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Riding Philly's 'Love Train' With Gamble And Huff

Producers, writers and musicians Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff founded the legendary record label Philadelphia International and helped pioneer the sound of Philadelphia soul.

44:51

Other segments from the episode on May 22, 2009

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, May 22, 2009: Interview with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff; Review of the film "Terminator salvation."

Transcript

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Riding Philly's 'Love Train' With Gamble And Huff

DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News, filling in for Terry Gross.

We thought we’d kick of the Memorial Day weekend with the Philly Sound and a
visit with the guys who had a huge hand in creating it, Kenny Gamble and Leon
Huff.

Gamble and Huff are known for records like “For the Love of Money,” “Me and
Mrs. Jones,” “I’ll Be Around,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “Love Train,”
“Break Up to Make Up” and “T.S.O.P.,” aka the “Soul Train” theme - songs that
helped define the Philly Sound of the ‘70s.

In 1971, they co-founded Philadelphia International Records and went on to
write and produce many of the label’s hits. The label was home to such groups
has Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the O’Jays, Archie Bell & the Drells and
Billy Paul.

Earlier this week, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff were named BMI icons at the 57th
annual Pop Awards in Los Angeles. Terry spoke with them last fall, when a box
set collecting many of their hits, called “Love Train,” was released. Here’s
one of them, recorded by the O’Jays in 1972.

(Soundbite of song, “Back Stabbers”)

The O’JAYS (Pop Group): (Singing) What they do. They smile in your face. All
the time they want to take your place, the back stabbers, back stabbers. They
smile in your face. All the time they want to take your place, the back
stabbers, back stabbers. All you fellows who have someone…

TERRY GROSS, host:

Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, welcome to FRESH AIR. Now, Leon Huff, was that you on
the piano at the very beginning?

Mr. LEON HUFF (Musician): Yes.

GROSS: Okay. Tell us about figuring out what you were going to play there.

Mr. HUFF: “Back Stabbers” sounds like something like airy, you know, something
airy, like so that roll was like something horrible because that’s what
backstabbers are. So that roll reflected that type of a drama, and it worked.

GROSS: Okay so after we hear that opening, then the rhythm section comes in,
and then the strings, and it’s a really big production, which is something that
Philadelphia International really specialized in. Kenny Gamble, you want to
talk about that kind of big, produced, orchestral sounds that you got?

Mr. KENNY GAMBLE: Well, you know, that sound of the orchestra was always, that
was our dream to be able to play so many countermelodies that came along with
those songs that the orchestra was able to put that together.

Plus, too, you know, during the time when we were coming along, it was stereo.
Stereo radio had just come into – really, like they was putting it in cars. I
mean, it was everywhere. Stereo - went from mono to stereo. And so you had a
lot of space, you know, to fill up. Stereo was much more soothing than mono. So
we had – we thought about the mixes that we could do. And the music was not
only funky, it was classical at the same time.

So the string players and horn players, you know, we had the greatest
orchestra, I think, MFSB. That was the name of the orchestra.

GROSS: How did you know a lot about the instruments of the orchestra that you
wouldn’t typically hear in a small band, like French horns, like flugelhorns?
Like, did you study that kind of – how did you develop an ear for those kinds
of instruments?

Mr. HUFF: Well, I’ve come in contact with those types of instruments because I
was in a band in elementary school, marching band.

GROSS: Oh, I love marching - I was in a band like that, too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HUFF: Great experience, you know. So I had an opportunity to hear trombones
and French horns and flutes and piccolos and all that kind of good stuff that
makes up a fantastic orchestra. So that’s how I became familiar - you know,
vibes, bells, maracas, shakers, tambourines, the whole nine yards. And Gamble
experienced the same thing, too. That’s why we was able to incorporate those
types of sounds.

GROSS: Kenny Gamble, were you in a marching band, also?

Mr. GAMBLE: No, no, not no marching band, but we had a band, and I think that
the music that influenced me most, you know, from like the early, late ‘50s,
like Burt Bacharach, Hal David, and Leiber and Stoller, you know, what I mean?
The Drifters when they had strings in there – they were the first to introduce
the strings.

GROSS: Yeah, strings and timpani and – yeah.

Mr. GAMBLE: Everything. You know, “There Goes My Baby.” I think that was
probably one of the first songs that had a full orchestra, and then Dionne
Warwick and Burt Bacharach and Hal David, I mean, they did some fantastic
arrangements, and they used all kinds of instruments doing that - and the
rhythm thing.

So we were products of that era and also the Motown era, which had the greatest
influence, which also used a lot of horns and baritone saxes and things like
that. So we stretched out. And plus Tommy Bell, Bobby Martin, the arrangers,
they would also make suggestions from time to time. Well, why don’t you use an
oboe over here or this or whatever? And it all worked, you know, worked
together once we were able to get in that studio.

GROSS: Let’s hear another great track, and we’re going to hear “If You Don’t
Know My By Now” by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. And Teddy Pendergrass sings
lead on this, and I think Leon Huff, you were the one who discovered that Teddy
Pendergrass could sing as good as he did.

Mr. HUFF: Well, you know, he caught my ear, you know, in a rehearsal, just his
particular sound.

