February 21, 2016
Both a song and a style, the Sound of Philadelphia was created by legendary Philly producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who met each other in an elevator at a recording studio when they were both around 20 years old. They quickly realized that they had chemistry, and it wasn't long after they met that they were inspired to pen their first hit, "Expressway to Your Heart," a song that came to them while they were caught in traffic on the Schuylkill.
They named their record company Neptune Records and signed the Intruders, then changed the name in 1971 to Philadelphia International Records. They would go on to sign the O'Jays, the Spinners, and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, among many others. In 1973, they released a song called TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) by MFSB. Short for Mother, Father, Sister, Brother*, they were a pool of studio musicians at PIR, and the song was created as the Soul Train theme, though it also did surprisingly well on its own on the charts. It's considered one of the first disco songs, and the style of the song quickly became associated with Gamble and Huff. They created a subsidiary record company known as TSOP, and their distinctive sound dominated the radio in the 1970s.
The studio where Gamble and Huff created so many timeless hits was just a couple of blocks from our store. Sadly it was heavily damaged by a drunk arsonist in 2010, and was later demolished. But the distinctive sound that Gamble and Huff created will live on forever.
*That was the clean version. The dirty version meant something else entirely.