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Soul Express Article

By Heikki Suosalo

The Tymes

The complete Tymes Story including an interview with Al "Caesar" Berry and the discography

Part 2 – 1969-1997 on this page

Click here for the Part 1 – The Parkway Period

Click here for the Discography



In the line-up of George Williams (lead, tenor), George Hilliard (second tenor), Don Banks (bass), Norman Burnett (baritone) and Al Berry (first tenor) the Tymes scored three major single hits on Parkway Records in 1963 – So Much In Love, Wonderful! Wonderful! and Somewhere – but by 1965 their tenure with the famous Philly company was coming to an end, and their next records appeared on MGM in 1966. Albert “Ceasar” Berry: “Billy Jackson went to MGM with some material on us, and MGM Records picked us up.” Billy Jackson was their long-time producer and manager. “It wasn’t a happy period for us. We were with Artie Ripp, who was one of the representatives from MGM. A lot of things went on behind the scenes that we didn’t know about, but when Billy said ‘let’s move’, we moved.”

STREET TALK

They released only two singles on MGM, and the first one, Street Talk, was put out in the early summer of 1966. This uptown mid-paced beater was arranged (and directed and conducted) by Jimmy Wisner and also produced by him together with Billy Jackson. Customarily the late George Williams was on lead, as practically on everything the group did. On the flip they placed a pretty ballad called Pretend, which Nat King Cole first recorded in 1953.
The follow-up was released at the end of that year, and it offered a melodic dancer with a strong beat titled A Touch Of Baby. Produced by Billy Jackson together with its writers, John Linde and Robert Bloom, the same song re-appeared on Ronnie Dyson’s Columbia album, Why Can’t I Touch You?, four years later; also produced by Billy Jackson. A Touch Of Baby was flipped by a bossa nova song called Hidden Shores (by Linde and Bloom), although on special dj copies they had an uptempo dancer called What Would I Do on the flip. “Billy Jackson and Thom Bell wrote that tune together.”
Within a production company owned by Leon Huff, Johnny Madara, David White and Billy Jackson they formed a record label called Winchester already in 1965. “Winchester was like a subsidiary to their company. That was when we were trying to put together our own record company, but it didn’t do too well.” Distributed by Cameo-Parkway, the first single on Winchester was by the Spokesmen - Flashback/Mary Jane (W 1001) - and it’s the very same Spokesmen, who in 1965 had scored with The Dawn Of Correction (on Decca), an instant answer to Barry McGuire’s protest song, Eve Of Destruction. Johnny Madara and David White were both members of the Spokesmen. Furthermore, David’s first claim to fame came from being a member of Danny & the Juniors, of At The Hop fame in ’57.
In May of 1967 the second Winchester single was released, this time by the Tymes. Backed with a revival of These Foolish Things, on the plug side once again a touch of Motown was felt on a beaty dancer with a catchy melody called This Time It’s Love. Similar sound was tested on one of their last Parkway singles, Here She Comes. This Time It’s Love also marked the end of their Winchester career, when – according to Mr. Norman Burnett – “we didn’t want to lose any more money than we were losing already.”
In 1968 and also later it was rumoured that the Tymes recorded also under the pseudonym of the Imaginations on Bacon Fat (I Love You More Than Anyone/I Want A Girl). “We never recorded as the Imaginations. Bacon Fat was Billy Jackson’s production company. We always recorded under the Tymes, never under any other name.” Although both MGM, and Winchester output failed commercially, the lean, hitless years for the group were soon to be over; temporarily at least.