GROSS: He was the drummer with the band.

Mr. HUFF: Big baritone.

GROSS: Did you know that he could sing?

Mr. HUFF: No, not really. You know, he just - his voice just stood out, you
know, amongst the other voices, and it just grabbed your ear – mine, anyway, at
first.

Mr. GAMBLE: Plus, Harold Melvin knew that he could sing, you know. Harold was
really the architect of that group, of the Blue Notes. He’d been in the Blue
Notes since in the late ‘50s, and so that’s why eventually what we decided to
do is call it Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes because the Blue Notes kept
changing, but Harold Melvin remained there all the time. And then Teddy
Pendergrass came along.

Mr. HUFF: His voiced roared.

Mr. GAMBLE: Yeah, so we called it Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, featuring
Teddy Pendergrass.

GROSS: Did Harold Melvin mind that Teddy Pendergrass was singing lead and not
Harold Melvin?

Mr. GAMBLE: Yeah, he minded. Yeah, he minded, because it was Harold Melvin &
the Blue Notes, and people thought that Teddy Pendergrass was Harold Melvin.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. GAMBLE: And so he used to come to me and say many think that Teddy’s Harold
Melvin. I said, well, you know, don’t worry about it, you know? But…

Mr. HUFF: That was that power showing through.

GROSS: Well, before we hear “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” do you want to say
anything else to introduce it, about how you wrote the song, for instance?

Mr. HUFF: Oh, I knew he was in the room, and Gamble was off, and that’s where
the piano was, the old upright. And we was just - the ideas were just coming.

Mr. GAMBLE: I don’t know how that song came about.

Mr. HUFF: I just…

Mr. GAMBLE: Well, you just go, and I suppose you’ve got a friend, or you’re in
a relationship. So they say well where you been at? You know, I was working. I
was doing – you know, and then all of a sudden you say well, if you don’t know
me by now, you’ll never know me. I mean, that’s like a relationship kind of
thing where people have gone through that. Everybody’s gone through that.
Millions of people are going through that every day.

GROSS: But we haven’t written songs about it. So what made you realize that was
a good hook for a song?

Mr. GAMBLE: Well, ideas pop into your head.

Mr. HUFF: We were just feeling good.

Mr. GAMBLE: And so often I – we used to write titles down. You know, we come in
with a legal pad full of nothing but titles, and that’s how we would get our
songs because the title - each title had a story to it. So we’re playing around
and messing around, and…

Mr. HUFF: Just pick one. Just pick one.

Mr. GAMBLE: Yeah, pick one. And then all of a sudden, you know, if you don’t
know me by now, you’ll never know me. It seemed like it fit the order of the
day.

GROSS: Okay, so this is Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes from 1972 with Teddy
Pendergrass singing lead. And my guests Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, wrote the
song and produced the record.

Mr. GAMBLE: Right.

Mr. HUFF: And won a Grammy.

GROSS: And won a Grammy for it, okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of song, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”)

HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES (Pop Group): (Singing) If you don't know me by
now, you will never, never, never know me.

Mr. TEDDY PENDERGRASS (Singer): (Singing) All the things that we've been
through, you should understand me like I understand you. Now baby, I know the
difference between right and wrong. I ain't gonna do nothing to upset up our
happy home. Oh, don't get so excited when I come home a little late at night,
‘cause we only act like children when we argue, fuss and fight.

HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES: (Singing) If you don't know me by now, you will
never, never, never know me.

Mr. PENDERGRASS: (Singing) You’ll never, never, never know me.

GROSS: That’s Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes with Teddy Pendergrass singing
lead, recorded in 1972, written and produced by my guests Kenny Gamble and Leon
Huff. And while we were listening to that, Kenny Gamble, you were telling me
something I want you to repeat.

Mr. GAMBLE: Well, I just wanted to let you know that doing the background, see,
Huff and myself and Bunny Siegler, we used to a lot of backgrounds on records
because – not saying that the group wasn’t really good, but there’s a certain
sound that we wanted. And so on that “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” is Gamble,
Huff, and Bunny Siegler. We’re doing the background on there.

Mr. HUFF: Yeah, boy, they can harmonize, boy.

Mr. GAMBLE: Yeah, me and Huff and Bunny Siegler, you know, I mean, we really
had a good sound together. And, in fact, like, on a lot of the Stylistics
songs, you know, we sang on the Stylistics songs in the background, and Joe
Simon - we sang on Joe Simon.

Mr. HUFF: Archie Bell.

Mr. GAMBLE: Archie Bell. We were the Drells.

GROSS: Oh, you’re kidding.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GAMBLE: So “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” we were singing that. I don’t
know if I could hit them notes again, but…

Mr. HUFF: Yeah.

GROSS: Well, that leads me right to where I want to go. I mean, I know you used
to since in a group called the Romeo’s.

Mr. GAMBLE: Oh, yeah. We had a lot of fun with the Romeo’s, and Huff and Roland
Chambers, Karl Chambers.

Mr. HUFF: Yeah, that was a great time.

