History Of The Delfonics
(Past & Present)
The Delfonics are an American R&B/soul vocal group from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. The Delfonics were most popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Their most notable hits include "La-La (Means I Love You)", "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)", "Break Your Promise", "I'm Sorry", and "Ready or Not Here I Come (Can't Hide from Love)". Their hit songs were primarily written/composed and produced by lead vocalist and founding member William "Poogie" Hart and the musical instrumentation was arranged/conducted by songwriter and producer Thom Bell.
Their songs have been used in film soundtracks, including Quentin Tarantino's 1997 movie Jackie Brown, in which "La-La (Means I Love You)" and "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" underscore the pivotal relationship between the characters played by Pam Grier and Robert Forster. Their songs "Ready or Not Here I Come (Can't Hide from Love)" and "Funny Feeling" were used in the video game Grand Theft Auto V on the fictional radio station The Lowdown 91.1
Prior to forming the Delfonics, William "Poogie" Hart sang in a variety of groups including Little Hart and The Everglows, the Veltones, the Four Guys, and the Four Gents. Members of some of these early groups included brothers William and Wilbert Hart, Ritchie Daniels, Randy Cain, Stan Lathan, and Donald Cannon, friends who met at Overbrook High School in the 1960s.
Circa 1964, William "Poogie" Hart and his brother, Wilbert Hart, formed a group called The Orphonics, consisting of themselves plus Randy Cain and Richie Daniels. After Daniels joined the armed services, they used Ricky Johnson. Randy Cain later rejoined, and the original trio of William Hart, Wilbert Hart, and Randy Cain became The Orphonics. The name came from a stereophonic machine the Harts had in their basement.
In 1965, William Hart was working in a barbershop in Philadelphia. A man named Stan Watsoncame into the barbershop one day, where William Hart, who had written quite a few songs by this point, would sing while playing his guitar. Watson told William Hart that he knew a young arranger/producer for Cameo-Parkway Records named Thom Bell, who was at the time working with Chubby Checker. Watson thereafter introduced the group to Bell. William Hart recalls that the first song he presented to Bell was an original composition of his entitled "He Don't Really Love You".Bell immediately produced the music arrangement to that song and it was released on Moon Shot which later became Cameo-Parkway Records.
The hit years
The Orphonics were soon renamed "The Delfonics," and their first recording, "He Don't Really Love You" b/w "Without You", which had been arranged and produced by Thom Bell, was released on the small Moon Shot Records in around August 1966. (The artist on first pressings of the 45 RPM record was actually listed as "The Del Fonics" and Thom Bell was credited as "Tommy Bell." Following the increased popularity of the group, the Moon Shot record was reissued in April 1968, and on this later release it was distributed by Calla Records.) The second Delfonics' recording, "You've Been Untrue" b/w "I Was There," once again arranged/produced by Bell (now credited as "Thom Bell") was released in April 1967 on Cameo Records.
By the end of 1967, Cameo-Parkway Records announced that it would soon no longer exist as a record company. In December of that year, Thom Bell took the Delfonics into Cameo-Parkway's recording studio to record a William Hart composition, entitled "La-La (Means I Love You)", which featured Hart on falsetto lead. With Cameo-Parkway about to be defunct, Stan Watson started up his own label entitled Philly Groove Records, and in December 1967 "La-La (Means I Love You)" was first released to the local Philadelphia music market. After gaining national distribution/promotion with New York's Amy-Mala-Bell, the single became a hit in 1968, selling over one million copies. It reached #4 on the pop charts, and was awarded a gold disc.
The group's debut album La La Means I Love You, released on Philly Groove Records in 1968, featured the hit original compositions "La-La (Means I Love You)", "Break Your Promise", "I'm Sorry", and "Can You Remember"; along with covers of the Hal David/Burt Bacharach compositions "Alfie" and "The Look of Love".
Four more Bell-produced albums appeared in the next few years: The Sound of Sexy Soul, The Delfonics Super Hits, The Delfonics and Tell Me This Is a Dream. Among the Delfonics' popular hits were the Grammy Award-winning "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)", "(For The Love) I Gave To You", "Ready or Not Here I Come (Can't Hide from Love)", and "Hey Love". The Delfonics and Bell had to work with a basic budget on the first creation as Thom explained "When I took them into the studio we didn't have any money to pay for string players and an orchestra so I played most of the instruments myself!"—a far cry from the full classical productions from 1968 to the beginning of the seventies. "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" also sold a million copies and by March 1970 received a gold disc from the R.I.A.A.
Randy Cain left the group in 1971 after completing their fourth album, and in 1973 had a hand in forming Blue Magic. Cain was replaced by Major Harris; by then, however, Thom Bell had moved on to produce The Stylistics and later, The Spinners. The Delfonics swiftly produced another album, Alive & Kicking (1974), produced by Stan Watson. However, in the absence of Thom Bell, the Delfonics' career declined sharply, and with the exception of the aforementioned "Hey Love" and the minor hits "When You Get Right Down to It", "I Don't Want To Make You Wait" and "I Told You So", success eluded them after 1975. ("(For The Love) I Gave To You", although popular, was never released as a single.) Most of their songs at this point were written by lead singer
Late 1974, Major Harris started his solo career by signing with Atlantic Records and releasing his 1975 #1 R&B hit single, "Love Won't Let Me Wait", which peaked at #5 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. on June 25, 1975.
