|Also known as||The Four Little Angels (early tenure)|
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Past members||Olympia Ann "Olan" Sylvers|
Leon Frank Sylvers III
Charmaine Elaine Sylvers
James Jonathan Sylvers
Edmund Theodore Sylvers
Joseph Richard "Ricky" Sylvers
Angelia Marie "Angie" Sylvers
Patricia Lynn "Pat" Sylvers
Foster Emerson Sylvers
The Sylvers, (known as The Little Angels or The Four Little Angels in their early years), were an American R&B/Soul family vocal group from Watts, Los Angeles, California. The Sylvers were a popular act during the 1970s, recording the hit singles "Fool's Paradise", "Boogie Fever", and "Hot Line". Prior to becoming the Sylvers, the four eldest members (Olympia, Leon, Charmaine, and James) recorded as the Little Angels, appearing on shows such as You Bet Your Life and Make Room for Daddy, and opening for such acts as Johnny Mathis and Ray Charles. During this time, they released two singles: "Santa Claus Parade" b/w "I'll Be a Little Angel" on Warwick Records and "Says You" b/w "Olympia" on Capitol Records.
The Sylvers family consisted of ten siblings, nine of whom performed in the band at one point or another:
The tenth and youngest Sylvers sibling, Christopher Joseph Sylvers (1966–1985), never performed with the group.
Shirley Mae Wyble Sylvers (born August 4, 1932, in Opelousas, Louisiana), who is of Irish, Italian and African-American descent, studying to become a teacher, married Leon Sylvers Jr., (born February 12, 1932) an African-American musician, from Memphis, Tennessee, whom she met at Xavier University of Louisiana.
Their father Leon Jr., having aspirations of being a successful musician himself, later put his musical attention to his children, Olympia "Olan", Leon and Charmaine. Their father taught them music and vocal harmony. He later formed a band featuring his children, called "The Little Angels". Performing mainly Caribbean Calypso styled soul music. They appeared in several variety shows, charity shows, community events, and other public venues. One of the earliest events promoting the Sylvers was when the whole family appeared on the quiz game show "You Bet Your Life" with Groucho Marx. The episode still exists and the video is readily searchable on the Internet. Soon after, Jonathan "James" joined the group, and the four of them continued to perform, gaining slight success. Appearing in several television shows, and media appearances. In the mid 1960s, they would also release recordings on Capitol Records.
For undisclosed reasons in the late 1960s, popularity of "The Little Angels" vanished. Leon Jr. and Shirley would also separate during this time. Shirley being a single mother, lived in south Los Angeles, struggling to make ends meet. With the help of her oldest son Leon, she turned to music to turn the family unit around. Heavily studying music theory and soul music (also talented in the bass guitar), Leon reformed "The Little Angels" and added Edmund and Joseph Richard "Ricky" to the group. With the support of their mother Shirley, Leon and his siblings would perform original songs in their home. They would later perform publicly, gaining the interest of record and music executives.
Once receiving a recording contract with MGM, the sextet changed their name from the Little Angels to The Sylvers and released three albums on the MGM/Pride label, titled simply The Sylvers, The Sylvers 2, and The Sylvers 3. Released between 1972 and 1974, these LPs offered soulful numbers written by Leon and produced by Jerry Butler (of the Impressions) and Keg Johnson. Four singles from these self-titled albums entered the Billboard R&B charts. "Fool's Paradise" was a thought-provoking song that reached 14 in the autumn of 1972. The single featured Charmaine, Edmund, and Ricky as lead singers, backed by the harmonies of Olympia, Leon, and James.
"Wish That I Could Talk to You" was the next single and during early 1973 became the siblings' first top 10 song. The track features Leon, Edmund, and Ricky on lead. The two-sided hit "Stay Away From Me" (#33) and "I'll Never Be Ashamed", as well as "Through the Love in My Heart" (#50), followed; and the album track "Cry of a Dreamer" received significant airplay at R&B radio outlets.