Mr. GAMBLE: Woody Wolford and Tom Bell, myself. You know, we were an excellent
band, and we sang together. We had sort of like - the best part of the band,
when, you know, was when we used to sing songs like the Four Freshmen, you know
what I mean? We’d have that kind of modern harmony kind of songs. We did the
standard “Moon River.” We had a great arrangement of “Moon River,” and we had a
great arrangement of “I Wish You Love.”

Mr. HUFF: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: Huh.

Mr. GAMBLE: Huff would play the drums on there, and Roland and Karl, his
brother, and we would sing together. So we just sang a little bit, you know.

Mr. HUFF: Oh, yeah.

GROSS: Neither of you is going to do a few bars of “Moon River” for me?

Mr. HUFF: I don’t think I could do it…

Mr. GAMBLE: You know, I can’t even hardly remember it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GAMBLE: I know it had a bass line.

(Soundbite of singing bass line)

Mr. HUFF: Yeah, a little Latin (unintelligible).

Mr. GAMBLE: Something like that, you know?

Mr. HUFF: It was great. And what’s funny, that was the highlight of my early
music career as a musician from Camden, New Jersey. At that time, I felt like I
could play good enough to join a band. And I kept hearing about Kenny Gamble
and the Romeo’s appearing down at this club in Lawnside, New Jersey called
Loretta’s High Hat. And I had a day gig at Cooper Hospital. But every weekend –
see, word of mouth is powerful.

Mr. GAMBLE: You better believe it.

Mr. HUFF: And that’s all I heard was Kenny Gamble, Kenny Gamble. And who’s
Kenny Gamble and the Romeo’s? They’re down in – so I had an opportunity to be
off one weekend, and I caught a ride down there. And they had lines around the
corner, people trying to get into this club. They had busloads. I mean, you
might have thought the Rolling Stones or somebody, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HUFF: So it took me about an hour to get in. But once I got in, then I
could see why, because they was rocking the place. So me, as a musician, I
could say oh, I could be in a band like that because I thought I could play
that good, you know, at that time, you know.

GROSS: Well, you know, as you mentioned early, Leon Huff, early in your career,
you also did some session work for Phil Spector, played piano on the famous
Phil Spector Christmas album.

Mr. HUFF: Yeah, that’s right.

GROSS: You did work with Leiber and Stoller.

Mr. HUFF: Yeah.

GROSS: So did you think that that was your future, doing session work, or did
you think you’d become a songwriter-producer?

Mr. HUFF: You know, as a young boy, I always had albums in my house. My mother
used to take us to music stores and outlets to read liner notes. So I used to
do all of that, you know.

GROSS: To read liner notes?

Mr. HUFF: Then, they had liner notes on the back of albums, you know. I used to
read all of them, you know. And I always wanted to be a studio musician. That’s
what I wanted to do.

GROSS: What did you learn from working with Phil Spector and Leiber and
Stoller, great producers, that you applied to Philadelphia International
Records?

Mr. HUFF: Phil Spector had a whole different approach.

GROSS: Like what? What did he do?

Mr. HUFF: That - the wall of sound, you know. You know, you have every
individual musician laying their part down, you know. Then he worked for hours
on the drum sound. He’ll tell all the musicians to take a break. He’ll be in
there like two or three hours just working with them drums. So if you listen to
his productions, then you’ll see that they sound like nothing else.

DAVIES: Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, speaking with Terry Gross. Gamble and huff
co-founded Philadelphia International Records in 1971, which had dozens of hits
and defined the Philly sound. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Let’s get back to Terry’s interview with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
They created Philadelphia International Records and wrote and produced many of
the hits that became part of the Philly sound in the ‘70s.

Terry asked them about a hit they produced a few years before they started
Philly International.

GROSS: I think this is the first real hit that you had. It’s from 1967, and
it’s “Expressway to Your Heart,” the Soul Survivors. So tell us how this
recording came to be. Why don’t you start with writing the song? And let me say
you’re from Philadelphia, Kenny Gamble. Leon Huff, you’re from Camden, close
enough.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HUFF: That’s East Philly, Camden.

GROSS: Yeah, it’s just right over the river in New Jersey. And there is an
expressway in Philadelphia called the Schuylkill Expressway that is famous for
its unpredictable traffic jams.

Mr. HUFF: Right.

GROSS: So does the Schuylkill Expressway, is that the expressway referred to in
“Expressway to Your Heart”? Were you thinking about that?

Mr. GAMBLE: That’s it.

Mr. HUFF: Yeah. Gamble wrote the lyrics, and I think it’s one of the most
clever lyrics I’ve ever seen.

Mr. GAMBLE: What happened with that song is sort of like, it’s self-
explanatory. I was on my way over to see a friend of mine, a young lady, so the
expressway was just backed up. That’s when they first started the expressway.
This is 67, so it was just beginning. I was sitting there for – it seemed like
hours, you know what I mean? So I start beating on the dashboard, you know,
talking about expressway to your heart.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GAMBLE: Trying to get to you. You know what I mean. And that’s how it come
through. (unintelligible) said expressway to heart, and put that bass line…

(Soundbite of singing bass line)

Mr. GAMBLE: And that was, you know. That’s how songs come, though. Songs come
from your imagination. You’ve just got to be quick. You’ve got to be quick to
capture the moment for the concepts. And…

GROSS: So, well, you’re in the car writing that song, on the way to see your
woman friend, who did you end up seeing first, Leon Huff or her?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GAMBLE: Oh, I saw her first.

