2005-09-04 03:24:15 UTC
Photo: Loading Image...
FROM: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution (September 4th 1994) ~
By Dana Dratch, Staff Writer (w/The Associated Press)
Rhythm and blues singer Major Lance died in his sleep early
Saturday morning at his Decatur home. He was 55.
Lance recorded hit singles "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um," "Monkey
Time," and "Hey Little Girl," which won a Grammy in 1963.
"Monkey Time" and "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" were written by
Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer Curtis Mayfield.
Lance had just finished a remake of "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um"
with Growing Young, a Miami rap group, and was due to shoot
a video version of the song this week.
Blinded by glaucoma, Lance went back into the studio in
February, after an operation restored part of his sight. He
was due to release a new album in the next few weeks,
according to his widow, Christine.
"The Major," as he was called by friends and family, enjoyed
hanging out with friends on the local music scene, including
R&B greats Otis Levell and Curtis Mayfield and Elton John,
who was Lance's piano player in the early '70s.
"All the while I knew him, and that was four years, he never
got down," said family friend John "Jay" Smith. "Even with
his trouble, even with losing his sight, he was never down."
Born in Greenville, Miss., Lance started out singing gospel
music. He got his break in rock after appearing on a local
television show, Jim Lounsbury's "Record Hop."
His first single, "I Got A Girl/Phyllis," was written and
produced by Mayfield.
Lance continued to tour and perform at clubs and music
festivals until his death. His most recent performance was
at the Chicago Blues Festival at Grant Park in August, which
drew 250,000 people during the three-day festival. He was
due to perform with the Chilites at the Fox Theater on
"Everybody loved him," said his daughter, Tracey Lance
Lance, who survived a heart attack in 1987, died of heart
disease. Surviving are his wife, Christine Boular Lance, and
10 children. Funeral arrangements were pending.
Major Lance's Music Reflected Soulful Spirit
FROM: The Chicago Sun-Times (September 8th 1994) ~
By Dave Hoekstra (w/Jon Stall)
Virtually forgotten in his hometown of Chicago, Major Lance
ranked high on the beach music scene of the Carolinas.
Lance, who died of heart disease over the weekend, found a
niche in the uptempo rhythm and blues that are popular in
the bars and dance clubs along the Atlantic Ocean.
The happy go-lucky, brassy sound of Lance's hits such as
"Monkey Time," "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um" and "Everybody Loves
a Good Time" were incongruous to the misfortune that
punctuated his 52 years. A certain depth of the spirit
explained the desperate reach in his reedy vocals.
"He was a perfect complement to the kind of trombones and
horns Johny Pate did on the arrangements," said Carl Davis,
who produced Lance's hits. "You can't help but notice the
effect of a personality in the way you approach a song. He
selected tunes that symbolized how he felt, and I noticed
after a while some of the songs were not as happy as they
Born in the spring of 1942, Lance was a product of
Cabrini-Green. He grew up with Curtis Mayfield and Jerry
Butler as part of the burgeoning Chicago soul scene. He
attended Wells High School with Mayfield and singer Otis
Leavill, who escorted him to school. As a means of
protecting themselves in the neighborhood, Leavill and Lance
took up boxing. Lance told me in 1982 that he compiled a
43-2-2 record as a featherweight in Golden Gloves
Lance also was an accomplished dancer at South Side clubs
such as Budland and Pep's and later as a regular on "Jim
Lounsbury's Record Hop," a Chicago television show of the
He got his first break in 1963 after Mayfield returned from
Washington, D.C., on a tour with Butler and heard about a
dance called "The Monkey Time." Mayfield wrote a song about
it and gave it to Lance. At the time, Lance was a
21-year-old clerk at
Cabrini Drugs, near Perry Street.
Lance relocated to Atlanta in 1967, and his star dimmed in
the dawn of disco. He recorded for Playboy Records and
Warner Bros. until 1978, when he was arrested for selling
cocaine. He served three years of a 10-year sentence at
several Georgia prisons. Lance said the experience changed
his life. Prison officals called him a model inmate.
As Lance mounted several comeback attempts, his health began
to fail. He suffered a heart attack in 1987. At the time of
his death in Atlanta, he was partially blinded by glaucoma.
At this year's Chicago Blues Festival, he looked thin and
"I feel bad he hasn't gotten proper recognition," Davis
"He started the Chicago dance scenes in the '60s. He was a
real viable person in this industry."
A wake for Major Lance will be held at 6 p.m. Friday at
Gatlings Funeral Home, 10133 S. Halsted in Chicago. Funeral
services begin at 7 p.m. He is survived by his wife, nine
children and a legion of fans who admired how he danced in
the face of adversity.
Photo: Loading Image...
FROM: The Independent (September 13th 1994) ~
By Richard Williams
Major Lance, singer: born Chicago 4 April 1941; married
(nine children); died Decatur, Georgia 29 August 1994.
To all intents and purposes, soul music was born in the
autumn of 1963 with a particular group of records in which
the idiom found its form and voice - or rather voices, not
least among them the high, plaintive tenor of Major Lance.
It seems astonishing now that the records which appeared
during those few months - among them Martha and the
Vandellas' ''Heatwave'', Barbara Lewis's ''Hello Stranger'',
Marvin Gaye's ''Can I Get a Witness'', Mary Wells's ''You
Lost the Sweetest Boy'', the Miracles' ''Mickey's Monkey'',
the Impressions' ''It's All Right'' and Major Lance's ''The
Monkey Time'' - should have found themselves in the American
hit parade more or less simultaneously. But music was moving
fast then, each week bringing not just a new treat but a
revelation of what pop music might be, and what it might
In the Beatlemaniac Britain of 1963 these records were
practically samizdat items, selling a few hundred copies -
mostly to young musicians who wore their copies white,
learning to adapt the sounds of Detroit and Chicago to the
requirements of Liverpool and Manchester. Lance was not the
only American to find his biggest hit receiving the
double-edged compliment of a British cover version, when
Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders established their
reputation with a pallid 1964 copy of his ''Um Um Um Um Um
Like all Lance's early hits, this was written by Curtis
Mayfield, whom he met while they were growing up in the
Cabrini Green housing projects in Chicago. ''He was such a
sparkly fellow,'' Mayfield said yesterday, ''and a great
basketball player, which is probably how we met. His hero
was Jackie Wilson, and he was always coming round and
looking through my bag for songs that I'd written but didn't
want to do with the Impressions. He was pretty good at
picking them, too.''
''Delilah'', ''Hey Little Girl'', ''Rhythm'' and ''The
Matador'' were among Lance's other hits from this period,
all written by Mayfield, produced by Carl Davis, arranged by
Johnny Pate and propelled by the immaculate drumming of Al
Duncan. A handful of later records in a more up-tempo style
brought him a new audience in the Seventies, and there was a
hero's welcome whenever he visited Wigan Casino or the Torch
at Stoke-on-Trent, the twin temples of the Northern Soul
Photo: Loading Image...