Melvin’s daughter helps keep Blue Notes’ legacy alive

DOVER — This time of year is always an emotional one for Trudy Melvin. Her late father loved Christmas.

“He was a fantastic father. He loved shopping and buying toys and decorating the tree. It was his favorite holiday,” she said.

“Those memories help get you over the hump.”

Her father was the legendary R&B musician Harold Melvin, whose Blue Notes had a string of hits in the 1970s.

Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes, the current incarnation of Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, are known for performing such hit songs such as, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “I Miss You,” “The Love I Lost” and socially conscious songs such as “Wake Up Everybody” and “Bad Luck.” They play Dover Downs with The Stylistics Dec. 28. (Submitted photo)

Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes will perform Dec. 28 at Dover Downs’ Rollins Center with The Stylistics.

Back in their recording days, the group was known as Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes.

One of the most popular Philadelphia soul groups of the 1970s included soul, R&B, doo-wop and disco to their repertoire. The Blue Notes scored several major R&B and pop hits including million-selling singles and albums throughout their career.

Among the Blue Notes’ most important and successful records are love songs such as, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, their breakout single, “I Miss You”, “The Love I Lost”, and socially conscious songs such as “Wake Up Everybody” and “Bad Luck.”

Mr. Melvin died after a series of strokes on March 24, 1997 at the age of 57.

Ms. Melvin and her mother Ovelia manage the current incarnation of the group with Ms. Melvin still living in the house where she grew up in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. She travels frequently with the group and enjoys hearing stories from fans.

“The people and the fans still love us. They are great guys and it’s great music,” she said.

Harold Melvin started in the middle of the 1950s with The Charlemagnes. Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes is most noted for several hits on Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International label between 1972 and 1976, although they performed and recorded until Mr. Melvin’s death in 1997.

The current group includes lead singer Donnell “Big Daddy” Gillespie, John Morris, Dave Echo, Tyrone Burwell and Keith Matthews.

Ms. Melvin said she and her four siblings would take many trips with her father on tour, going to places that she never would have visited otherwise.

“We traveled to England and shopped at Harrods. We went to Germany with him … Korea. What really stands out is every summer they would play Bob Marley’s Sunfest in Montego Bay, Jamaica,” she said.

Her brother Harold Jr. died earlier this year at the age of 52.

“He was a stylist to the stars. He will be missed by a lot of people,” Ms. Melvin said.

Music filled the Melvin home when Trudy was growing up.

“I still call many of the entertainers who are still around my uncle,” she said.

“Marshall (Thompson) of the Chi-Lites, members of The Stylistics, Heatwaves, The Trampps and Billy Paul. They were always entertaining around the house and it brought me great joy,” she said.

Living in Philadelphia all of his life, Mr. Melvin was recognized quite a bit around town.

“People would always come up to him and say ‘Oh, you’re that guy.’ He always got a kick out of that,” Ms. Melvin said.

Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes went through many changes over the years with personnel moving in and out.

“They were always trying to find the right ones to fill the right songs with the right flair. But a lot of groups go through the same kinds of things,” Ms. Melvin said.

The breakout star during their hit years was Teddy Pendergrass.

In 1970, the group recruited Mr. Pendergrass as the drummer for their backing band. He had been a member of Philadelphia R&B group The Cadillacs and was promoted to lead singer when John Atkins quit the same year.

This lineup of the group, featuring Mr. Melvin, Mr. Pendergrass, Bernard Wilson, Lawrence Brown, and Lloyd Parks, was signed to Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International label in 1972.

In 1976, Mr. Pendergrass quit after an argument over the money he earned. A year earlier, he had gained billing recognition by having the act renamed to Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes featuring Theodore Pendergrass. He went on to a successful solo career, with four consecutive million-selling albums with Philadelphia International between 1977 and 1980.

A car accident left him paralyzed in 1982 and he died in 2010 at the age of 59.

The Stylistics had 12 straight Top Ten hits in the early 70s including “You Are Everything”, “Betcha by Golly Wow”, “I’m Stone in Love with You,” “Break up to Make Up,” Let’s Put it All Together” and “You Make Me Feel Brand New.”

“He was a fantastic iconic singer. I loved his singing,” Ms. Melvin said.

“I wish the two of them had stayed together to make more music.”

Ms. Melvin said The Blue Notes and The Stylistics perform together quite a bit these days, having recently played at the Twin Rivers Casino in Rhode Island and Coney Island, New York.

The Stylistics had 12 straight Top Ten hits in the early 70s including: “You Are Everything”, “Betcha by Golly Wow”, “I’m Stone in Love with You”, “Break up to Make Up,” Let’s Put it All Together”, and “You Make Me Feel Brand New.”

The Stylistics celebrate their 50th anniversary with the original founding members Airrio Love and Herb Murrell with Jason Sharp and the newest Stylistic, “Bo” Henderson, former lead vocalist of The Temptations.

Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes hits have been re-recorded by other artists, including David Ruffin, Simply Red, Jimmy Somerville, Sybil, The Three Degrees and John Legend.

Ms. Melvin loves that her father’s group’s legacy lives on today.

“It’s fantastic. At Harlem Week every summer they pay tribute to him. He’ll always be my superhero,” she said.

“My heart will always beat to him.”

Tickets for the 9 p.m. show range from $40 to $70. They are available at DoverDowns.com.