Philadelphia International Records

(Redirected from Gamble Records)

Philadelphia International Records (PIR) was an American record label based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1971 by songwriting and production duo Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff along with their longtime collaborator Thom Bell. It was known for showcasing the Philadelphia soul music genre (also known as Philly soul) that was founded on the gospel, doo-wop and soul music of the time. This sound later marked a prominent and distinct era within the R&B genre.[1] During the 1970s, the label released a string of worldwide hits that emphasized lavish orchestral instrumentation, heavy bass and driving percussion.

Philadelphia International Records
Parent companySony Music Entertainment
Founded1971 (53 years ago)
FounderKenneth Gamble, Leon Huff
Distributor(s)Legacy Recordings (re-issues)
Country of originUnited States
LocationPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania

Some of its most popular and best selling acts included the O'Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, MFSB, Billy Paul, Patti LaBelle, and Lou Rawls. Between 1971 and the early 1980s, the label released more than 170 gold and platinum records.[2]

Philadelphia International Records had been mostly defunct since 1987 and finally shut down in 2001. As of 2007, Sony Music Entertainment owns all rights to the Philadelphia International Records catalogue.[3]

Beginning and success


Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, the founders of Philadelphia International Records, met in 1964 while they were both playing as session musicians for various labels, including Philadelphia based Cameo-Parkway Records, whose building would later become home to Philadelphia International Records' recording studio. In 1965, Huff joined Gamble's band, the Romeos, a popular moniker at the time, by replacing future Philadelphia International Records producer and arranger Thom Bell on piano. Gamble and the Romeos had seen little success playing for their label, Arctic Records, and split up soon after.

When the Romeos disbanded, Gamble and Huff started one of the first iterations of Philadelphia International Records (which they named Excel and Gamble) after a visit to Motown Records in Detroit to scope out the Motown setup. The success of their biggest signing, the Intruders, brought attention to Gamble and Huff allowing them to create Neptune Records in 1969. Neptune Records, a more ambitious project for the duo, was financed by Chess Records; thus they were able to sign later Philadelphia International Records artists the O'Jays and the Three Degrees.

When Chess Records changed ownership in 1969, Neptune Records folded. Gamble and Huff transferred their signed artists to a new project, Philadelphia International Records.[4] Looking to attract new black acts to their label, but without the in-house know-how, Columbia Records was convinced to sign an exclusive production contract with Gamble and Huff's new Philadelphia International Records.[5] The label was set up in connection with Mighty Three/Assorted Music, the music publishing company which was run by Gamble, Huff, and Thom Bell, a Philadelphia producer, to showcase their songs.

The label's major hits included: "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" by MFSB, featuring the Three Degrees, 1974 (which was later used as one of the theme tunes for the TV dance-music show Soul Train); "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" by McFadden & Whitehead (writers and producers with the label), 1979; "Back Stabbers" and "Love Train" by the O'Jays, 1972/3; "If You Don't Know Me By Now" and "The Love I Lost" by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, 1972/3; "Me and Mrs. Jones" by Billy Paul, 1972; "When Will I See You Again" by the Three Degrees, 1974; and "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" by Lou Rawls, 1976.

The label had a distribution deal with CBS Records until 1984. Distribution of the catalog from 1976 onward was taken over by EMI Records, but CBS continued to distribute material which was recorded up to 1976. In 2007, Sony's Legacy Recordings regained the rights to Philadelphia International's full catalog and the following year, PIR/Legacy released a box set titled Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia.[6]

Most of the music which was released by the label was recorded and produced at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, with chief engineer and later studio owner Joe Tarsia recording many of the sessions.[7] More than 30 resident studio musicians, known collectively as MFSB ("Mother Father Sister Brother"), were based at this studio and backed up most of the recordings.[5] Some of the musicians also acted as arrangers, writers, or producers for Philadelphia International as well as for other labels recording in the city. They included Bobby Martin,[8][9] Norman Harris, Thom Bell, Ronnie Baker, Vince Montana and, later, Jack Faith, Dexter Wansel, and John Usry.

Gamble and Huff worked as independent producers with a series of artists in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Jerry Butler, Wilson Pickett, and Dusty Springfield. They also produced the Jacksons' first two albums for Epic/CBS after the group left Motown in 1976. The first, titled The Jacksons, featured the platinum-selling single "Enjoy Yourself", and a second album, Goin' Places, followed in 1977. Although they were released on a CBS subsidiary, Epic, both albums and the singles also had a Philadelphia International logo.

