Chancellor of Soul's Chronicles-Journals Dedicated To The
Historical Preservation Of R&B, Pop and It's Artists and Music


  Disco Lady 
    (The Making Of The First Platinum Single)

 In 1976, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), launched a project to introduce the use of the precious metal called, “Platinum” onto records. This would mark a ‘new milestone’, as a new form of identification for records that sold over the one million mark.

‘Disco Lady’ by Johnnie Taylor would make music history becoming the first single to be certified platinum, selling over one million copies. Johnnie Taylor signed with Columbia Records in 1975, after his 9 year association with the Stax label, which filed for bankruptcy. Harvey Scales, a former singer with his group, ‘The 7 Sounds’ (who regional hit on the Magic Touch label entitled, "Get Down" in the summer of 1967), presented a demo marked, "Disco Baby" to Detroit producer, Don Davis. Don wrote and produced many of Johnnie Taylor's hits at Stax from 1967-1975.

The demo track featured music from members of George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic clan. Bernie Worrell on keyboards, Ramon “Tiki” Fulwood on drums, and Bootsy Collins on bass. After hearing the hot track, Don began immediately incorporate the lyrics. His inspiration was drawn from an African dancer he had seen on a trip he took to Spain. The dancer would get out on the middle of the floor and the whole place mesmerize with her moves. While writing the lyrics, another inspiration came to his mind, the classic Curtis Mayfield 1961 composition hit, “Gypsy Woman”. In the song, a dancer would hypnotize everyone with her gyrations around the campfire, including Curtis. Don would later add horns arranged by legendary Motown producer, David Van DePitte, who in 1971 produced Marvin Gaye's landmark LP “What's Going On".

The background vocals were added by a session group called ‘Brandy’, along with Telma Hopkins, from Tony Orlando & Dawn. Telma was a studio session vocalist in Detroit, with a group called ‘The Debornaires’ in the 60's throughout the 70's. They had backed up such artists as, Spyder Turner on his 1967 B side hit classic Stand By Me, " You're Good Enough For Me", Jerry-O's "Karate Boogaloo", Isaac Hayes' “Theme From Shaft”, and session background work for all of the artists featured on Holland-Dozier-Holland's Hot Wax/ Invictus label. Afterwards, Johnnie laid down his vocals; Disco Lady was recorded at the United Sound Studio, in Detroit.

Released in early January of 1976, the song hit No 1 on the R&B Singles charts on March 13 for 6 weeks and No 1 on the Pop Singles on April 3 for 4 weeks. His LP “Eargasm” hit No 1 on the R&B LP charts and No 5 Pop LP. Various radio stations around the country banned the song, because some disc jockeys thought the lyrics were ‘too suggestive’. It didn't matter to the public because ‘Disco Lady’ sold two million copies worldwide, making it the best selling single in Columbia's history!

Johnnie Taylor reportedly was disappointed after the final mix was released, but after becoming the first artist in recording history to receive a platinum award on April 25 of that year, he quickly changed his mind. ‘Disco Lady’ paved the way for Johnnie's label mates, The Manhattans’ ‘Kiss and Say Goodbye”, received a platinum award for the best selling single in music history.

During this time, there was a backlash from the Black Radio Community towards
pop commercial radio for not including R&B records on their play list. The claim was pop radio purposely eliminated R& B music from their format because of the sound not being ‘commercial’ or ‘pop’ catering to an audience of ‘easy listeners’. The terminology coined about this occurrence in Black Music of this time was called “BLACKLASH”. Inevitably, songs like "Disco Lady", helped break the mold of the listeners ear for the acceptance of good R&B dance music on commercial/pop radio no matter what race the artist happens to be.

To Johnnie and P-Funk, we music fans are forever in your debt for blessing us with a great hypnotic track, transforming our ‘eargasms’ to a mind blowing musical extravaganza. ...And as for all of you 'disco ladies' in tow, continue to keep shakin' it Up, shakin' it down, movin' it in and movin' itround.......Owwwww!!!


                                                    Mike Boone
                                               Chancellor of Soul

                                                     May 2004




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