|Genres||R&B, soul, funk, disco|
|Labels||Today Records/Perception Records|
Kwanzaa Records/Warner Bros. Records
|Associated acts||Kool & The Gang, The Stylistics, The Chi-Lites, Blue Magic, The Delfonics, Soul Generation|
|"Black Ivory Performing their debut single, Don't Turn Around in 1972 Performance on Soul!"|
Black Ivory is an American R&B group from Harlem, which had a number of hits in the 1970s, including "Don't Turn Around", "You and I", "Time Is Love", and "Will We Ever Come Together".
The group was originally known as The Mellow Souls and formed in Harlem, New York in the summer of 1969. Members included all teenagers, Lawrence (Larry) Newkirk, Froilan (Vito) Ramirez, Michael Harris, Leroy Burgess and Stuart Bascombe. The group got their start by auditioning over the phone with musician Patrick Adams. After meeting with them, he took the group under his tutelage. Adams began to train and develop the group and he decided that five were too many to work with, and Harris left the group. In time, the four remaining members, now calling themselves Black Ivory, began performing at private parties, block parties and social programs. In their second live performance they won a talent show at Roosevelt High School in the Bronx. Adams, in an effort to get the group signed, began negotiations with Gene Redd Jr., for a possible deal with his label Red Coach Records. Redd Jr., was also the manager for the band Kool & the Gang, and in order to give Black Ivory exposure, he arranged for the group to open the show for the Gang at a number of East Coast venues. In 1970 Russell Patterson replaced Ramirez, and Newkirk left the group to pursue higher education. The remaining members Leroy Burgess, Stuart Bascombe and Russell Patterson became the trio we know today as Black Ivory.
The group traveled to Philadelphia and recorded two songs at Sigma Sound Studios produced by Patrick Adams. The songs, "Don't Turn Around" and "I Keep Asking You Questions" would become the "A" and "B" sides of the Black Ivory's first single released on the Today Label, with which Adams had subsequently secured a deal for the group.
The group features songwriter and prolific disco producer Leroy Burgess, Stuart Bascombe, and Russell Patterson. They were managed by Patrick Adams, an executive at the Today/Perception record company. Burgess was the lead voice of the majority of their hits in the early 1970s. Their 1972 debut album, Don't Turn Around, became a top 20 hit spending 19 weeks on the Billboard R&B albums chart and peaking at No. 13. Black Ivory scored three top 40 R&B hits in 1972, including the singles "Don't Turn Around" (No. 38) and "You and I" (No. 32) from their debut album. Another single from that album, "I'll Find a Way (The Loneliest Man in Town)" peaked at No. 46 on the Billboard R&B singles chart. Their single, "Time Is Love", was the third top 40 R&B hit, peaking at No. 37. Other charting singles include "Spinning Around" (No. 45), "What Goes Around (Comes Around)" (No. 44), and "Will We Ever Come Together" (No. 40). Although they recorded several uptempo tracks, such as "Big Apple Rock", "Walking Downtown (On a Saturday Night)", "What Goes Around (Comes Around)" and later, "Mainline" with Russell Patterson as lead singer (written by Burgess, but recorded after he left the group in 1977), they were primarily known for sweet soul ballads.
Black Ivory appeared on season three of Soul Train on June 1, 1974, and on the PBS television show, Soul! in 1972.
In 1974, Billboard's writer Bob Ford, stated that Black Ivory were one of the best up and coming R&B acts. Early in their career, Black Ivory's songs were covered by other artists on Today/Perception, a common practice with the label. Label-mates J.J. Barnes, The Eight Minutes, Debbie Taylor, and Lucky Peterson all covered Black Ivory tunes.