Mr. HUFF: Yeah, yeah.

Mr. GAMBLE: Yeah, I saw her first.

GROSS: So you kept it in your mind.

Mr. GAMBLE: Oh, I saw Huff the next day, yeah. But I write stuff down, though,
because I’ll forget it.

GROSS: Now Leon Huff, did you think what this song needs to start with – well,
first of all, it starts with horns, like, you know, horns - car horns honking
in traffic. And the horns are tuned. I mean, if…

Mr. HUFF: Well, they sound like it, don’t they?

GROSS: Yeah. There’s a line with, like, one horn, and then that line is
repeated in different pitch in another horn, then they’re in harmony with each
other. So…

Mr. HUFF: They sound like it.

GROSS: Are those real car horns, or did you…

Mr. GAMBLE: Oh yeah, they’re real car horns. But you know what? That was
inspired a little bit by – there was a song called “Summer in the City.”

GROSS: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mr. GAMBLE: (Singing) Hot town, summer in the city.

Mr. GAMBLE: Yeah, and they had car horns in it.

GROSS: That’s true, they did. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mr. GAMBLE: So Joe Tarsia and I, we just…

GROSS: He was the engineer, Joe Tarsia.

Mr. GAMBLE: He was the engineer. And so we just – we got some – they have these
sound-effect records where you can – they have car horns on it. They’ve got
everything on them, sound-effect records. And so we just used the car horns on
it. And just one more thing about that song that a lot of people don’t know is
that we used the same lyrics in “Expressway” that we used in a song with the
Temptations and the Supremes, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.”

GROSS: Wait, what’s - I know that song, but I’m trying to think of what the
similarity is.

Mr. GAMBLE: Okay, the Temptations, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” – (Singing)
every minute, every hour, I’m gonna shower with love and affection
(unintelligible)…

Okay, you see it now, right?

GROSS: Yes, in your direction. Yeah.

Mr. GAMBLE: Right. The same thing: (Singing) Sounds coming in your direction
over these…

Same thing, see?

GROSS: Is that cheating?

Mr. GAMBLE: No. No, that’s just being – that’s really taking advantage of
creativity, you know?

Mr. HUFF: You can say a lot of things in a lot of different ways.

GROSS: Good. Okay, well this is a great record. I’ve always loved this record.
It’s “Expressway To Your Heart,” the Soul Survivors, 1967, written by my
guests, Gamble and Huff, and produced by you, too, right?

Mr. GAMBLE: Yeah, we produced this album.

GROSS: And Leon Huff, are you playing on this?

Mr. HUFF: Yeah.

GROSS: That’s you at the piano?

Mr. GAMBLE: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Okay, here we go.

(Soundbite of song, “Expressway to Your Heart”)

(Soundbite of car horns)

SOUL SURVIVOR (Pop Group): (Singing) I’ve been trying to get to you for a long
time. You’re constantly been on my mind. I was thinking about a shortcut I
could take, but it seems like I made a mistake. Well, I was wrong, took too
long. I got caught in the rush hour, a fellow started to shower you with love
and affection. Now you’re won’t look in my direction.

On the expressway to your heart. The expressway is not the best way. At five
o'clock it's much too crowded, no it’s much too crowded, so crowded. It’s much
too crowded. Oh, too crowded.

Now there's too many ahead of me. They're all the time gettin' in front of me.
I thought I could find clear road ahead…

DAVIES: You’re listening to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff speaking with Terry
Gross. They’ll be back to talk more about the hits they produced in the second
half of the show. I’m Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Dave Davies filling in for Terry Gross. We're
listening to Terry's interview with the songwriting and production team Kenny
Gamble and Leon Huff. They co-founded Philadelphia International Records in
1971 which defined the Philly Sound. They modeled their label on Motown
Records. Earlier this week, they were named BMI icons at the annual Pop Awards
in Los Angeles. Terry spoke to them last year when a box set of their hits
called "Love Train" was released.

When we left off, they were talking about writing an producing the hit,
"Expressway to Your Heart," which they recorded with the Soul Survivors before
Gamble and Huff started up Philadelphia International.

TERRY GROSS: What impact did that recording have on your careers?

Mr. GAMBLE: "Expressway," boy it had a tremendous impact.

Mr. HUFF: Oh yes.

Mr. GAMBLE: And I think one of the good things about it was that the Soul
Survivors was a great performing act.

Mr. HUFF: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GAMBLE: They would perform in places and just turning the places out. But
it was like a breakthrough for us, for Gamble and Huff, because it seems like
everything started to happen from then, because right after or during the same
time as "Expressway" we recorded the Intruders with "Cowboys to Girls."

Mr. HUFF: Yes.

GROSS: Love that song.

Mr. HUFF: Yes.

Mr. GAMBLE: So we had been trying with the Intruders, we united together, we
had four or five different records before and building, they were building. But
then "Cowboys to Girls" came out and just exploded, so we was on a roll. That's
when we went up to Motown.