PEOPLE

Since Winchester didn’t go off and they didn’t hit the target, they next approached a major company, for a change. “We would look for a record deal. Billy Jackson went back into the studio, recorded some demos on us and took them to Columbia. He was the one who chose People.” For Columbia Billy also produced Peaches & Herb, Mongo Santamaria and Ronnie Dyson.
The Tymes turned People - a dramatic ballad from Funny Girl and a breakthrough # 5 pop hit for Barbra Streisand in 1964 - into a joyful, infectious dancer, which hit # 33-r&b and # 39-pop in late ’68 and became popular also in Britain (# 16-pop). The title theme from For Love Of Ivy, a mid-paced beat ballad, was chosen as the b-side.
The ensuing album, logically titled People (in ’69), was produced by their buddy already from the MGM days, Jimmy “Wiz” Wisner, and this time Billy Jackson is listed only as a production assistant. Arranged and conducted by Richard Rome, the album, however, didn’t repeat the chart success of the single. Basically they have the same concept as on the Parkway albums with five familiar musical and movie tunes included and with a certain “easy listening” approach maintained throughout, but this time they introduce a more intense rhythm section and heavier orchestration, which brings the sound more up-to-date and adds variety to the listening pleasure.
“We really didn’t know too much about picking material. Billy did that. One that I particularly like was Alfie. We did Alfie and then we went into For Once In My Life. That was one of my favourites.” That particular medley has an interesting arrangement of going from slow and ethereal (Alfie) to powerful and back to slow and dreamy again (Alfie), with an emotive reading of For Once In My Life in the middle.
The Look Of Love – from the picture “Casino Royale” – also introduces an innovative arrangement, a fast one this time and with jazzy elements; almost in the way 5th Dimension would cut it. Make Someone Happy is a dancer from the “Do Re Mi” musical.
Movies and musicals were not the only source of inspiration for the album, they also picked up some pop hits of the day like Jimmy Webb’s Wichita Lineman, Dan Folger’s slow swayer called The Way Of The Crowd (which he had cut for Elf a year earlier) and a personal “hate” tune, Those Were The Days. City is a rather gloomy beat ballad.
The only other two songs that were culled from the album for a single release were a fine, bluesy interpretation of the Billie Holiday song, God Bless The Child, and a catchy, (again a) Motown type of a finger-snapper called The Love That You’re Looking For (Ain’t Gonna Find It Here). Written by Jackson-Bell-Andrews, unfortunately this follow-up to People flopped. “It wasn’t a hit. I think it’s because most people pass us as a ballad group. We came up with some uptempo numbers, but they really weren’t pushed that much. We’ve got a lot of them still on our show.”

SHE’S GONE

Columbia released still three more singles on the group. The first one, a pretty Tony Camillo slowie called If You Love Me Baby (b/w the little more uptempo Find My Way), hit the streets in June of 1969, and seven months later they surprised the public with an interesting cover of an year-old Supremes hit, Love Child (b/w a Billy Jackson & Jimmy Wisner song, Most Beautiful Married Lady). “I’m really pleased with that one.”
On the label of their final Columbia single in early 1971 it reads “The Tymes feat. George Williams”. “During that time they were trying not to break up groups, but they were trying to eliminate background singers, take them down and take the lead singer and just go off with him. We put a stop on that, because we grew up together. We were good friends and we didn’t think it was a good idea to leave the group. We stayed together.” Written by Richie Rome and Billy Jackson, arranged and conducted by Jimmy Wisner and produced by Billy, She’s Gone is a powerful and soulful mid-pacer and one of the best vocal performances by the group those days. It was backed with a mid-paced beaty version of Gershwin & Gershwin’s Someone To Watch Over Me; cut almost the same way they reworked People.
Since not any of those singles set the charts alight, Columbia dropped the group. “They still have a lot of stuff in the can on us. A lot of conflicts happened with Billy’s production company and the label. I’m not sure what went on behind the scenes, but, next thing I know, we were without a label.”
Discographies list Smile A Tender Smile/When I Look Around Me (Capitol 3440 in ’72) as the next Tymes single, but members don’t recognize those tunes. As a matter of fact, a closer look at the matter indicates that the single was actually credited to “the Times”, who were an Irish rock duo consisting of Tommy and Jimmy Swarbrigg. They were Ireland’s Eurovision Song Contest entrants in 1977. (For the information above thanks to Messrs David Gordon and Dmitri Subotsky and www.soulfuldetroit.com/forum).
Almost four years went by without a recording deal. “We just worked the clubs around Philadelphia and around the country and were looking for another label. We tried to get Gamble and Huff interested in the group, but they turned down our demos. Billy Jackson was trying to get too much influence on the record company, thinking he would get in and as a matter of fact take over. That’s why we were turned down by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff back in the day. They had millions of guys on the label anyway. As a matter of fact, when we auditioned for them, they tried us on Love Train and The Loneliest House On The Block. Little Anthony and the Imperials recorded it later on. They were looking for a different sound at that time. They wanted that uptempo, hard drive, while we were still a ballad group. Tommy Bell was the one we sat in the studio with trying to get the things together. He said we sang too pretty. They were looking for that rough sound that you can hear from the O’Jays.”