In 1965, Gamble and Huff started an independent label, Excel Records. It was soon renamed Gamble Records and in 1972, was folded into Philadelphia International as a subsidiary. In 1974, the subsidiary's name was changed to TSOP Records, taken from the title of the 1974 hit single "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)". Artists for Excel/Gamble/TSOP included Dee Dee Sharp, Archie Bell & the Drells, and the People's Choice who had a top 10 single on TSOP in 1976 with "Do It Any Way You Wanna". Later signings to the Philly International roster in the 1980s and 1990s included Patti LaBelle, the Stylistics, Phyllis Hyman, and the Dells.

Between 1973 and 1975, Gamble and Huff also distributed a boutique label called Golden Fleece, set up by musicians Norman Harris, Ronnie Baker, and Earl Young, which released the second album by the Trammps. Gamble and Huff also launched a short-lived subsidiary called Thunder Records. Created by Thom Bell, it only had two singles: Derek & Cyndi's "You Bring Out the Best in Me/I'll Do the Impossible for You", which was produced by Bell, and Fatback Band member Michael Walker's "I Got the Notion, You Got the Motion", produced by his brother and Spinners member Philippe Wynne.[10]

Later period


By the mid-1980s, Philadelphia International Records had ended the distribution deal that they had with Columbia. The label was soon after picked up by Capitol/EMI Records. They continued to make hits, including Shirley Jones' "Do You Get Enough Love", but their most successful years were behind them. In the 1990s, Philadelphia International launched a new subsidiary, Uncensored Records. Featuring Damon and No Question, the label releases hip hop music. Philadelphia International now largely concentrates on licensing its music catalog worldwide and has issued few new recordings since the mid-1980s when Gamble and Huff wound down their studio work together.

In 1989, Gamble and Huff won their first Grammy Award. Simply Red's cover of "If You Don't Know Me By Now" which was written by Gamble and Huff, received the Grammy Award for Best R&B Song.[11] In 1999, Gamble and Huff were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Grammy from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. In 2008, the duo was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the non-performer category, joining their band the O'Jays, who were inducted in 2005.[12]

In November 2009, PBS aired a two-part special, Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia, that focuses on Gamble and Huff and the family of Philadelphia International Records artists. The concert was shot with a live audience on June 7, 2008 at the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City; it showcased TSOP artists.

In February 2010, fire swept through part of the offices on Philadelphia's Broad Street. The building was previously the home of another iconic part of the city's musical heritage, Cameo-Parkway Records, based there during the 1950s and 1960s; it had become a tourist attraction. The fire was started deliberately by a man who had broken into the offices while so intoxicated by alcohol that he had no later recollection of the crime.[13]

In August 2011, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the company, Philadelphia International Records launched TSOP Soul Radio, an online radio station that airs music and interviews from the Gamble and Huff catalog.

The building that housed Philadelphia International Records located on Broad and Spruce Streets was damaged by arson in 2010 and effectively was shut down. It was sold to local developer Dranoff Properties in 2014. On April 18, 2015, demolition started on the building. Dranoff Properties announced plans to build an SLS International Hotel at the site of the building.[14] It is now home to the 47-story Arthaus Condominiums, where there is a tribute to Philadelphia International Records on display in the lobby.

Gamble and Huff have written more than 3,000 songs throughout their careers, making them two of the most efficient and productive songwriters of all time. They continue to write songs together from their homes in South Philadelphia.[15]

Philly soul


Philadelphia soul, or Philly soul, is a form of soul music that emanated from Philadelphia during the mid-1960s. It provided a smoother alternative to the deep soul of the 1960s while maintaining the soul and emotion of popular R&B of the time.[16] Philadelphia International Records was one of the most successful labels to capitalize on this new genre with acts such as the O'Jays and Teddy Pendergrass.

Philly soul is known for its incorporation of lush string arrangements along with penetrating brass, and often tells very personal and emotional stories. The world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra's string section was often employed to play on many of Philadelphia International Records' tracks.[17] Philly soul is often considered a producer's genre, the essence of the genre coming mostly from Gamble, Huff, Bell, and the other producers within PIR. Philly soul, with its driving rhythms, later became an inspiration for the disco craze of the 1970s.



Catalog numbers from 1971 to 1985 are part of CBS Records' overall numbering system, and therefore are discontinuous. Albums released from 1986-1990 were part of Capitol/EMI catalog numbering system. Catalog numbers for albums released after 1991 are from Philadelphia International's distribution deal with Zoo Entertainment.