Mr. HUFF: Yes.

Mr. GAMBLE: You know, went up to Motown. We had "Expressway" on the charts and
"Cowboys to Girls."

Mr. HUFF: Yes.

Mr. GAMBLE: Had two records like in the top 10. So we figured we go to Motown
you know?

GROSS: And why didn't you stay there? Like what didn't work when you were
thinking of leaving there?

Mr. GAMBLE: Well, I think it was kind of far away number one. You know, our
families were here in Philadelphia.

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. GAMBLE: And I think we were just basically on the exploratory, just you
know let's see what's up there because we had admired them so much you know?

Mr. HUFF: Yes.

Mr. GAMBLE: And we met Holland-Dozier and Holland. We met Norman Whitfield. We
met all these great songwriters and producers that...

Mr. HUFF: Yes.

Mr. GAMBLE: ... that we admired for so many years and we wanted to see whether
or not there was an opportunity at Motown.

Mr. HUFF: Yes, that's all it was.

Mr. GAMBLE: But what happened was is that from a business standpoint and from a
logistic standpoint, I think that me and Huff decided that when we were there
we said I think we better try to do this back in Philly.

Mr. HUFF: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GAMBLE: You know, and, you know, thank God it worked out real, real good
for us.

Mr. HUFF: We did fine. Yes.

Mr. GAMBLE: The timing was good. And Motown will always be my favorite record
company.

Mr. HUFF: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Now you know how you said you kept a list of titles and then eventually
wrote songs that would grow out of the titles? Was "Cowboys to Girls" one of
the titles that was on your list before it was a song?

Mr. GAMBLE: Oh yes.

Mr. HUFF: Yes. It was on the list.

Mr. GAMBLE: No question about it.

GROSS: And your memory, how it got on the list in the first place?

Mr. GAMBLE: “Cowboys to Girls” because it's a story. That story is like a story
about a guy who grows up, like little kids, they grow up and the guy be beating
the girls up and they be pulling their hair. And you know they don't treat them
tender. Then all of a sudden he grows up and say hey, you know now I know girls
are made for kissing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GAMBLE: You know he had fun reminiscing. And the girl, she went from baby
dolls to boys. You know it's just clever. I tried to, the lyrics that we were
trying to put together was something that was a little bit different and
little, like "Expressway To Your Heart" was different, all right. "Cowboys to
Girls" was different you know, and so many others I can't think of them right
now, but try to take a different angle to songs. Like Smokey Robinson used to
write songs like the "Tears of Clown" and you know, you know different, you
know try to be as clever as possible.

Mr. HUFF: That’s' the word. Mm-hmm. Clever.

GROSS: So let's squeeze in "Cowboys to Girls." It's one of the songs featured
on the new four CD box set of songs mostly from Philadelphia International
Records, but also some of the songs that were Gamble and Huff collaborations
before they created Philadelphia International and this is one of those songs
that they did before Philadelphia International Records.

Mr. HUFF: Right.

GROSS: This is "Cowboys to Girls."

THE INTRUDERS (Band): (singing) Cowboys to girls. I remember when I used to
play shoot em up, Shoot em up, bang, bang baby, I remember when I chased the
girls and beat em up. But I was young and didn't understand. But now I'm a
grown up man. I know girls are made for kissing. Never knew what I was missing.
Now my life is not the same. My whole world has been rearranged. I went from
cowboys to girls. Oh yes I did. You know I love you baby. Cowboys to girls. I
remember...

GROSS: "Cowboys to Girls" written by my guests Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, the
founders of Philadelphia International Records. And there's a new four CD box
set that collects music from Philadelphia International Records and some of the
Gamble and Huff collaborations that preceded that record label.

Now you’re from Philly, you've been working Philly and Camden.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: And Philadelphia International Records has been headquartered in
Philadelphia, which was also the home when you were getting started of
"American Bandstand," with Dick Clark. And that had a really strong impact on
the Philadelphia music scene, and the record label, Cameo Parkway, which was
based in Philadelphia, had a lot of performers that ended up being stars on
"Bandstand," including Dee Dee Sharp, Chubby Checker and his record "The
Twist," Bobby Rydell...

Mr. GAMBLE: Frankie Avalon.

GROSS: Frankie Avalon.

Mr. GAMBLE: Fabian.

Mr. HUFF: Orlons.

Mr. GAMBLE: The Dovells, the Orlons. I mean it was a tremendous music scene
there.

GROSS: So what kind of impact did that have on you having the Cameo Parkway
label feeding "American Bandstand," like what did you learn from watching that?

Mr. GAMBLE: Well we learned so much from them because our office is - we're in
the same office as the Cameo Parkway…

GROSS: Where they used to be.

Mr. GAMBLE: Where they used to be - 309 South Broad Street.

GROSS: And you had the engineer that they used to have.

