If you were like Prince
in the early 70s, you probably wanted to be Sly Stone, but you were also movin' 'n' groovin' to the slinky sound of The Stylistics. The lead singer Rusell Thompkins Jr
was an arresting figure: a lanky veteran of Philly club and theatre stages, he was tipped to become a basketball player before his astonishing falsetto voice took him into music. More importantly, however, he was patronised by Soul
supremo Thom Bell, who'd perfected his sophisticated smooch with hits for The Delfonics- 'La-La Means I Love You' and '(Didn't I) Blow Your Mind This Time'.
The group's first hit was 1971's 'You're A Big Girl Now', but- thanks to Bell and co-writer Linda Creed- they carved a niche in Soul history with 'You Are Everything' and 'Betcha By Golly, Wow' from the fabulous The Stylistics (1971) and 'Break Up To Make Up' and 'I'm Stone In Love With You' from Round 2 (1972). After their peak in the US, 'You Make Me Feel Brand New', Hugo Perretti and Luigi Creatore- who'd been producers in the 50s- replaced Bell.
Their success at home plummeted, but The Stylistics had an astonishing nine consecutive Top 10 smashes in the UK, notably 1975's No.1 'Can't Give You Anything (But My Love)'. In that year, The Best Of The Stylistics topped the UK chart too. After 1977, they gave way to Disco, and- after moving fruitlessly from label to label- hopped aboard the cabaret circuit. In 1996 'Betcha By Golly, Wow' was called 'the prettiest melody ever written' by Prince (adding 'manyacherryburst....') and returned it to the UK chart.