About The O'Jays
R&B group The O’Jays had a No. 1 smash in 1973 with “Love Train,” the commercial peak in a career spanning more than 60 years.
• The group formed in 1958 while the original five members—Eddie Levert, Walter Lee Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey, and Bill Isles—were high school students in Canton, Ohio.
• Known first as The Mascots, the quintet released a pair of singles in 1960 before changing their name to The O’Jays. The name was a tribute to Cleveland DJ Eddie O’Jay.
• Though the O’Jays released a steady stream of singles and albums through the ’60s, only a few made much of a dent on the R&B chart. “I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today)” was their most successful song, reaching No. 8.
• Isles and Massey left The O’Jays in the early ’70s—just before the remaining trio signed to Philadelphia International, the label run by the songwriting team of Gamble & Huff. The band’s fortunes changed almost immediately with their 1972 album Back Stabbers, which reached No. 10 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The title track became the band’s first pop hit, reaching No. 3.
• “Love Train” was only the third single from Back Stabbers, but it was easily the biggest: The song topped the US pop and R&B charts and reached the Top 10 in the UK. “Love Train” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2006.
• Back Stabbers was the first in a string of nine consecutive Top 40 albums for The O’Jays, including 1975’s Family Reunion (No. 7) and 1978’s So Full of Love (No. 6). The band had seven Top 40 pop singles during the same stretch, including three Top 10 hits: 1973’s “For the Love of Money” (No. 9), 1975’s “I Love Music (Part I)” (No. 5), and 1978’s “Use ta Be My Girl” (No. 4).
• Powell died of cancer in 1977. The following year, The O’Jays added Sammy Strain, formerly of Little Anthony and the Imperials, who remained with the group until 1992. Strain was replaced by Nathaniel Best, then Eric Grant.
• Though the O’Jays’ chart success declined in the ’80s, the group has continued to release albums, and they remain a popular concert draw. They also hit the big screen: Levert, Williams, and Grant co-starred in 2003’s The Fighting Temptations with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyoncé.
• The O’Jays were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, and the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 2013.