Major Lance (April 4, 1939, 1941 or 1942 – September 3, 1994) was an American R&B singer. After a number of US hits in the 1960s, including "The Monkey Time" and "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um", he became an iconic figure in Britain in the 1970s among followers of Northern soul. Although he stopped making records in 1982, Major Lance continued to perform at concerts and on tours until his death in 1994.
Lance in 1965
|Born||April 4 (year disputed, most likely 1939)|
Winterville, Mississippi, U.S.
|Died||September 3, 1994|
Decatur, Georgia, U.S.
|Genres||Soul, pop, R&B|
There has been some dispute over Major Lance's birth year; some sources claim he was born in 1941 or in 1942 (as Lance claimed). However, 1939 appears to be the correct year of birth. In the 1940 U.S. Census, there is a "Mager" Lance listed in Washington County, Mississippi, as the one-year-old son of Lucendy Lance, a widow. Lance's gravestone also states he was born in 1939. 'Major' was his given forename, not a nickname or stage name.
Lance, who was one of 12 children, moved as a child with his family to the midnorth side of Chicago in the Cabrini-Green projects, a high-crime area, where he developed a boyhood friendship with Otis Leavill, both of whom attended Wells High School. This was the same school Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler attended. Mayfield called Lance 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."
Lance and Otis Leavill formed a group named the Floats in the mid 1950s but broke up before recording any material. Lance became a featured dancer on a local television show, Time for Teens, and presenter Jim Lounsbury gave 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; it was not successful. Lance worked at various jobs over the next few years.
In 1962 he signed with Okeh Records on Mayfield's recommendation. Lance 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. His first single, "Delilah", was not successful, but it established his partnership with the writing and arranging team of Mayfield, Carl Davis, and Johnny Pate, often with members of Mayfield's group, the Impressions, on backing vocals. Together they developed a distinctive, Latin-tinged sound which epitomised Chicago soul in contrast to music recorded elsewhere.
Monkey Time was Major Lance's first successful hit song, and it became Okeh's first hit single in 10 years.
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The second Okeh single, "The Monkey Time" (also written by Curtis Mayfield), was Major Lance's first hit, became a #2 Billboard R&B chart and #8 pop hit in 1963. "The Monkey Time" became Okeh's first hit single in 10 years. "That was my introduction with working with Carl Davis," Pate said. "We had a ball, making some very great music."
A succession of hits followed quickly, 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), "The Matador" (the only one not written by Mayfield), "Rhythm", "Sometimes I Wonder", "Come See", and "Ain't It A Shame".
In 1965 Pate left Okeh, and Mayfield began to concentrate on working with his own group. Lance and Davis continued to work together; "Too Hot To Hold" was a minor hit, but they had diminishing success before Davis in turn left the company.
Touring in the United KingdomEdit
Over the next two years he worked with several producers, with only "Without a Doubt" becoming a minor hit in 1968. Soon afterwards Lance left Okeh and moved to Dakar Records, where he had the Top 40 R&B hit "Follow the Leader." He then moved to Mayfield's Curtom label, 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." "Stay Away From Me" was also listed #4 in Jet Magazine's "Soul Brothers Top 20". He left Curtom in 1971 and recorded briefly for the Volt and Columbia labels.
In 1972, he relocated to England so as to capitalize on the success of his older records among fans of Northern Soul music in dance clubs that played mostly rare and obscure American soul and R&B records. According to one writer, "[T]he Major's contribution was truly phenomenal and unforgettable... [He] was to become legendary as a UK club act, known to deliver 110% at every performance." In 1972, while in England, he recorded an album, Major Lance's Greatest Hits Recorded Live at the Torch, at the Torch, a club in Stoke on Trent, which has been described as "perhaps the best Northern Soul album ever made."