Mr. GAMBLE: Same engineer. We bought that building like in 1970-71. And I think
Cameo Parkway was another learning tool for us because they basically had a
group of writers too. They were, I mean Motown was inspired them because when
you go to Cameo Parkway they had a library and they had every Motown record you
could think of.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GAMBLE: And all the writers at Cameo Parkway was basically listening to
Motown records trying to really duplicate the Motown sound. And I think that
Cameo Parkway and "Bandstand" - "Bandstand" to me was like "American Idol" is
today. You could get an artist on "Bandstand" during that time and he performed
his record and in a day or two he had the number one record in the country
because "Bandstand" had that much influence in the music industry.

GROSS: I think the period when you started having hits is past when "Bandstand"
was really still based in Philadelphia.

Mr. GAMBLE: Oh, it was gone then.

Mr. HUFF: Yes.

GROSS: Yes.

Mr. GAMBLE: Yes "Bandstand" was gone.

GROSS: So you couldn't really break your records on "Bandstand."

Mr. HUFF: No.

Mr. GAMBLE: No. In fact, "Soul Train" had come in to play during the time.

GROSS: Well, that's right where I'm heading the "Soul Train."

Mr. GAMBLE: Yes, "Soul Train" was, I mean we started around '63, '64, somewhere
around there and you go all the way from that era to "Bandstand" leaving and
going to California and "Soul Train" sort of picked up where "Bandstand" left
off at.

GROSS: You wrote the record that became the theme for "Soul Train," – “T.S.O.P.
(The Sound of Philadelphia).”

Mr. HUFF: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: So I guess my first question about that is why did you do an
instrumental? I mean instrumentals were basically - they'd kind of fallen from
fashion by the time that you did this. Things had vocals on them. So why did
you even think about doing an instrumental?

Mr. GAMBLE: Well you know it had words to it too.

Mr. HUFF: Yes it had words.

Mr. GAMBLE: You know the Three Degrees was on there, (sings) Soul train. Soul
train. Da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da. Soul train. I mean you know,
they was singing soul train. Plus too, we always looked at it like Johnny
Carson, you know, he had a theme song. You know da, da, da, da, da. That's
Johnny Carson. All right. You take Bob Hope, he's got "Thanks for the
Memories."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HUFF: Yes.

Mr. GAMBLE: You understand?

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GAMBLE: Everybody great has kind of like you know from television has a
theme song. So we wanted to give Don Cornelius a theme song.

GROSS: Did he ask you to write one?

Mr. GAMBLE: Yes. He came into Philly.

GROSS: Oh, I didn't realize that.

Mr. GAMBLE: No, he came into Philly.

GROSS: Oh he asked you.

Mr. GAMBLE: You know, because the music he had on there - he was a real good
friend of ours. He still is a good friend of ours, you know, and all of our
artists was on his show. You know, and so in talking to him one day we were
talking about his theme song. I said you need to get a better theme song. So he
said I’ll come in. So he came in and me and Huff and all the musicians, we got
together.

Mr. HUFF: Yes.

Mr. GAMBLE: And like the first day like always we didn’t get too much the first
day.

Mr. HUFF: Uh-uh.

Mr. GAMBLE: So me and Huff went back to the office and that melody came up
that's da, da soul train, soul train. And then once you got that melody and
then you put the other pieces to it or put that da, da, da, da, da, da, da. You
know what I mean? And then that did it, you know, so…

GROSS: Okay. So this is “T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia),” which you also
know as the theme from "Soul Train." And this was written and produced by my
guests, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

(Soundbite of music, “T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)”)

DAVIES: We're listening to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff speaking with Terry
Gross. Gamble and Huff cofounded Philadelphia International Records in 1971
which had dozens of hits and defined the Philly Sound.

More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

DAVIES: Let's get back to Terry's interview with the songwriting and production
team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. They produced a string of hits in the ‘70s
at Philadelphia International Records.

GROSS: Let me play another record that you wrote together, and that you
produced and this is "Me and Mrs. Jones," which Billy Paul recorded. And I've
read that you have described this as one of the trickiest songs that you did
and I'm wondering what was tricky about?

Mr. HUFF: That's probably was me telling that because it was just - I had a
different feel. It was more jazz orientated when we because...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. HUFF: ... I remember when Gamble was showing me the chords because he had
the chord progressions that's in the intro and I couldn’t catch it for a minute
because I had a different type of a timing factor that was different, you know?
I never played a song like that until, you know, I got to learn it you know.
But that was the most different track of tracks I think.

GROSS: How did it start off? I mean how did the idea start off?

Mr. GAMBLE: The idea started off with, well me and Huff used to go to a - it
was a little bar downstairs from the Shubert Building - that's when we were in
the Shubert Building. We used to go down there everyday and talk to the bar
maid and this guy used to come into the bar everyday, little guy that looked
like a judge or something like that, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GAMBLE: So me and Huff, we were watching everything because we're
songwriters so where we sit, everything we doing we're thinking about a song.

Mr. HUFF: Yes.

Mr. GAMBLE: So we see this guy come in there. We said okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GAMBLE: Then the next day he come in there again, but when he come in there
everyday this girl would come in maybe 10, 15 minutes after he get there. They
sit in the same both.

Mr. HUFF: Right.

