The signature Philadelphia soul sound was just beginning to coalesce when producer Jerry Ross discovered The Sapphires. Pop-slanted R&B vocal groups with a female lead backed by harmonious males were a hot commodity (witness The Essex and Ruby & The Romantics on our previous volume). This trio from New Jersey—lead Carol Jackson, George Garner, and Joe Livingston—slotted right into the trend.
Ross had already amassed industry experience as a radio announcer, promo man, and independent producer with offices in Philly's bustling Schubert Building on Broad Street. He'd produced The Larks' 1961 hit It's Unbelievable, and it was Larks leader Weldon A. McDougal III that sent young singing hopeful Kenny Gamble in Jerry's direction. Ross and Gamble formed a songwriting partnership, their first hit coming in 1963 with Freddy Cannon's Everybody Monkey on Philly-based Swan Records.
The Sapphires ended up on Swan as well, though their debut, Where Is Johnny Now, stiffed. Ross and Gamble penned their first hit, the irresistible mid-tempo Who Do You Love, which peaked at #25 pop ('Billboard' had temporarily ceased publishing its weekly R&B chart). Gamble and Ross collaborated on the trio's next two Swan 45s,
I Found Out Too Late and Gotta Be More Than Friends, but they didn't dent the hit parade. The Sapphires managed one more hit in 1965, the insistent Gotta Have Your Love, cut in New York for ABC-Paramount with Ross still at the helm and backing vocalists reportedly including Valerie Simpson and Melba Moore. The Sapphires closed out their ABC tenure in '66 with Slow Fizz, while Ross graduated to an A&R post with Mercury/Smash, producing hits by Jerry Butler, Dee Dee Warwick, Keith, Spanky & Our Gang, and Jay & The Techniques. Kenny Gamble did well for himself too.