Catalog Album Artist Year
KZ 30580 Going East Billy Paul 1971
KZ 31648 I Miss You Harold Melvin & Blue Notes 1972
KZ 31712 Back Stabbers O'Jays 1972
KZ 31793 360 Degrees of Billy Paul Billy Paul 1972
KZ 31794 Dick Jensen Dick Jensen 1973
ZX 31991 Save The Children (originally released on Gamble Records) Intruders 1973
KZ 32046 MFSB MFSB 1973
KZ 32118 Ebony Woman (originally released in 1970 on Neptune Records) Billy Paul 1973
KZ 32119 Feelin' Good at the Cadillac Club (originally released in 1968 on Gamble Records) Billy Paul 1973
KZ 32120 The O'Jays In Philadelphia (originally released in 1970 on Neptune Records) O'Jays 1973
KZ 32131 Super Hits Intruders 1973
KZ 32404 Spiritual Concept Spiritual Concept 1973
KZ 32406 The Three Degrees Three Degrees 1973
KZ/ZQ 32407 Black And Blue Harold Melvin & Blue Notes 1973
KZ/PZ/PZQ 32408 Ship Ahoy O'Jays 1973
KZ 32409 War Of The Gods Billy Paul 1973
KZ 32419 The Ebonys Ebonys 1973
KZ/ZQ 32707 Love is the Message MFSB 1973
KZ 32713 The Sound Of Philadelphia '73 Various Artists 1973
KZ 32859 That's How I'll Be Loving You Bunny Sigler 1974
KZ 32952 Live In Europe Billy Paul 1974
KZ/PZQ 32953 The O'Jays Live In London O'Jays 1974
KZ/PZ 33148 To Be True Harold Melvin & Blue Notes 1975
KZ 30584 You Will Remember Me King Cason 1975
KZ 33150 Survival O'Jays 1975
KZ 33152 Potpourri Thad Jones & Mel Lewis 1975
KZ 33153 Reality Monk Montgomery 1974
KZ 33154 Boogie Down U.S.A. People's Choice 1975
PZ 33157 Got My Head on Straight Billy Paul 1975
PZ 33158 Universal Love MFSB 1975
KZ 33162 International Three Degrees 1975
KZ 33249 Keep Smilin' Bunny Sigler 1975
PZ/PZQ 33807 Family Reunion O'Jays 1975
PZ/PZQ 33808 Wake Up Everybody Harold Melvin & Blue Notes 1975
PZ 33839 Happy 'Bout The Whole Thing Dee Dee Sharp 1976
PZ 33840 The Three Degrees Live Three Degrees 1975
PZ 33841 Could It Be Magic Anthony White 1976
PZ 33843 When Love Is New Billy Paul 1975
PZ/PZQ 33845 Philadelphia Freedom MFSB 1975
PZ 33957 All Things in Time Lou Rawls 1976
PZ 33958 Travelin' In Heavy Traffic Don Covay 1976
PZ 34079 Life On Mars Dexter Wansel 1976
PZ 34110 Circles City Limits 1975
PZ 34122 From North Philly (Live) Dap 'Sugar' Willie 1976
PZ 34123 Unemployment Blues Force Of Nature 1976
JE/PE 34229 The Jacksons Jacksons 1976
PZ 34232 Collectors' Item: All Their Greatest Hits! Harold Melvin & Blue Notes 1976
PZ 34238 Summertime MFSB 1976
PZ 34245 Message in the Music O'Jays 1976
PZ 34267 My Music Bunny Sigler 1976
PZ 34323 Where Will You Go When The Party's Over Archie Bell & the Drells 1976
PZ 34346 Bicentennial Poet Jean-Claude T. 1976
PZ 34358 Get Down With The Philly Jump Instant Funk 1976
PZ 34389 Let 'Em In Billy Paul 1976
JZ34390 Teddy Pendergrass Teddy Pendergrass 1977
PZ 34394 Jean Carn Jean Carn 1977
PZ 34437 What Color Is Love Dee Dee Sharp 1977
PZ 34487 What the World Is Coming To Dexter Wansel 1977
PZ 34488 Unmistakably Lou Lou Rawls 1977
PZ 34658 End Of Phase I MFSB 1977
PZ 34659 Let's Clean Up The Ghetto Various Artists 1977
PZ 34684 Travelin' at the Speed of Thought O'Jays 1977
ZX 34728 Disco Champs Trammps 1977
JE/PE 34835 Goin' Places Jacksons 1977