Mr. GAMBLE: Go to the jukebox, hear the same songs everyday. So me and Huff we
said, oh that's "Me and Mrs. Jones," or whatever the name we was going to call
it, but that's how that song evolved itself. And then when they get ready leave
he would go his way and she would go hers. So we, it could've been his
daughter. It could've been his niece. It could've been anybody. But we assumed,
we created a story out of this that there was some kind of romantic connection
between these people, and we’d go upstairs in our office and we wrote the song,
"Me and Mrs. Jones."

Mr. BILLY PAUL (Singer): (singing) Me and Mrs. Jones, we got a thing going on.
We both know that it's wrong. But it's much too strong to let it cool down. We
meet every day at the same cafe. Six-thirty and no one knows she'll be there.
Holding hands, making all kinds of plans, while the jukebox plays our favorite
song, Me and Mrs, Mrs Jones, Mrs Jones, Mrs Jones We got a thing going on…

GROSS: That’s “Me and Mrs. Jones.” It’s one of the recordings on the new four
CD box set that collects some of the recordings from Philadelphia International
Records the label that was founded by my guest Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. They
wrote a lot of the hits on their label including the record that we just heard
and produced a lot of those records too. And Leon Huff played keyboard on lot
of those records too -including the one we just heard?

Mr. HUFF: Yeah.

GROSS: What do you consider to be like the end of the real like glory days of
Philadelphia International Records.

Mr. GAMBLE: I think it’s kind of like around what ‘80, ‘86 somewhere around
there – ‘87. Patti LaBelle - we had a big hit with Patti LaBelle around - but
it started to fall apart a little bit like the early ‘80s.

GROSS: Because…

Mr. GAMBLE: Well I think people started to evolve, they wanted to do other
things and once you get hot like that then everybody is after you. You know,
what I mean? All the record companies was after the artists, you know, and the
writers wanted to, you know, to start their own thing and so forth and that’s
natural, you know, for people to want to do that, you know, so I think we had a
good run. We had - at least had a good almost 20 year run, strong run, you
know. And…

GROSS: Was music changing also, like hip-hop?

Mr. HUFF: The music was changing.

Mr. GAMBLE: Yes, I think so. Yes, the music was changing also at the same time.

GROSS: How do you feel about that, when there’s a kind of like - you kind of
help create a sound and then that sound is kind of becoming a little dated as a
new sound as hip-hop comes in.

Mr. GAMBLE: Well I was glad, to be honest with you.

GROSS: Why were you glad?

Mr. GAMBLE: Well I was kind of glad because we work so hard, I mean even now
I‘m happy, you know, I’m thankful for what we had. I’m glad for what we had
but, you know, it’s like I always had a perspective in my mind, I said I know
this thing is not going to last, nothing lasts forever, you know, we used to
talk about that all the time. So you know it ain’t going to last forever. So
let’s get the juice out of it now, whatever we can get, you know. Let’s keep
writing or whatever the case might be because, I mean, every song we were
writing was becoming a smash. So I mean how long do you think that’s going to
last? I mean, taking that kind of energy out of yourself.

And so when it started to slow down, you know, I was thankful and I was kind of
glad because that schedule was…

Mr. HUFF: (unintelligible)

Mr. GAMBLE: …unbelievable, you know. And you start to feel it after a while,
you know, doing 12, 13 albums a year, you know, we had a good staff of people
working with us but it was no question - it was a lot. To get one song, one
good song, we had to maybe write 10 songs.

GROSS: Would you produce all 10 and then decide which was best or just…

Mr. GAMBLE: Sometimes we would do that. Sometimes like when the O’Jays or Teddy
Pendergrass would come in, we would record maybe 30 songs on them, just to get
eight.

GROSS: Of the songs that you wrote together do you have a favorite that we
should end with?

Mr. HUFF: Go ahead, Gamble.

Mr. GAMBLE: “Love Train.”

Mr. HUFF: Yeah.

Mr. GAMBLE: “Love Train.” That to me is the song that kind of capsulizes
everything that we were thinking about, the message that we wanted to get out,

you know. We were always talking about a message in the music and “Love Train”
is like international, very optimistic about life in the world, you know,
people living together in harmony, unity, you know. So I think “Love Train” is…

Mr. HUFF: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GAMBLE: Something everybody better get on board because if you miss it I’ll
feel sorry for you.

Mr. HUFF: Those Coors beer commercials really made it popular.

Mr. GAMBLE: Yeah, Coors, yeah.

GROSS: Thank you both so much Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff. Thank you.

Mr. HUFF: My pleasure.

Mr. GAMBLE: Thank you very much for having us.

(Soundbite of song, “Love Train”)

THE O’JAYS (Band): (Singing) People all over the world, everybody, Join hands,
join, Start a love train, love train, People all over the world, all the world,
now, Join hands, love ride, Start a love train, love ride, love train.

Mr. EDDIE LEVERT (Singer, The O’Jays): (Singing) The next stop that we make
will be soon, Tell all the folks in Russia, and China, too. Don't you know that
it's time to get on board, And let this train keep on riding, riding on
through.

Mr. WALTER WILLIAMS (Singer, O’Jays): (Singing) Well, well.