YOU LITTLE TRUSTMAKER

At Sigma Sound Billy Jackson recorded four demo songs on the group – You Little Trustmaker, North Hills, So Much In Love and Good Morning Dear Lord – and while shopping for a deal he finally got RCA interested. RCA especially liked Good Morning Dear Lord, and signed the group in late ’73. Those days RCA paid serious attention to developing their soul roster and they were awarded with some hits by the Hues Corporation (Rock The Boat), Wilson Pickett (Mr. Magic Man), the New Birth (I Can Understand It), the Main Ingredient (Everybody Plays The Fool, Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely) and the Friends Of Distinction (Grazing In The Grass, Going In Circles, Love Or Let Me Be Lonely).
In the summer of ’74 RCA released their first Tymes single, an irresistible ditty, a catchy and melodic pulsator called You Little Trustmaker. Written by Christopher Mack Jackson, the single stayed on the Billboard charts for fourteen weeks and reached # 12-pop and # 20-soul (# 18-pop in the UK). This time the lead singer was not George Williams but the producer himself, Billy Jackson. “We were in the studio recording You Little Trustmaker. George was leading the song and Billy went in to show George how he wanted it to be done, and it came off so good with Billy doing it that they left him in the mix. When we do it on our show, all of us are singing the lead on that.” On the flip there’s a pretty ballad called North Hills, which Al Berry co-wrote. “A friend of mine, James Grant, and myself, we wrote that down together.”

MS. GRACE

A melodic and catchy floater called Ms. Grace was released in October 1974. It was written by John and Johanna Hall, husband and wife, and John, a member of a rock group called Orleans, later recorded the song himself, too. Although Ms. Grace wasn’t a U.S. hit (# 75-soul, # 91-pop), in Britain it went all the way up to number one. The Crutch on the b-side was a slow and poignant ballad, which Billy Jackson wrote in the mood of his wife leaving him.
Al: “We recorded that song at RCA Victor studios in New York.” Norman Burnett (see the feature on him later in the article): “It was just one of the records we put on an album, but after it jumped out and became a hit in the UK it made us real big overseas. We went on tour to Europe after that. I think it’s a great record. We do it still now.”
The first RCA album was simply called Trustmaker (# 46-soul, # 205-pop) and it was wrapped up for Christmas in 1974. Produced by Billy Jackson and arranged by Richie Rome, the music was cut both at RCA Studios in New York, and Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia. Rhythm was provided by TSONY (The Sound of New York), led by Bernard Purdie, and strings and horns by TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) under the direction of Richie Rome.
In the liner notes they give warmest thanks to Tom “Drapes” Draper. Al: “Tom was one of the executives at RCA Victor. He and Billy Jackson were good friends, along with Ritchie Rome – remember the Ritchie Family?” (Brazil, The Best Disco In Town etc.).
As a group the Tymes had been intact for fifteen years since 1959, but now on the album cover of Trustmaker they list Charles Nixon (lead and 2nd tenor) as a new member. One of the originals, George Hilliard, left in 1974 to become a Minister in the Philly Pentecostal Church, but still he attended the recording sessions for the album. Norman: “He’s still around. He works in a hospital as an administrator. We still have contact. He’s a minister too in a church.”
Al: “We were going around Philadelphia trying to find a replacement for George, because there were a lot of singers in Philly. We met Charles Nixon, asked him if he wanted to join the group and he said yes. We got him into the group, but health-wise he wasn’t doing too well, so he soon had to leave. I talked to Charles a few months ago, and his health still isn’t too good.” Charles replaced George for a short spell after Trustmaker started happening.

