Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff: The Sound of Philadelphia
With an impressive 15 gold singles and 22 gold albums to their credit, the illustrious songwriting production team of Gamble and Huff were the architects of the Philly Sound and the founders of Philadelphia International Records which dominated popular black music in the 1970s and rivaled Motown to become America's second largest black-owned record company.
Nineteen-year-old Kenneth Gamble, an ambitious singer and songwriter from South Philly, and twenty-year-old Leon Huff, an established session musician from nearby Camden, New Jersey who'd worked for the likes of Phil Spector, began their half-century friendship in 1962 after a chance encounter on an elevator.
The two later formed a production company and scored their first hit single with “Cowboys to Girls” by the Intruders in 1968, which topped the R&B charts and sold over a million copies.
Gamble & Huff also produced Jerry Butler's “Only the Strong Survive” in 1968 which was another million-seller that was later covered by Elvis Presley.
By the end of the sixties, the production team was crafting hits for artists like Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin.
Their success caught the attention of CBS Records president Clive Davis, who offered Gamble & Huff a distribution deal to form Philadelphia International Records in 1971 but the producers insisted on owning their masters and publishing.
Beginning with 1972's “Back Stabbers” by the O'Jays, Philadelphia International released a string of hits by its roster which included Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, Patti Labelle, Billy Paul, The Three Degrees, the Jacksons and the label's house band, MFSB, which topped the Billboard charts in 1974 with “T.S.O.P.” – a record credited with launching the disco era and the eventual theme song for Soul Train.
At its peak, Philadelphia International Records averaged thirteen albums a year with sales reaching $25 million in 1975.