Who was/is Mel & Tim ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more

Mel & Tim

Backfield In Motion

Mel & Tim

Backfield In Motion

 

 

The tremendous success of Sam & Dave was inspiring the formation of plenty more exciting duos on the soul circuit. Mel Harden and Tim McPherson originally hailed from Holly Springs, Mississippi and came to St. Louis during the mid-'60s with their gospel aggregation, The Welcome Travelers. Instead of riding the gospel highway, they ended up navigating the streets of the Gateway City as bus drivers.

Stints in the military reportedly preceded a brief tenure for both in The Voice Masters, an R&B vocal group that recorded for Bamboo Records, a St. Louis label that eventually found itself under the stewardship of Chicago soul star Gene Chandler after maverick Windy City producer Andre Williams had taken a shot at running it. Mel & Tim's first Bamboo platter, I've Got Puredee, missed the charts, but Chandler produced their follow-up Backfield In Motion at Chicago's top studio, Universal, and this time the pair hit major paydirt.

Harden and McPherson wrote Backfield In Motion as a happy, thoroughly danceable theme, enhanced by Tom-Tom Washington's brassy arrangement. Its lyrics were peppered with clever takeoffs on football terminology, and what could be either a live crowd at a show or a gridiron contest was overdubbed in strategic spots. The Duke of Earl took some copies to a deejay convention as soon as he finished the song, and action started happening (especially after he secured national distribution through New York's Scepter Records). Backfield ended up at #3 R&B and #10 pop, going gold in the process. The duo's 1970 encore Good Guys Only Win In The Movies was a hit too (Chandler co-wrote it), Bamboo issuing a very solid album by the same title.

Four subsequent Bamboo 45s failed to make the same grade. Chandler extricated himself from Bamboo and Mel & Tim moved on to Stax, which sent them down to Muscle Shoals to work with producers Barry Beckett and Roger Hawkins. The move rejuvenated the duo, their moving treatment of Phillip Mitchell's Starting All Over Again  restoring them to the upper reaches of the R&B listings.  Their Stax encore I May Not Be What You Want, another Mitchell copyright, did considerable business in '73. Stax issued two solid LPs by the duo, both done in Muscle Shoals. But after a minor chart entry the next year, Mel & Tim faded into the annals of soul history.

- Bill Dahl -

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