In early 1973, Leon wrote an uptempo disco song called "Misdemeanor" for the group's second album. However, the lead vocal, sung by Edmund, was later passed on to his younger brother Foster, who was not an official member of the Sylvers at this time, due to Edmund's voice-change. (which also featured younger Sylvers Angie and Pat, who were also not in the band.) and received airplay on R&B radio stations. This song later regained popularity in the late 1980s and 1990s after rapper/producer Dr. Dre sampled it in a song by the D.O.C. entitled "It's Funky Enough". Due to the unforeseen success of "Misdemeanor", Foster, Angie, and Pat quickly joined their older brothers and sisters to the official Sylvers group, (upping the total members to nine), and signed an exclusive contract with Capitol Records, the same label they recorded for as the Little Angels. Now nine members strong, the label teamed the family with legendary R&B producer Freddie Perren (the Jackson 5). The marriage paid off immediately, as Perren, with co-writer Keni St. Lewis, produced the two-million seller "Boogie Fever" which topped the R&B and Billboard Hot 100 charts, along with the RPM national singles chart.
Those two tracks were included on the first Capitol album with Perren. It was titled Showcase and featured rotating lead singers on songs written by both Perren and St. Lewis, as well as Leon Sylvers. Capitol followed up "Boogie Fever" with the bubble-gum confection "Cotton Candy". The group began playing their own instruments for certain live performances, with Ricky on guitar, James on piano, Edmund on drums, and Leon on bass guitar. In 1976, following the recording of their next album, Something Special, Charmaine, one of the original Little Angels, left the group. Something Special was the family's biggest-selling LP, reaching 13 on the Billboard album charts. Produced by Perren, the LP spawned another smash million-seller, "Hot Line" (#5 on Billboard Hot 100), as well as "High School Dance" (#17 on Billboard Hot 100). These two singles firmly entrenched the siblings in the bubble-gum, teeny-bopper demographic.
In an effort to reach a wider, more mature R&B audience, the Sylvers (now seven in number following Olympia's retirement to have children) opted not to re-team with Freddie Perren in the summer of 1977 and began writing and producing for themselves. Despite positive reviews, the resulting album, New Horizons, was a commercial disappointment, peaking at #43 on the Billboard album charts and spawning two short-lived singles: "Any Way You Want Me" and the title track. The family went right back into the studio to record their next album, this time with Leon producing. Capitol did not like the new sound and rejected the album. The Sylvers shopped the material elsewhere and by mid-1978 had signed with Casablanca Records. At the same time Leon was recruited by record executive Dick Griffey to become the in-house producer for a new label he had started with Soul Train impresario Don Cornelius. With the family's new album already complete and his brothers and sisters now signed with Casablanca, Leon left the group to write and produce for such Solar Records artists as Shalamar, the Whispers, Lakeside, Carrie Lucas and Dynasty (of which he was a group member).
In the meantime, in June 1978, Casablanca released the album Capitol had rejected. Forever Yours included the lead single "Don't Stop, Get Off" (#15 R&B), a song on which Leon shared lead with Edmund. James performed Leon's parts in performances, while Foster replaced Leon as the bassist. The album's title track followed as a second single but failed to chart. With Leon under contract at Solar, and the remaining six Sylvers still under contract to Casablanca, the label teamed the group with the Oscar-winning disco composer Giorgio Moroder (Midnight Express, Donna Summer). The result, released in the summer of 1979, was the aptly titled album Disco Fever. The first single was a discofied remake of Diana Ross' "Mahogany" but failed to chart like its follow-up single "Hoochie Coochie Dancin'". "Have You Heard", a solo effort from Edmund, who had sung lead on many of the family's bigger hits, was released on Casablanca in the summer of 1980. "That Burning Love" (#38 R&B/#90 Pop) was the sole single to chart from the effort. Also that year, Charmaine recorded a solo single of sorts, doing the vocal work on Gene Page's disco classic "Love Starts After Dark". The Sylvers appeared in the 1979 film The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.
As the world's appetite for dance music waned in the early 1980s, so did the Sylvers' popularity. In 1981, five members of the group, now without Edmund, recorded a new album Concept for Solar Records, with Leon producing and playing bass but not performing vocally. The first single from that effort, "Come Back Lover, Come Back" (featuring a now grown-up Foster on lead) was a minor hit, reaching #63 in Billboard. "Take It to the Top" failed to chart; but both singles appear on the Solar Records retrospective box set.