SOMEWAY SOMEHOW

The album kicks off with a hammering, infectious Philly dancer titled Someway, Somehow I’m Keepin’ You, written by Chris Mack Jackson and Billy Jackson. It was also tested as the third single, but it failed. On the flip it had an energetic scorcher named Innerloop! (by Ferguson-Davis-Lee), for which Luz Rivera wrote the Spanish lyrics.
One track to attract attention on the album was an over 9-minute long, almost gloomy slowie named Are You Lookin’; or with an alternative title, If It Rains On You, It Rains On Me (Everybody’s Under The Same Cloud). Originally it was supposed to be called The Hooker, and later it was also known as “the rain song.” Al: “That was a filler, you might say. Like Gamble and Huff, we were trying to put a social message into music. A lot of people didn’t like that with us, because it was about hookers and the drug thing that was happening in the city at the time. Remember Lee Andrews of the Hearts? That’s him doing the monologue over there.”
Billy Jackson decided to re-record So Much In Love, but this time as an uptempo version and with a fake audience. Al: “Yes, that’s fake. I was just listening to that, because we’re getting ready to put that on our show as an opening number.”
The Sha-La Bandit - a smooth ballad also cut by Sandra Wright, the Supremes and Delores Hall - was written by Jerry Ferguson and Wade Davis. Al: “They were from a band called the Bandwagon. Jerry became our band conductor and Wade came in as our second tenor. They thought us choreography and different types of arrangements, when we started getting into that disco era.”
Ferguson, Davis and (Charles) Lee were also known as a recording unit, who first cut for Exhibit and Epic labels in 1970 (as Ferguson, David & Jones), then for GRT and Chess in ’72 and ’73 and finally as Lifestyle for MCA in ’77 (a tiny hit called Katrina). Al: “Ferguson and Davis were from Rochester, New York, and Billy recorded them. Billy had a very successful production company. After Jerry and Wade left our group, they became Lifestyle.”
Those days Billy worked also with a group called Congress Alley, who had recorded for Avco in ’72 and ’73. They consisted of Lee Andrews, his wife Jacqui Andrews, Karen Briscoe and Richard Booker. Karen and Jacqui are the two background vocalists on the Trustmaker album. One more group Billy was involved in was a girl trio called Rare Pleasure (Let Me Down Easy on Cheri in ’76).
Although not a commercial success, Trustmaker was a very enjoyable album with a mixture of soulful slowies and extremely catchy dancers. By early ’75 the Tymes consisted of four original members - George Williams, Donald Banks, Albert Berry, Norman Burnett – and two new-comers. Wade Davis (baritone, second tenor) had replaced the sickly Charles Nixon and Jerry Ferguson joined as a tenor and musical director.

IT’S COOL

One year after Trustmaker’s release, towards the end of 1975, disco had taken over and the Tymes tried to fit in next with a catchy and airy ditty called God’s Gonna Punish You, but once again they ended up with no show on the U.S. charts (a consolation came from the UK - # 41-pop in ’76). Both the plug side, and a soft and soothing ballad called If I Can’t Make You Smile on the flip were written by Billy Jackson and Alfonso Thornton.
In the early ’76 they finally succeeded with a fascinating mid-paced floater called It’s Cool, written by Marvin Yancy and Chuck Jackson, a hit-making couple those days. It’s Cool became the biggest soul hit ever for the group (# 3-soul; 18 weeks on the charts; # 68-pop), but, alas, also the last one so far. Al: “It was a hit for us on the rhythm & blues charts. Billy Jackson brought us the track, and we rehearsed the song. It was among the few songs that had been laid down. Sometimes you never think a song is going to be a hit, but then we heard it was high on the r&b charts. It really didn’t change our career that much, because we were really known as a pop group. So Much In Love was the thing that took us over. R&b was big in cities like Detroit, Washington, New York, Philadelphia…” Norman: “Chuck Jackson, the brother of Jesse Jackson, presented the song to Billy. When we did that one, we did a whole lot of songs. It was just one in the bunch, but it made our career last a little longer.”
The hit was backed with Good Morning Dear Lord, the song RCA took interest in in the first place. It’s an impressive gospelly slowie with a rich orchestration and a thrilling vocal performance. Personally I rate it as George Williams’ best achievement on record alongside The Crutch and God Bless The Child. Al: “We were trying to get that Elvis Presley’s Jordanaires type of feel. It was a gospel ballad.”