Lance returned to Atlanta in 1974 and recorded an updated disco version of "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" for Playboy Records. He set up a new label, Osiris, with former Booker T and the MG's drummer Al Jackson, but again with little success, and his career hit a downward spiral. He briefly recorded for Motown Records, releasing the last-ever single on its Soul Records subsidiary, "I Never Thought I'd Be Losing You," in 1978. He later found that his recordings had become popular on the beach music circuit in the Carolinas, where he continued to undertake live performances. He recorded a comeback album, The Major's Back, and several tracks for the Kat Family label. His final performance was in June 1994 at the 11th Chicago Blues Festival.
Major Lance was married to Christine (née Boular) Lance. He had 12 children. He was arrested twice in his life. In 1965, he was arrested in violation of the Paternity Act. A Chicago woman, Para Lee Thomas, claimed she had a son by Lance, Ronnie Maurice Lance, born January 13, 1964 . She asserted that Lance had promised to pay her doctor and hospital bills of around $375 but had defaulted on these payments. Judge Benjamin J. Kanter issued a warrant for Lance's arrest, setting Lance's bond at $1,000.
In 1987, Lance had a heart attack. He later became nearly blind from glaucoma. As a result, he made no more recordings. He died in 1994 in his sleep from heart disease in Decatur, Georgia. He is buried at Washington Memory Gardens Cemetery in Homewood, Illinois.
On February 28, 1995, shortly after Lance's death, Sony released a CD collection called Everybody Loves a Good Time: Best of Major Lance. It features 40 recordings for Okeh from 1962 to 1967 on two discs. Allmusic reviewer Richie Unterberger gave the CD 4 and a half stars, calling it a "Delightful 40-song, double-CD compilation of Lance's best work for Okeh between 1962 and 1967, including all of the chart singles, quite a few misses and B-sides, five previously unreleased cuts, and some Curtis Mayfield songs from his debut LP." Sony later released a shorter version of the CD collection titled The Very Best of Major Lance.
|Year||Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
|U.S. R&B||U.S. Pop||UK||Album|
|1959||"I've Got A Girl"
|Mercury 71582||Non-album tracks|
b/w "Everytime" (Non-album track)
|Okeh 7168||The Monkey Time|
|1963||"The Monkey Time"
b/w "Mama Didn't Know"
|"Hey Little Girl"
b/w "Crying In The Rain" (Non-album track)
|Okeh 7181||Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um -|
The Best Of Major Lance
|1964||"Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um"
b/w "Sweet Music" (from Major's Greatest Hits)
b/w "Gonna Get Married" (Non-album track)
|Okeh 7191||Major's Greatest Hits|
|"Girls" /||Okeh 7197|
|"It Ain't No Use"|
|"Think Nothing About It"
b/w "It's Alright"
|Okeh 7200||Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um -|
The Best Of Major Lance
b/w "Please Don't Say No More" (Non-album track)
|Okeh 7203||Major's Greatest Hits|
|1965||"Sometimes I Wonder"
b/w "I'm So Lost" (Non-album track)
b/w "You Belong To Me My Love" (Non-album track)
|"Ain't It A Shame"
b/w "Gotta Get Away"
|"Too Hot To Hold"
b/w "Dark and Lonely"
|Okeh 7226||Non-album tracks|
|"Everybody Loves A Good Time"
b/w "I Just Can't Help It"
b/w "Little Young Lover"
|"It's The Beat"
b/w "You'll Want Me Back" (from Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um -
The Best Of Major Lance)
|1967||"Ain't No Soul (In These Old Shoes)"
|"You Don't Want Me No More"
b/w "Wait Till I Get You In My Arms"
|1968||"Without A Doubt"
|"Do The Tighten Up"
b/w "I Have No One"
|1969||"Follow The Leader"
b/w "Since You've Been Gone"
|"Sweeter As The Days Go By"
b/w "Shadows Of A Memory"
|1970||"Stay Away From Me (I Love You Too Much)"
b/w "Gypsy Woman"
|"Must Be Love Coming Down"
b/w "Little Young Lover"
|1971||"Girl Come On Home"
b/w "Since I Lost My Baby's Love"
|"I Wanna Make Up (Before We Break Up)"
b/w "That's The Story Of My Life"
|1972||"Ain't No Sweat"
b/w "Since I Lost My Baby's Love"
|1974||"Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" (New version)
b/w "Last Of The Red Hot Lovers"
|1975||"Sweeter As the Days Go By" (New version)
b/w "Wild and Free"
|"You're Everything I Need"
b/w "You're Everything I Need" (Instrumental)
|"I've Got A Right To Cry"
b/w "You Keep Me Coming To You"
|1977||"Come On, Have Yourself A Good Time"
b/w "Come What May"
|1978||"I Never Thought I'd Be Losing You"
b/w "Chicago Disco"
|Soul 35123||Now Arriving|
|1982||"I Wanna Go Home"
b/w "I Wanna Go Home" (Instrumental)
|Kat Family 3024||The Major's Back|
|"Are You Leaving Me"
b/w "I Wanna Go Home"
|Kat Family 4182|
* Billboard magazine did not publish an R&B chart during 1964; these chart positions are from Cashbox magazine.