THE O’JAYS (Band): (Singing) People all over the world, you don't need no
money…

DAVIES: Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff co-founded Philadelphia International
records. Earlier this week they were named BMI icons at the pop awards in Los
Angeles. Terry spoke to them last fall when a box set of their hits called
“Love Train” was released. Coming up film critic David Edelstein on “Terminator
Salvation”.

This is FRESH AIR.
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'Terminator Salvation': Resistance Is Futile

DAVE DAVIES, host:

He’s not called the Terminator much any more, but back in 1984, Arnold

Schwarzenegger became a star playing a cyborg assassin from the future. He went
on to make two more Terminator films before changing careers. The fourth
Terminator film takes place in 2018, years after machines with a will of their
own triggered a nuclear holocaust. It stars Christian Bale as John Connor, son
of the film’s first heroine Sarah Connor. The director goes by the name McG and
is best known for the two Charlie’s Angels features. Film critic David
Edelstein has a review of “Terminator Salvation.”

Mr. DAVID EDELSTEIN (Film Critic, New York Magazine): In “Terminator
Salvation,” machines have exterminated most of humankind and now run the
planet. I think they had a hand in the movie, too. It's barely storytelling,
it's programming. James Cameron's 1984 “The Terminator” and its showy sequel,
“T2,” were also mechanical, but their killer 'bots had charm. Arnold
Schwarzenegger's metallic readings and bodybuilder arrogance meshed riotously
well with the part of a cyborg assassin. And Robert Patrick's T2 was a witty,
preternatural blank, with adorably incongruous teacup-handle ears. The fourth
time out, the bad machines are steel-skeleton effects, and most of the humans
are less compelling.

It's not really the fault of the actors or even the director, McG, who expertly
storyboards the jangly fights and chases and crashes and explosions. As I said,
it's the machines or, more precisely, the fearsome Hollywood machine that sifts
through books and old movies in search of the holy franchise, then generates
non-essential sequels. “The Terminator” began with a cyborg villain and a human
hero, Kyle Reese, traveling back to 1984 from the future. “Terminator
Salvation” is how they try to get to the point where they go back, if that
makes any sense. In 2018, John Connor, played by Christian Bale, the son of
original heroine Sarah Connor and destined to be mankind's savior, must defeat
the nefarious machine-run corporation Skynet and send Reese to 1984 to save
Connor's mom and also get her pregnant so she'll have, John Connor.

Of course, every time trip has its perils — just ask the Vulcans in the new
“Star Trek.” Maybe in this time-loop Skynet will kill John before he kills
them, and humanity will perish. Don't you love these ridiculous time-travel
permutations? Alas, the movie isn't as much fun as it could be. With McG's
migraine-inducing jerky-cam and monochromatic brown palette livened only by
splotches of rust, “Terminator Salvation” is numbing. There is, however, a
novel element: a second protagonist, Sam Worthington's Marcus Wright, who's
executed by lethal injection in the movie's prologue, set in the 1990s.

But first, he signs away his body to a terminally ill scientist played by
Helena Bonham Carter. In a post-nuclear-holocaust 2018, he bounds naked from
some wreckage, looking remarkably buff. Is he a cyborg? Something has been done
to him. When he confronts Bale’s surly John Connor, he has to convince the
resistance fighter that they’re on the same side.

(Soundbite of movie, “Terminator Salvation”)

Mr. CHRISTIAN BALE (Actor): (As John Connor) I know what you are even if you
don’t.

Mr. SAM WORTHINGTON (Actor): (As Marcus Wright) Enough. That gun ain’t going to
stop me.

Mr. BALE: (as John Connor) Nobody shot you in the heart and I see that thing
beating a mile a minute.

Mr. WORTHINGTON: (As Marcus Wright) (unintelligible) He’s in Skynet. You do
that, he’s dead. I can get you in.

Mr. BALE: (As John Connor) How?

Mr. WORTHINGTON: (As Marcus Wright) Look at me.

Mr. BALE: (As John Connor) That’s why I don’t trust you.

Mr. WORTHINGTON: (as Marcus Wright) I’m the only hope you have. I need to find
who did this to me. So do you.

EDELSTEIN: I won’t deprive you of the pleasure of figuring out Marcus’s secret
for yourself, about an hour and a half before it’s revealed. The key is that he
doesn’t know himself what his purpose is, and he’s furious about it. Sam
Worthington is an Australian actor who had a brief but vivid role as a handsome
hooligan in Greg McLean’s delectable killer crocodile picture, “Rogue” — now on
DVD and highly recommended. He manages to suggest a soul in torment with a
minimum of inflection. And he gives the movie what innards it has. It would be
nice if “Terminator Salvation” centered on him, since Bale is a big drag.

Millions have viewed via YouTube Bale’s abusive tantrum on the set of this
film, and the interesting thing is that he’s equally unpleasant on camera.
Connor’s mission here is the apogee of sci-fi nuttiness: to find his dad, a
teenager, and keep him alive long enough to impregnate his mom and save the
world from an army of titanium-girded Austrian musclemen. But as mankind’s
savior, Bale is such a sour prig, you wonder why he doesn’t terminate himself
out of spite.

DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine. You can download
podcasts of our show at freshair.npr.org. For Terry Gross I’m Dave Davies.
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Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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