Archie Bell & The Drells were a highly acclaimed R&B vocal group that became famous during the late 1960s. They are best known for the 1968 funk smash, "Tighten Up," which kicks off with a rousing spoken introduction by Bell.
Formed in 1966 in Houston, Texas, the original lineup included Billy Butler, Willie Parnell, James Wise, and lead singer Archie Bell (b. September 1, 1944), a veteran performer with powerful, soulful vocals who began his long career at age 10 when he gave his first shows at local nightclubs. They signed with Ovide Records in 1967 and later that year recorded several songs that included what would become their first and greatest hit, "Tighten Up." The instrumental backing was written and performed by the TSU Toronadoes, a locally popular R&B group also signed with Ovide, who had developed the music as their signature dance riff at their live shows before bringing it to Archie Bell & The Drells, who set it to lyrics. Bell was drafted into the Army soon after, and in the meantime, "Tighten Up" took off regionally and was subsequently picked up by Atlantic for national distribution. By mid 1968, while Bell was still serving in the military, "Tighten Up" had topped both the R&B and Pop/Rock charts and went gold. In the wake of this song's success, the group rush recorded their first album, "Tighten Up" (1968), which also includes other tracks recorded with the TSU Toronadoes.
By late 1968, Archie Bell & The Drells had began a long and fruitful collaboration with the famed production/songwriting team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, which continued through the 1970s while the group was signed at Atlantic and later Philadelphia International Records. "Tighten Up" was followed by a long string of hits through 1979 on both the R&B and Pop/Rock charts that includes the exuberant "I Can't Stop Dancing" (1968), "Do The Choo Choo" (1968), "There's Gonna Be A Showdown" (1968), "I Love My Baby" (1969), "Girl You're Too Young" (1969), "My Balloon's Going Up" (1969), "A World Without Music" (1969), "Wrap It Up" (1970), "Dancing To Your Music" (1973), and "Let's Groove (Part 1)" (1976). Their final charting song came in 1979 with "Strategy."
After Archie Bell & The Drells disbanded in 1980, Bell went solo and released an album, "I Never Had It So Good" (1981). He has also reunited onstage with the Drells numerous times over the years and continues to perform to the present day. In 2016, Archie Bell & The Drells commemorated their 50th anniversary with "Let's Groove: The Archie Bell & The Drells Story," a career retrospective released on the U.K. label, BBR. "Tighten Up" is ranked at #265 in Rolling Stone's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time." For more info on the history of this funk classic, see our interview with bassist Jerry Jenkins of the TSU Toronadoes.
- For more info about Archie Bell, visit archiebell.net.
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Archie Bell And The Drells
- I Can't Stop Dancing 1968
- There's Gonna Be A Showdown 1968
- Tighten Up 1968
(This song topped both the R&B and Pop/Rock charts.)
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