The group split around 1975; one group featured Major Harris and Wilbert Hart, with new member Frank Washington, formerly of the Futures. The other group featured William Hart with new members. Lineups would become confusing as members shifted between groups and multiple groups toured. Major Harris moved to Hart's group around 1980, with their third member being the returning Randy Cain. Frank Washington also switched from Wilbert Hart's group, joining in 1985. While the main recording lineup of the group was William Hart, Major Harris, and Frank Washington, they would tour as two separate trios with additional members added. One group featured William Hart, Randy Cain, and Garfield Fleming, and the other consisted of Frank Washington, Major Harris, and Freddy Ingleton. William Hart also toured with another lineup consisting of himself, Johnny ("JJ") Johnson and Pat Palmer, and toured in Japan at least one time with Ingleton and Dr. Salaam Love. In 1989, Wilbert Hart, Major Harris and Frank Washington appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show.
Later career: 1980–99
Through the 1980s and the 1990s, the Delfonics groups continued to perform. The William Hart/Major Harris/Frank Washington group made several recordings, including backing vocals on the track "After the Smoke is Clear", on the 1996 hip hop album Ironman by Ghostface Killah.
The groups reorganized again in the 1990s. William Hart began touring with Johnnie Johnson and Garfield Fleming; this group recorded as the Delfonics. Major Harris toured with Frank Washington and Pat Palmer. Wilbert also led a Delfonics group; members in the early 1990s included Salaam Love (formerly in William's group) and Eban Brown (falsetto). They were replaced by first tenor Van Fields and New York native Greg Hill. Greg was a former bassist for Teddy Riley & worked for the New Edition organization for several years. Hill co-founded the R&B group "The Concept" in 1989 and signed with Capital Records in 1990. Hill produced the album "Taint My World" and pinned most of the songs. The Concept released a single call "Homegirl" which was written by jazz bassist Victor Bailey (formerly of weather Report).] After a year of touring with Wil Harts Delfonics, Van Fields left the Delfonics following Eban Brown, joining The Stylistics. To fill the void in the group, Greg Hill brought Joe Branch down to one of the rehearsals and got Joe hired as the new lead vocalist. The William/Johnny/Garfield lineup of the group was featured in concert on the DVDs The Big Show and '70s Soul Jam, whereas Wilbert Hart's new line-up featuring Greg Hill and Joe Branch is featured on the DVD Old School Soul Party Live!, which was part of the PBS My Music series. Harris is also featured on the re-released DVD Blue Magic/Margie Joseph/Major Harris Live!, which was recorded in 1975.
In 2007, William "Poogie" Hart recorded a CD with Russell Thompkins, Jr., original lead singer of The Stylistics and Ted Mills of Blue Magic entitled The Three Tenors of Soul. Wilbert Harts Delfonics continued touring with his members (Greg Hill & Joe Branch) until Hill decided to officially depart from Wilbert Hart's group and continued touring independently with his own unit called Greg Hill "Delfonics Live". Hill also went on to become the founder & ceo of the Soul 1 Entertainment Group, an booking & artist management company located in New York City. Hill was replaced by Dr. Salaam Love in Wilbert Harts Delfonics. Before Hill's departure from the Wilberts group, the group landed a recording deal with Thump/Universal and released a CD in 2005 called Fonic Zone which featured Wil hart, Greg Hill and Joe Branch. The trio (Wil Hart, Greg Hill & Joe Branch) recorded a single with Rick Ross entitled "Here For U".
In 2013, William & Wil Hart were honored with, Lifetime Achievement Awards and Major Harris and Randy Cain received Posthumous Awards from The National R&B Music Society at Resorts Casino in Atlantic City, NJ, for their contribution to the music industry as The Delfonics. And in 2016 Greg Hill along with former heavyweight champion Micheal Spinks received lifetime achievement awards for their contribution in music & sports industry at the 2016 Pocono Mountains Film Festival.
William "Poogie" Hart and The Delfonics are featured actors and performers in Harlem's Paradise in episode nine, entitled "DWYCK", of the Netflix original series Luke Cage, which premiered on Netflix on September 30, 2016.
The Delfonics performances from the early 70's are featured in the 2018 award winning 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 of A-list guests. Actor Blair Underwood is the Executive Director and narrator of the film.
In 2020, William "Poogie" Hart & The Delfonics, Wilbert Hart formally of The Delfonics, and Greg Hill's "Delfonics Live" are all actively touring in the United States and abroad. These three groups are the only Delfonic units recognized by promoters and booking agents worldwide.