ONLY YOUR LOVE

Hot on the heels in early ’76 arrived the album, Tymes Up (# 40-soul, # 202-pop). The opening cut, a pleasant disco dancer called Only Your Love, was chosen as a follow-up to It’s Cool, but for some strange reason it flopped – right behind a big hit! It’s flip was a mid-paced shuffler named Goin’ Through The Motions. Norman: “Only Your Love did nothing. It just wasn’t the time.” Al: “It was one of the songs that I really enjoyed recording. It put us into the disco era, you might say, but a lot of people didn’t recognize us as a disco group. They were still looking for that sweet sound we had.”
On the album many familiar names pop up as musicians: Cornell Dupree and Carl Lynch on guitar, Paul Griffith on keyboards, Ray Barretto on congas, John R. Faith on flute and Karl Chambers and “Pretty” Purdie on drums. The Sweeties – Carla Benson, Evette Benton and Barbara Ingram – are on the background along with Isabelle Coles, Edna Holt and Deborah Stockton. Richie arranged and Billy Jackson with his Citizen’s Band produced. Billy Jackson & the Citizen’s Band released also an album of their own on RCA in 1976.
The two non-single tracks on the album are a semi-psychedelic plodder named Hypnotized and an almost funky jam called To The Max(imum). All in all, Tymes Up is almost on a par with Trustmaker, although musically it has a slightly blacker and tougher edge.
In 1976 there were again changes in the line-up. Jerry Ferguson and Wade Davis went on to form Lifestyle with three other guys, and also Al Berry decided to call it a day. Al: “In ’76 I left the group for awhile. After Ferguson and Davis left, it was Donald Banks, George Williams, myself and Norman Burnett. I left the group, because they wanted to bring in two female singers. I have nothing against female singers, but I felt the Tymes was a male group. It really didn’t work out too good. I left for good five years. I tried to form a group of my own, because they wanted an original member, but it didn’t last too long.”
The two ladies they brought in were Terri Gonzales (soprano) and Melanie Moore (2nd soprano, alto). At that time Terri was twenty-three years old, a former actress and a model and a member of a New York group called We The People, who used to record for such labels as Map City, Verve and Lion in the first half of the 70s. On Lion they had mild success with You Made Me (A Brand New World), Forgotten Man and Making My Daydream Real.
Melanie hails from Dayton, Ohio, and her early career was influenced by her godfather, one Cholly Atkins. After the Tymes she became a member of Kleeer in the early 80s, sang on the movie soundtrack of The Wiz and is now working in Las Vegas, mainly as a solo jazz opening act.

NORMAN BURNETT

As told in the first part of the story, Norman Burnett (baritone) was one of the founder members of the Tymes. Norman names Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers his number one group in the fifties. Norman: “I was born May 5th, 1943, in Philadelphia. Me and George Hilliard started the group at a camp in 1956. They had talent shows on Saturday nights, and me and George got a couple of other guys – David, James and Dee - and won the contest for two weeks in a row. When we left the camp, we said ‘let’s start a group’.”
Norman: “In 1976, when ‘Ceasar’ left, we decided to change the image and the look of the group and took girls in it. We got Melanie Moore, who sang background with Luther and with many other artists at that time. Terri Gonzales was on a tv show called General Hospital. She played a prostitute on the show.”
The Tymes’ next and already second album in 1976, Turning Point, was again arranged by Richie Rome and produced by Billy Jackson & the Citizen’s Band. Norman: “They were like session musicians from New York. They played with many different artists. They never toured with us. We just made two albums with them.” Billy also wrote or co-wrote six of the songs on display.

