BAAS Entertainment Podcast

Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles / LaBelle with Special Guest Keith Anthony Fluitt

Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles / LaBelle with Special Guest Keith Anthony Fluitt

Episode 65. Six Degrees of Patti LaBelle. The Queen. The Legendary Godmother of Soul. Hosted by Troy Saunders, Wanda T., and Arif St. Michael.

In this part of our series on the music and career of the legendary Patti LaBelle, we focus on Patti’s early years with The Bluebells and LaBelle. Our special guest is singer and songwriter Keith Anthony Fluitt, who has performed with Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx, Sarah Dash, Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, Bruce Springsteen, Pet Shop Boys, Michael Jackson, Harry Belafonte, and many others. We have asked him to be on the show since he has worked with Patti, Nona, and Sarah.

Patti LaBelle grew up singing in a local Baptist choir, and in 1960 teamed with friend Cindy Birdsong to form a group called the Ordettes. A year later, following the additions of vocalists Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash, the group was renamed the Blue Belles. With producer Bobby Martin at the helm, they scored a Top 20 pop and R&B hit in 1962 with the single "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman," and subsequently hit the charts in 1964 with renditions of "Danny Boy" and "You'll Never Walk Alone."

The quartet, now known as Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles, signed in 1965 to Atlantic, where they earned a minor hit with their version of the standard "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." In 1967, Birdsong replaced Florence Ballard in the Supremes. The remaining trio toured the so-called "Chitlin' Circuit" for the remainder of the decade before signing on with British manager Vicki Wickham in 1970. Wickham renamed the group simply LaBelle and pushed their music in a funkier, rock-oriented direction, and in the wake of their self-titled 1971 Warner Bros. debut, they even toured with the Who. The trio also collaborated with Laura Nyro on the superb R&B-influenced album “Gonna Take a Miracle”. By 1973, LaBelle had gone glam, taking the stage in wildly theatrical, futuristic costumes. A year later, they became the first African-American act to appear at New York's Metropolitan Opera House. The landmark performance introduced "Lady Marmalade," which in 1974 became their lone chart-topping single, produced by Allen Toussaint.

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