In 1984, after a three-year hiatus, the siblings (now six strong, with Charmaine returning) regrouped with new management (Weisner–DeMann) and a new label (Geffen Records). The result was an unsuccessful album entitled Bizarre. The disc was not heavily promoted, but spawned two minor hits: "In One Love and Out the Other" (#42) and "Falling For Your Love" (#76).
The Sylvers' youngest sibling, Christopher, died of hepatitis on June 18, 1985, at age 18. He was never part of the performing family. Following the disappointing sales performance of the Geffen LP, the brothers and sisters officially disbanded in 1985. They would continue to do studio work, playing and singing background vocals for artists including Janet Jackson. Edmund recorded a solo album for Arista in 1985, but it was never released in the United States, although a single from the set, "I Love the Streets", was released in Japan in 1989. Foster started his own group, Hy-Tech, in 1989, but two CDs went relatively unnoticed, as did a solo MP3 CD in 1998 called "Foster Vs. Foster".
Lead singer Edmund, who played Marlon Jackson's voice on the 1971–1973 ABC-TV Saturday morning cartoon series The Jackson 5ive, died of lung cancer in Richmond, Virginia, on March 11, 2004, at age 47. In 2007, Pat shared lead on the Larry O. Williams gospel duet, "Thank You". In the December 10, 2007 issue of Jet magazine the Sylvers were featured in the "Where Are They Now?" segment. In early 2008, a few siblings did an interview with Damien Maurice on his show Just Chillin' with KPOO-FM in San Francisco. Both a Jet article and the radio interview hinted at the possibility of new Sylvers music in the near future.
During the summer of 2011, the Sylvers were featured on the TV One hit series, Unsung. Leon, James, Charmaine, Angie and Pat—along with their mother Shirley—all appeared on the show to discuss their career successes and aftermath. It was mentioned that both Foster and Ricky had been incarcerated for parole violations (at the time of taping). However, after the release of Foster, he and his sisters Angie and Pat made a television appearance on The Cindy Davis Show to discuss the politics of the music industry, and more. Leon is in the process of producing new material with a newer generation of the Sylvers family. Olympia, who had hurdled major obstacles in her life is sustaining with her daughter Tyava by her side. Foster, Angie and Pat are working on new music as well. More recently they have gotten a resurgence via Facebook with hundreds of fans, old and new, clamoring for new info regarding what the Sylvers are up to today and when the next record is slated for release. Leon, Ricky and Angelia often communicate with the fans via Facebook.
|Year||Album||Chart positions||Record label||Available on CD|
|1972||The Sylvers||180||15||—||Pride||Japan only|
|1973||The Sylvers II||164||37||—||Yes|
|1974||The Sylvers III||91||51||—||MGM||Japan only|
|1976||Something Special||80||13||65||UK only|
|"—" denotes the album failed to chart|
|Year||Album||Chart positions||Record label|
|1978||Best of the Sylvers||—||—||Capitol|
|1995||Boogie Fever: The Best of the Sylvers||—||—||Razor & Tie|
|2003||The Best of the Sylvers||—||—||EMI-Capitol|
|"—" denotes the album failed to chart|
|1971||"I'm Just a Lonely Soul"||—||—||—||—||—||Singles only|
|1972||"Time to Ride"||—||—||—||—||—|
|"Fool's Paradise"||94||14||—||—||—||The Sylvers|
|"Wish I Could Talk to You"||77||10||—||—||—|
|1973||"Stay Away from Me"||89||33||—||—||—||The Sylvers II|
|1974||"Through the Love in My Heart"||—||50||—||—||—|
|"I Aim to Please"||56||35||—||—||—||The Sylvers III|
|"Hot Line"||5||3||27||1||10||Something Special|
|1977||"High School Dance"||17||6||—||8||18|
|"Any Way You Want Me"||72||12||—||66||—||New Horizons|
|"Don't Stop, Get Off"||—||15||—||—||—||Forever Yours|
|"Hoochie Coochie Dancin'"||—||—||—||—||—|
|1981||"Come Back Lover, Come Back"||—||63||—||—||—||Concept|
|1984||"In One Love and Out the Other"||—||42||—||—||—||Bizarre|
|1985||"Falling for Your Love"||—||76||—||—||—|
|"—" denotes the single failed to chart|