- 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)
- The Very Best Of Major Lance (Epic/Legacy EK 62243, 2000)
- Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um (Collectables 2003)
- Major Lance profile, Oldies.com; accessed April 7, 2015.
- "Major Lance, 55, Soul Singer in 60s". The New York Times. 1994-09-05. Retrieved December 30, 2009.
- "Major Lance". tsimon.com. 2005. Retrieved April 5, 2012.
- Soul music A-Z 1995 p. 185
- The golden age of American rock 'n roll: Volume 3; 2002 p. 556
- Rhythm and Blues, Rap, and Hip-hop p. 161
- On This Day in Music History, p. 96
- "Sixteenth Census of the United States (1940)[database on-line], Beat 3, Washington County, Mississippi, Enumeration District: 76-25, Sheet: 10B, Line: 67, household of Lucendy Lance". United States: The Generations Network. 1940-05-07. Retrieved 2013-08-05.
- "Major Lance's Gravestone". Find a Grave. Retrieved April 5, 2012.
- Biography at The Northern Soul Nightshift, home.iprimus.com.au; accessed April 7, 2015.
- Billboard August 10, 1963, p. 16
- Knocking on Heaven's Door: Rock Obituaries (2006), p. 390
- Jack Kirby, Michael. "Major Lance". Way Back Attack. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
- Pruter, Robert (1992). Chicago Soul (Music in American Life). University of Illinois Press. p. 272. ISBN 978-0252062599.
- Contemporary Black, Volume 43, p. 136
- Williams, Richard (September 13, 1994). "Obituary: Major Lance". The Independent. Retrieved April 5, 2012.
- Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Major Lance profile". Allmusic.com. Retrieved February 26, 2009.
- Biography of Otis Leavill Cobb by Andrew Hamilton at AllMusic; accessed April 15, 2012.
- Major Lance profile, Soulwalking.co.uk; accessed April 7, 2015.
- Doowop: the Chicago Scene, p. 197
- "Jet Magazine". 24 (20). September 1963: 65.
- 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
- The Man Behind the Music: The Legendary Carl Davis p. 185
- Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 397. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
- Rice, Tim (1985). Guinness British Hit Singles (5th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 126. ISBN 0-85112-429-1.
- Buckley, David. (2007) Elton: The Biography. p. 47.
- "Jet Magazine". 38 (26). October 1970: 65.
- "Major Lance's Greatest Hits Recorded Live At The Torch". www.discogs.com. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
- Billboard September 7, 1974 p. 18
- "Major Lance: "Monkey Time" singer". Seattle Times. September 4, 1994.
- "Jet Magazine". 28 (23). September 1965: 59.
- The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, vol 3, p. 2070.
- "Major Lance". Soulful Kinda Music. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
- Unterberger, Richie. "Everyone Loves a Good Time: The Best of Major Lance". Allmusic. Retrieved December 9, 2011.
- "Major Lance - Charts and Awards". Allmusic.