Arranger Bobby Martin, who is credited as the architect of the Sound of Philadelphia at Philadelphia International Records, died on Friday in a San Diego hospital at the age of 83.
Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who co-founded Philadelphia International, said in a statement:
He was the greatest arranger. We were able to work together with him to come up with a fantastic sound. He was part of a group of arrangers with us that included Thom Bell, Norman Harris, and Roland Chambers, and a vital part of the MFSB team who made major contributions. Bobby was tireless. He used to work all night on arrangements for us. Remembering his work ethic, and what it was like to just be around him, reminds us what a great time it was to be in the music business.
As a top arranger, conductor and composer for the MFSB orchestra, “The Sound of Philadelphia” house band that is due to be inducted next month onto the Philadelphia Walk of Fame, Martin arranged major hits for the likes of Billy Paul, Lou Rawls, the Intruders, Dusty Springfield, and Patti LaBelle. Gamble & Huff fondly recalled today that Martin was the first person to record Ms. LaBelle, and was credited with creating her stage name. Martin often was referred to as “The Granddaddy of R&B and Soul.
We send our sincere condolences to the Martin family. He will be truly missed.
Martin started his career at a producer in 1959, reportedly working out of a small studio in a Philadelphia car dealership working with artists like the Dreamlovers and Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. It is said that he suggested that Patti Holt change her name to LaBelle to match both the label for which she was recording (Bluebell) and her group’s name.
By the late-60’s, he was working from Signal Sound Studios and formed a house band known as MFSB. His credits from the period include Archie Bell and the Drells’ I Can’t Stop Dancing, Jerry Butler’s Only the Strong Survive, the Intruders’ Cowboys to Girls and Chris Nobles’ The Horse.
In 1973, Don Cornelius contacted Kenny Gamble about putting together a theme for his new TV show Soul Train. Martin took on the job, producing the number 1 hit TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia). It was one of four chart toppers which topped the charts with arrangements by Martin along with Billy Paul’s Me and Mrs. Jones, the O’Jay’s Love Train and the Manhattan’s Kiss and Say Goodbye, the last one from sessions he did after leaving Philadelphia International for California to work for A&M and Columbia. His arrangements can also be heard on songs by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (If You Don’t Know Me By Now), the Three Degrees (When Will I See You Again), Lou Rawls (You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine), the Jacksons (Enjoy Yourself), L.T.D. (Back in Love Again), Larry Graham (One in a Million You) and many others.
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