Billy Butler, Tighten Up, had been recorded on Ovide but was picked up for distribution by Atlantic in April, 1968. In national distribution it went to number one and stayed there for two weeks, and suddenly Archie Bell and the Drells were in demand. Bell was in the United States Army and had served in Vietnam where he suffered a leg wound, hence the line in the song "we dance just as good as we walk." The Army allowed him leaves to tour with the Drells until his release in the spring of 1969.
They began to work with Leon Huff and Kenneth Gamble, the creative team from Philadelphia who would later start Philadelphia International Records. By August of 1968 Archie Bell and the Drells reached the top ten for a second time with I Can't Stop Dancing, and finished the year with their final top forty hit (in the USA), There's Gonna Be A Showdown, which went to #21, all on the Atlantic label. For some time Lucious Larkins performed with the group, and in 1969 Archie's younger brother, Lee Bell (born in Houston in 1946) joined the Drells.
Archie Bell and the Drells continued recording and remained popular in the 70's, making some good records and a number of danceable hits, but their record sales slowed down in the United States. Here I Go Again was a big hit in the United Kingdom in 1972, leading to a reissue of There's Gonna Be A Showdown there and it also gained popularity. Recording for Philadelphia International, some hits followed later in the 70's in the UK for the group, among them Soul City Walk and Everybody Have A Good Time.
Archie Bell and the Drells recorded a number of albums, among them Tighten Up, There's Gonna Be A Showdown, I Can't Stop Dancing and in 1976 Dance Your Troubles Away. Archie's solo album in 1981 was titled I Never Had It So Good. The group disbanded in 1980, but later reformed, and Archie Bell would perform with them for another two decades, during which time there were a number of personnel changes.
An account of Archie Bell's career would not be complete without mentioning the accomplishments of some of his younger brothers. In addition to Lee who performed with the Drells, they are Jerry Bell, Ricky Bell, and Eugene Bell, Sr. Jerry at one time was a world karate champion as well as lead singer for the Motown group Dazz Band. Ricky Bell (born in 1955) was an outstanding football player at USC, a running back who finished as runner-up to Pittsburgh's Tony Dorsett in the 1976 Heisman Trophy balloting. Ricky was the first player chosen in the first round of the 1977 NFL draft; he went on to a six-year career in the NFL as an all-pro running back with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and later with the San Diego Chargers. Ricky Bell died of heart failure in 1984, and a movie of his life (starring Mario Von Peebles) was made in 1991 titled A Triumph of the Heart: The Ricky Bell Story.
Archie Bell and the Drells had an impact on the late-60's pop music scene with their two top ten hits, Tighten Up and I Can't Stop Dancing.
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