Rudolph (born on April 1, 1939), Ronald (May 21, 1941) and O'Kelly (Dec. 25, 1937) survived twenty years of musical changes, scoring definitive hits in each era along the way, to emerge as one of the most innova-tive black groups of the Seventies. Raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, the brothers moved to New York in 1957 where they recorded mediocre doo-wop /rock'n'roll sides for Teenage, and George Goldner's Cindy, Mark X, and Gone labels be-fore signing with RCA.
Produced by Hugo and Luigi, their driving gospel style enlivened a weak selection of pop materi-al, but was best displayed by 'Shout' (1959), an exciting adap-tation of the climax to their wild stage act which has since become a rock classic. They next worked with writer/ producers Leiber and Stoller (Atlantic, 1961-62) and Bert Berns (Wand, 1962-63; UA, 1963-64) who tried unsuccessfully to fit their raw sound into a commercial package, although it was Berns who gave them 'Twist And Shout' (1962), a one-take, end-of-session dance riff that became their first Top Twenty pop hit, later immortalized by the Beatles. Forming their own production company, T-Neck, in 1964-65 they cut several memorable sides (including the rousing 'Testify' and dramatic ballad 'The Last Girl') fea-turing their young guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, before joining Tamla the following year.
After hitting with some typically slick corporation pro-duct (the Top Twenty 'This Old Heart Of Mine' and 'I Guess I'll Always Love You', for example, in 1966) the trio were relegated to second-rate material and quit to revive T-Neck in 1969. From their first release, the million-selling 'It's Your Thing', they projected a new heavy image and soon began using two younger brothers (Ernie, on guitar, and Marvin, on bass) and Chris Jasper (keyboards) to create 'progressive' hits that anticipated modern trends in black music and brought them to the attention of wider audiences.
By the early Seventies they were interpreting songs by Steve Stills (the Top Twenty hit 'Love The One You're With', 1971) and Dylan May Lady Lay', 1971) and including Hendrix's trau-matic 'Machine Gun' in their act. In 1973, they crystallized all their influences and ideas in the highly acclaimed 3+3 album, which included the million-selling 'That Lady'. Subsequent releases in a similar style (Live It Up, The Heat Is On) have kept them in the forefront of black music.