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Bloodstone was a key group in creating the shift from the R&B and soul group concepts of the '50s and '60s to the funk and black rock ideas of the '70s and afterward.
The group began in Kansas City, while the original members were in high school, as an a cappella doo wop group, the Sinceres, around 1962. They evolved with the decade, and by 1968 were ensconced in Las Vegas, playing lounges like many other second-string soul acts (most notoriously Sonny Charles & the Checkmates). From there, they went to Los Angeles and did the unexpected: they learned to play instruments and became a band. They developed a signature sound with the group's vocal blend (which fused elements of doo wop, gospel, and soul) balanced against the Hendrix-influenced guitar work of Charles Love and Willis Draffen and multi-layered percussion.
Bloodstone received no record company interest in L.A., however, so at the advice of its manager, the group relocated to London in 1971. There, they teamed up with Mike Vernon, founder of the Blue Horizon label. Vernon took Bloodstone into the studio, and by early 1973 its debut single, "Natural High," had cracked the R&B and pop Top Ten, becoming the group's defining song.
Vernon produced the first five Bloodstone albums, which garnered seven Top 20 R&B singles, almost all of which made the pop Top 40. The group was a big concert draw, and its albums sold well. Somehow, all of this was parlayed into a 1975 film deal. Bloodstone starred in Train Ride to Hollywood, a comedy that mixed parodies of vintage Hollywood screwball comedies (with actors impersonating Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Jean Harlow, and others) with a fairly complete history of black vocal harmony music from the Mills Brothers to the Coasters.
The group then faded from popular view, despite a brief stint at Motown, until the early '80s, when it hooked up with the Isley Brothers' T-Neck label and scored a commercially and artistically successful album, We Go a Long Way Back, produced by the Brothers. The title track returned them to the R&B Top Ten in 1982, but although several other T-Neck singles charted, the group's recording career ended there for over two decades.
Bloodstone continued to play live, though time decimated the original lineup; drummer Melvin Webb died in 1982, guitarist Willis Draffen passed in 2002, and fellow guitarist Charles Love followed in 2014. However, the core trio of Harry Williams, Charles McCormick, and Donald Brown (the latter of whom joined Bloodstone in 2002) kept the group on the road, and the Bloodstone album Now!...That's What I'm Talkin' About appeared in 2004. A holiday album, Forever Christmas, arrived in late 2017. ~ Dave Marsh & Mark Deming
- Kansas City, MO
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