The group recorded several uptempo songs in the disco vein, such as "Big Apple Rock", "Walking Downtown (On a Saturday Night)", "What Goes Around (Comes Around)" and, later, "Mainline" but, not being known for the style, they were unable to compete when disco became the dominant music style. While he was with Black Ivory, Burgess frequently collaborated with Adams in writing songs. He also wrote the groups' hit, "Mainline", which featured Russell Patterson on lead and was recorded while he was on hiatus from the group. After Burgess left in 1977, Bascombe and Patterson continued on as a duo until the early 1980s before disbanding.
In 1995, the group reunited and returned to the stage on the Classic Soul circuit, featuring all three original members, with Stuart Bascombe doing most of the leads. They have been performing and recording together ever since. In recent years, Black Ivory has released a Christmas single entitled "Snow", written by Burgess and Patterson, and in November 2011, Black Ivory composed, produced and released a new album, Continuum on their own label SLR Records.
Black Ivory are one of the featured artists in the award-winning 2018 documentary, Mr. Soul!! a film based on the host and executive producer of Soul!, Ellis Haizlip, the first "black Tonight Show". In 1968, Soul! was launched as a local, New York broadcast. In 1969, the series rolled out nationwide on PBS, on WNET Channel 13. Haizlip had produced over 130 hour-long shows featuring an array of guests.
Leroy Burgess and Stuart Bascombe are contributing writers on the single, "Gettin' Up" on rapper and musician Q-Tip's nominated Best Rap Album of The Year, The Renaissance (Q-Tip album), at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards. Rapper Eminem won Best Rap Album of The Year for "Relapse".
Black Ivory celebrated their 50th Anniversary in 2019 in the music industry. They received multiple awards and proclamations throughout 2019 commemorating their milestone including a 13-page article in the London magazine, The Soul Survivors. They performed and received awards at London's Famous Jazz Cafe on October 19, 2019.
As of 2021, Black Ivory is one of the only soul/R&B groups from the 1970s who are still performing with all of the original members from their first recordings.
In recent years, some of Black Ivory's work has been sampled by a number of artists.
Formed in Harlem, New York, in 1969.
|Year||Album||Peak chart positions||Record label|
|1972||Don't Turn Around||158||13||Today Records|
|Baby, Won't You Change Your Mind||188||26|
|1975||Feel It||—||—||Buddah Records|
|1979||Hangin' Heavy||—||—||Buddah Records/Arista Records|
|1984||Then and Now||—||—||Panoramic Records|
|"—" denotes a recording that did not chart.|
|1991||Black Ivory / Hangin' Heavy||Unidisc|
|1993||Don't Turn Around - A Golden Classics Edition||Collectables Records Corp.|
|1997||Black Ivory Vs Odds And Ends||Sequel Records|
|2000||Spinning Around (The Today Sessions)||Castle Music|
|2009||Black Ivory Meet The Escorts||Collectables Records Corp|
|2012||Black Ivory / Hangin' Heavy||Funkytown Grooves|
|2017||Anthology||Play Back Records|
|Year||Title||Peak chart positions|
|1971||"Don't Turn Around"||—||38||—|
|B/W "I Keep Asking You Questions"||—||—||—|
|1972||"You and I"||95||32||—|
|B/W "Our Future ?"||—||—||—|
|1972||"I'll Find a Way"||—||46||—|
|1972||"Time Is Love"||—||37||—|
|"B/W Got to Be There"||—||—||—|
|B/W "Find the One Who Loves You"||—||—||—|
|1973||"We Made It"||—||—||—|
|B/W "Just Leave Me Some"||—||—||—|
|1974||"What Goes Around (Comes Around)"||—||44||—|
|B/W "No One Else Will Ever Do"||—||—||—|
|1975||"Will We Ever Come Together"||—||40||—|
|1975||"Love Won't You Stay"||—||—||—|
|1975||"You Mean Everything to Me"||—||—||—|
|1976||"Walking Downtown (Saturday Night)"||—||—||—|
|1978||"You Turned My Whole World Around"||—||—||—|
|1984||"You Are My Lover"||—||73||—|
|1985||"I've Got My Eye on You"||—||—||18|
|"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|