PZ 34855 Hard Not To Like It Archie Bell & the Drells 1977
PZ 34923 Only The Strong Survive Billy Paul 1977
PZ 34940 Philadelphia Classics Various Artists 1977
PZ 34985 Voyager Dexter Wansel 1978
PZ 34986 Happy To Be With You Jean Carn 1978
PGZ 35024/Z 2-35024 The O'Jays: Collectors' Items O'Jays 1977
JZ35036 When You Hear Lou, You've Heard It All Lou Rawls 1977
JZ35095 Life Is a Song Worth Singing Teddy Pendergrass 1978
JZ/PZ 35355 So Full of Love O'Jays 1978
JZ35363 Turn Me Loose People's Choice 1978
JZ35458 Past, Present And The Futures Futures 1978
JZ35509 Rush Hour Bobby Rush 1978
JZ35510 Nothing Says I Love You Like I Love You Jerry Butler 1978
JZ35516 MFSB: The Gamble & Huff Orchestra MFSB 1978
PZ 2-35517 Live Lou Rawls 1978
JZ35756 First Class Billy Paul 1979
JZ35757 The Jones Girls Jones Girls 1979
JZ35758 Edwin Birdsong Edwin Birdsong 1979
JZ35800 McFadden & Whitehead McFadden & Whitehead 1979
FZ36003 Teddy Teddy Pendergrass 1979
JZ/PZ 36006 Let Me Be Good to You Lou Rawls 1979
JZ36007 Michael Pedicin Jr. Michael Pedicin Jr. 1979
JZ36024 Time Is Slipping Away Dexter Wansel 1979
JZ36025 Midnight Dancer Silk 1979
FZ36027 Identify Yourself O'Jays 1979
JZ36036 Frantique Frantique 1979
JZ36096 Strategy Archie Bell & the Drells 1979
JZ36097 The Force Force 1979
JZ36196 When I Find You Love Jean Carn 1979
JZ36294 Live! Coast to Coast Teddy Pendergrass 1979
JZ/PZ 36304 Sit Down and Talk to Me Lou Rawls 1979
JZ36313 The Harris Machine Norman Harris 1980
Z 2-36314 Best Of Billy Paul Billy Paul 1980
JZ36370 Dee Dee Dee Dee Sharp 1980
JZ36413 The Best Love Jerry Butler 1980
JZ36414 Greetings Of Peace Futures 1981
JZ36745 TP Teddy Pendergrass 1980
JZ36758 Here to Create Music Leon Huff 1980
JZ36767 At Peace with Woman Jones Girls 1980
JZ36774 Shades of Blue Lou Rawls 1980
FZ/PZ 37380 The Spirit's in It Patti LaBelle 1981
FZ37491 It's Time for Love Teddy Pendergrass 1981
FZ37627 Get as Much Love as You Can Jones Girls 1981
FZ37683 Live On Stage Various Artists 1982
FZ37684 Best Of Philadelphia International Various Artists 1982
FZ37955 1982 The Stylistics 1982
FZ37999 My Favorite Person O'Jays 1982
FZ38118 This One's For You Teddy Pendergrass 1982
FZ/PZ 38518 When Will I See You Again O'Jays 1983
FZ38539 I'm in Love Again Patti LaBelle 1983
FZ38555 Keep It Comin' Jones Girls 1984
FZ38646 Heaven Only Knows Teddy Pendergrass 1983
FZ39251 Greatest Hits O'Jays 1984
FZ39252 Greatest Hits Teddy Pendergrass 1984
PZ 39254 Philadelphia International Dance Classics, Vol. I Various Artists 1984
PZ 39255 Philly Ballads, Volume I Various Artists 1984
FZ39285 Classics Lou Rawls 1984
FZ39367 Love And More O'Jays 1984
FZ40020 Patti Patti LaBelle 1985
ST-53015 Love Fever The O'Jays 1985
ST-53028 The Whitehead Brothers Kenny & Johnny 1986
ST-53029 Living All Alone Phyllis Hyman 1986
ST-53031 Always In The Mood Shirley Jones 1986
ST-53036 Let Me Touch You O'Jays 1987
11006-1 Prime of My Life Phyllis Hyman 1991
11008-1 Universe Universe 1991
11023-1 I Salute You The Dells 1992
11040-1 I Refuse to Be Lonely Phyllis Hyman 1995
30902 Forever with You Phyllis Hyman 1998


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