the dawn of the 1980s. A recently-formed R & B vocal group
from Columbus, Ohio, was "dancing on the ceiling."
They had just received a letter from Diana Ross about the
demo tape they mailed her. The hand-written note (likely penned
by an administrative assistant) said Ms. Ross liked their
music and encouraged them to keep writing songs. Next, an
alert Chicago relative wisely advised them to change the name
of their group since there already was an Afro-Carribean a
capella vocal group named "Paragon."
a few days, the four hopeful twenty-somethings had changed
the name of their group to The Stage Corporation. In the whirlwind
year that followed, they opened for Gladys Knight and the
Pips and Bob Hope, appeared on several regional television
variety shows and were in high demand on the nightclub circuit
in Ohio. The Stage Corporation continued to write, record
and produce their own songs, winning a serious "look"
but no deal from MCA Records in Los Angeles. Somehow, a Stage
Corporation demo tape reached the ears of Teddy Pendergrass's
managers. They were impressed and booked the group to open
for Pendergrass at the Columbus Convention Center. THIS, the
group hoped, would be their chance to win a recording contract
with Philadelphia International Records--a label they believed
would appreciate their strong vocal talent.
the concert never happened. A few days before Pendergrass
was scheduled to perform in Columbus, he was paralyzed from
the waist down in his infamous and tragic car accident. "Bad
luck", pun intended, was what The Stage Corporation "had
got". Their brief career from the early to mid-eighties
is an all too common tale of heartbreaking near misses at
making the big time in the music industry.
Corporation's lead vocalist, Beverly Flowers, sang in a crystal
clear, crisply articulated soprano that was likened to both
the voice of Olivia Newton-John and Deniece Williams. Add
the rich, church-bred voices of brother and sister, Stan Embry
and Francine Embry-Brown, and you had bright harmonies on
par with the Friends of Distinction. The group's two mane/two
women line-up drew comparisons to Chic. Their major key, uptempo
songs combined soul with power pop in a fashion similar to
Shalamar. Ironically, Stage Corporation founder, Jack Marchbanks,
eventually left the group to become a songwriter for Solar
Records, the record label of The Whispers, Lakeside, Klymmaxx,
and, of course, Shalamar.
the members of The Stage Corporation may have been too smart
for their own good. Their song lyrics railed at violence against
women in domestic relationships ("Bullet Through the
Heart") and warned of a coming plague of sexually transmitted
diseases among African-Americans by archly using a horror
movie metaphor ("Vampire"). The MCA A&R chief
who heard "Bullet.." said he thought the punk/rock
groove was a winner but he couldn't "sell a song about
a woman shooting her attacker." A year later, Queen's
"Another One Bites The Dust" -- full references
to gun violence -- topped the charts. Maybe the real story
here is that The Stage Corporation was ahead of its time.
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