LOVE’S ILLUSION

The only single off the album, Love’s Illusion/Savannah Sunny Sunday, was released almost in conjunction with the album, in December of 1976. Love’s Illusion is a nice, busy disco dancer, whereas the flip was a mellow, laid-back ballad, which its writers – Phil Galdston and Peter Thom – recorded for their own American Gypsies album next year.
Turning Point was the third good album for the Tymes in a row with five dancers and five fine ballads, but unfortunately in the lack of single hits it got lost in the shuffle. On the uptempo side there were It’s So Good To Be Waking Up With You, a pleasant dancer with a rich orchestration, and a little lesser disco mover called All You Ever Wanted To Know About Love. That’s The Breaks Of Love was a joyous, melodic and poppy ditty, while Billy Jackson’s own tune, The Reader, differs from the rest in being a strange semi-funk cut; something George Clinton could have done.
All the slow songs are sublime with George Williams excelling on lead. I Need You And Your Kind Of Loving is a deepish ballad, Youth Is Wasted On The Young a more poignant slowie and Traces Of You simply embraces you with its beauty. The closing song was a tender serenade called Tuning Into You. Al: “I’m not on the Turning Point album, except for one song. That was one of the old tracks that we did that they put out on that album, Tuning Into You. That was a good album. I wish I would have been on all of them, but Billy Jackson and I didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things – production and things like that – so I had to leave.”
Not long after Al left there were also other considerable changes in the line-up of the group. Norman: “Terri got disenchanted. She was causing problems in the group, and it just wasn’t working out, but we parted a good company, wasn’t anybody mad. After Terri left, we got a girl named Isabelle Coles, a daughter to Honey Coles. She used to go with this guy named Ron Richardson, who was singing, so that’s how we got him into the group. She knew him, we gave him a shot and it worked out.” Both Isabelle (first soprano), and Ron (tenor) come from New York.
Turns out in 1977 Norman remained the only original member in the group. Norman: “George Williams just quit to do his own thing, just by himself.” Albert: “After George left the group, he went to England.” Norman: “ Donald Banks wanted to be a manager in a fast-food place. He was discouraged, when things weren’t happening, and he had a family, so he became a manager of a restaurant.”

HOW AM I TO KNOW

In the line-up of Norman Burnett, Melanie Moore, Isabelle Coles and Ron Richardson, the Tymes released their final RCA single in October 1977, almost a year after the preceding one. The Billy Jackson penned How Am I To Know was a quick-tempoed dancer with the high-voiced Isabelle sounding not unlike Mary Wells. The b-side, I’ll Take You There (I Don’t Care If It’s January), was a deepish soul ballad led by Ron and written by Billy and Jerry Ferguson. The single vanished into obscurity.
The concurrent album, Diggin’ Their Roots, didn’t do any better, which once again is a pity, since musically it is a very entertaining set, one of those overlooked 70s records just waiting to get exposed. Produced by Billy Jackson with Jerry Ferguson as an assistant and arranged by Horace Ott this time, the album kicks off with an energetic disco dancer called Who, What, When, Where, Why. Ron on lead brings the soul shouter out of him and succeeds in sounding like Lamont Dozier at times. The song was also cut by its writer Rupert Holmes as well as Carol Douglas, Manhattan Transfer and Dionne Warwick. The same exciting formula is repeated on Girl, You Blew It.
I Can’t Explain is another busy beater, whereas Melanie takes the lead on a mid-paced lilter titled It Wasn’t The Right Time (written by Billy Jackson). As Time Goes By (The Hurt Will Disappear) is a soft slowie with Norman Burnett leading this time. The concluding track, Kunta Kinte (He Dug His Roots), is Billy’s psychedelic funky jam inspired by some of the Temptations hits in previous years.
Norman: “I left the group after that. They were still on RCA Records, Ron and the two girls, Isabelle and Melanie. I started a company in 1977. I’m a painting contractor. I paint houses, apartments - residential and commercial. I still got the business, and I have fifteen guys working for me.”

