<< Previous Feature: Baseball Legends and Legacies


The Men & Their Music

After selling more than 75 million records, and performing together for over 40 years, The Commodores continue to sell out arenas, theatres and festivals around the world, showing no signs of slowing down.

The original members, William "Wak" King and Walter "Clyde" Orange, first met while attending Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1968. While in college, William and Walter formed a band. After a couple of name changes, one day William opened the dictionary and randomly picked a word – Commodores. Later, he joked, "We lucked out. We almost became the Commodes." Current member J.D. Nicholas, previously with Heatwave, joined the group after Lionel Richie left to pursue a solo career.

The band got their first break in 1972, opening for The Jackson 5. Motown took notice of the group and signed them. On their debut album they recorded an instrumental track, "Machine Gun," the group's first major hit. The song has since been used in multiple films, including Boogie Nights and Looking for Mr.Goodbar.

During a recent appearance on AMERICAN SENIOR TV, original members William King and Walter Orange, recalled the story of writing "Brick House." The group had recorded the music tracks in the studio earlier in the day, but had not completed the lyrics, or the song title. So, they all went home, hoping by the next day the lyrics and song title would come together. At home, William King listened to the tracks over and over again working on the lyrics, eventually falling asleep. When he awoke, he noticed the pad he had been writing on was sitting on his – – with a complete set of lyrics. "They were the best lyrics I had ever written while I was asleep." The following day at the studio, the rest of the group agreed. One problem, there was still no title for the song. Walter Orange had one title floating in his head, "Match Box," but the group kept giving it a thumbs down. It's been said, a great song title almost writes itself. Then, it materialized – "Brick House." The song topped at #4, and is now considered a dance club anthem. "Brick House" continues to sell today and is one of the most played songs on radio, in clubs and concert halls. Several years later in New Orleans, William King was walking in the French Quarter, when he heard the song being played. On one side of the street, a group was playing it live, and on the other side of the street, a DJ was playing the recording. Needless to say, "Brick House" has become a classic.

The same year, "Easy" soared to #1 on the charts. The hits kept on coming. "Three Times a Lady" hit #1 in 1978. More chart busters followed, "Still," at #1, "Sail On," #4 and "Lady" coming in at #5.

Although difficult to measure, it's probably safe to say, The Commodore's hit recording of "Nightshift" in 1985, is the most notable. The song is a tribute to Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson, with a recently re-recorded version dedicated to Michael Jackson. "Nightshift" has also been featured in many films. The same year, The Commodores won their first Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. In what may be the greatest milestone of their career, The Commodores were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003. Today, The Commodores are busier than ever. Preparing to record a new album of original songs, their touring schedule is filled through 2011 – and yes, they're still working the Nightshift.

–Kerry Glusovich

For more information about The Commodores, including their touring schedule, free streaming MP3's and pictures, please visit ww.myspace.com/thecommodoresnow.