GEORGE WILLIAMS

As reported in the first part of the story, George Williams sadly died from cancer in New Jersey last July. Having been a lead singer for the Tymes for seventeen years, he quit just before the sessions for Diggin’ Their Roots and landed in Britain. George “The Fox” became a popular act in some European countries, he founded his own music publishing in London and even cut records with his “European Tymes”. Norman: “George Williams did a lot of things overseas under George Williams and the Tymes. We, the original guys, weren’t on them.”
One such U.K. single was Brothers And Sisters on Hammer Records (HS 311) in 1980. According to the information kindly provided by Dmitri Subotsky, the record is credited to the Tymes (featuring George Williams). Both sides are written, produced and arranged by Keith Bonsoir. Brothers And Sisters is musically close to the “U.K.” Drifters material, whereas the b-side, Louise, is a disco number. In the mid-80s George recorded with a U.K. jazz group called the Chosen 3.
Norman: “I bought an album on the flee market last month and it said ‘the Tymes’, but it wasn’t us. It was George doing remakes of all of our hit records.” Al: “George Williams and the Tymes on Dressed To Kill rerecorded some of our old stuff and some of his stuff he wrote.” The Tymes Greatest Hits (Dressed To Kill 473) was released in 2000, and it was equally divided into covers of the old Tymes hits and George’s later material. George Williams returned to the States in 2002, when T.J. Lubinsky brought the Tymes and George back together again for his “Doo Wop 51” show.

MS. GRACE SO MUCH IN LOVE

In 1980 the group came back together again. Al: “We got a call from an agency in New York City asking if we wanted to do an oldies show. They wanted the original guys back together, so we did a show at the Radio City Music Hall. That was the first time we were together for years. After we did the show, we sat in the dressing room and felt really fine. We thought we’d give it another try and we’ve been going on ever since. It was Norman Burnett, Donald Banks, myself and Billy Jackson. He filled in a voice. George Williams wasn’t with us.”
Next they recruited Dave James. Al: “Dave was a friend of ours in Philadelphia. We were looking for a lead singer. He came in to our rehearsal one night, heard us and started singing with us. We didn’t do any recordings with Dave James, though.”
The only outings by the Tymes in the 80s were two re-releases by a beach label called Ripete from the 70s RCA catalogue, Ms. Grace and So Much In Love (both coupled with songs by other artists). Later Ripete still put Ms. Grace out on many of their compilations, such as Beach Beat Classics vol. 1, Grand Strand Gold, The Beach Music Anthology Box Set, I Love Beach Music vol. 2 and Ocean Boulevard. Also other Tymes’ 60s and 70s hits have appeared on numerous compilations by several companies. The group itself returned to their old favourites by releasing a live 12-tracker on Koch International in 1997 titled Great Soul Hits. Al: “So Much In Love was the only thing that they dubbed on there. They had a live audience.”
Norman: “We didn’t make any new recordings after 1980. We just did ‘oldies but goodies’ shows. We travelled around the country – also Australia and Alaska – going on cruises and all of that stuff. We’re still going strong now.”
The line-up today is Albert, Norman, Donald, Lafayette Gamble and Jimmy Wells. Al: “Lafayette used to sing with the Dreamlovers. He was an original member. We were looking for a lead singer, and he’s been singing with us for about twelve years. Jimmy Wells was a local singer, too. He was a good friend of Lafayette, so he became a good friend of ours, and he was teaching us all our choreography. So we have a whole different look now, we dance and sing now. Jimmy’s been a member of the group for about eight, nine years now.”
Norman: “On stage we open up with The Love I Lost and Love Train as a medley. Then we sprinkle in like Walking In Rhythm and after that we do You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine. Then we sprinkle our songs in the middle, and we do the songs differently than they were recorded.”
Al: “We’ve been in the studio and we’ve cut some things, doing some demos. As a matter of fact, we did a remake on a Flamingos song, Lovers Never Say Goodbye. We’re doing something with Bobby Eli. Bobby Eli: “I produced probably about four songs, really good stuff. They are finished records. We did them all on 24 track.” Al: “We’re just trying to get the right sound for today, so that we can be competitive in the market.”
Norman: “Of our songs I like naturally So Much In Love and I like The Twelfth Of Never.” Al: “My favourites, of course, So Much In Love, and Alfie and Anymore.”

-Heikki Suosalo
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