The Ebonys

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1968-76)

- David Beasley -- tenor vocals

- Jenny "Jingles" Homes -- vocals

- James "Booty" Tuten (RIP 1993) --  lead baritone vocals

- Clarence  "Booty" Vaughan -- vocals


  line up 2 (1996-97)

- David Beasley -- tenor vocals

NEW - Henley Johnson -- second tenor

NEW - William "Smoke" Howard -- lead vocals

NEW - Romona Lynn Smith -- alto soprano vocals


  line up 3 (1997-2001)

- David Beasley -- tenor vocals

NEW - Nate Cephas -- vocals

NEW - Toni Calloway -- vocals

NEW - McKensey Crawford -- backign tenor

- William "Smoke" Howard -- lead vocals

  line up 4 (2001-12)

- David Beasley -- tenor vocals

- Nate Cephas -- vocals

- Toni Calloway -- vocals

- McKensey Crawford -- lead tenor


  line up 5 (2012-2013)

- David Beasley -- tenor vocals

- Nate Cephas -- vocals

NEW - Ken Chaney -- lead tenor

NEW - Lona Dixon -- vocals


  line up 6 (2013)

- David Beasley -- tenor vocals

- Nate Cephas -- vocals

- Ken Chaney -- lead tenor

NEW - Neva Wilks -- vocals






- The Ambassadors (Henley Johnson)

- Asphalt Jungle (William Howard)

- Black Smoke (William Howard)

- Creme D'Cocoa (Jennifer Holmes)

- The Intrigues (Henley Johnson)

- William "Smoke" Howard (solo efforts) 

- James "Booty" Tuten (solo efforts)





Genre: soul

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  The Ebonys

Company: Philadelphia International

Catalog: KZ 32419

Country/State: Camden, New Jersey

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2190

Price: $20.00


You had to wonder how Philadelphia International came up with so many amazing mid-'70s soul groups.  The label was literally awash in talented outfits and with only so much bandwidth available to promote groups, let alone garner airplay and sales, it was only natural that some extremely talented groups got lost in the shuffle.  One of those groups was The Ebonys.  


Featuring the talents of David Beasley,  Jenny Homes,  James Tuten, and Clarence Vaughan, The Ebonys came together in 1968.  With a Dells-inspired old school sound that showcased a mixture of Tuten's lead vocals and Beasley's tenor, the quartet quickly began attracting attention in their native Camden, New Jersey.

Signed by the small Avis label, they made their debut with an instantly obscure single:


- 1969's 'Back In My Arms' b/w 'I Can't Help But Love You' (Avis catalog number A 1001)


That was followed by a 1969 single on the small Soul Clock label:


- 1969's 'Can't Get Enough' b/w 'Don't Know Me' (Soul Clock catalog number SC-108)


"Discovered" by Leon Huff, the group auditioned for and signed with Philadelphia International, releasing a string of four singles over the next two years:

- 1971's 'You're the Reason Why' b/w ''Sexy Ways' (Philadelphia International catalog number ZS7 3503)  # 10 R&B; # 51 pop

- 1971's 'Determination' b/w Do It' (Philadelphia International catalog number ZS7 3510)  # 46 R&B

- 1971's '(Christmas Ain't Christmas, New Year's Ain't New Year's) Without the One You Love' b/w ') (Christmas Ain't Christmas, New Year's Ain't New Year's) Without the One You Love' (instrumental) (Philadelphia International catalog number ZS7 3513)

- 1972's 'I'm so Glad I'm Me' b/w 'Do You Like the Way I Love' (Philadelphia International catalog number ZS7 3514)


Having languished on Philadelphia International for three years, the label finally got around to releasing an album for the group in 1973.  Produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, "The Ebonys" the album pulled together a mixture of the earlier singles 'You're the Reason Why' and 'I'm So Glad I'm Me' and new studio material.  To their credit, Gamble and Huff  brought in the Philadelphia International "A" team for the debut.  Providing five of the new tunes, the pair surrounding the quartet with a wonderful set of ballads and mid-tempo tunes, along with backing from the acclaimed Philly International studio pros.  Judging by the results, member-for-member The Ebonys were every but as good as the better known competition and the inclusion of  Holmes' soprano gave them an edge on most of their all male competitors.  Exemplified by the big, old-school ballads 'I Believe' and 'It's Forever' the combination of Tuten's strong baritone and Beasley's tenor made for some wonderful textures.  They were even better on the up-tempo numbers like the opener 'Hook Up and Get Down' and the breezy 'Life In the Country'.  Admittedly the album wasn't perfect.  Tuten had a big, powerful voice (that occasionally reminded me of Teddy Pendergrass), but he lacked the same dynamic and versatility as Pendergrass, or Eddie Levert).  When pushed to show real power, he could sound flat (check out 'I'm So Glad I'm Me') and on occasion it sounded like he was singing with a lisp. Similarly, Beasley's tenor could come off as shrill.  Still, when they were firing on all cylinders these guys were impressive and the album's a nice addition to any soul collection.

"The Ebonys" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Hook Up and Get Down   (Kenny Gamble - Leon Huff) - 3:23

OMG, this one had so much going for it ...   Tuten's growling lead vocals (easily a match for any of Philadelphia International's better known front men), coupled with David Beasley tenor; a killer tune, and some of the coolest bass runs Ronald Baker ever came up with (James Jameson would have turned green with envy) made this one a must-hear.  You had to scratch your head and wonder why it wasn't a massive hit in the States

- 1973's 'Hook Up and Get Down' b/w 'Life in the Country' (Philadelphia International catalog number ZS7 3548)    rating: **** stars

2.) It's Forever   (Leon Huff) - 7:16

Geez, talk about a patented Philly International ballad.   During the early and mid-'70s Gamble and Huff seemingly effortlessly rolled these off the assembly line.   Yeah, coming in over seven minutes it was long, but I've got to admit this one was good through and through.  The interplay between Tuten and Beasley was amazing.   An edited version of the tune was tapped as the album's lead single:

- 1973's 'It's Forever' b/w 'Sexy Ways' (Philadelphia International catalog number ZS7 3529) # 14 R&B, # 68 pop     rating: **** stars

3.) Life in the Country   (Theodore Life - Phil Terry - T.G. Conway) - 6:16

Complete with the sound of a bubbling brook, birds, and croaking frogs, the breezy 'Life In the Country' was one of the album's hidden gems.   True it went on way too long, but with a sweet melody that showcased how good their vocals were.   They may never have spent a day of their lives in the country, but if you could image The Fifth Dimension recording with Gamble and Huff you'd have a feel for this tune.  A classic "steppin'" tune that was released as a promotional single:

- 1973's 'Life In the Country' (mono) b/w 'Life In the Country' (stereo) (Philadelphia International catalog number ZS7 3548)   rating: **** stars

4.) Sexy Ways   (Kenny Gamble - Leon Huff - Carl Gilbert) - 3:06

For some reason the refrain on this one has always reminded me of Stevie Wonder's 'Signed, Sealed and Delivery'.  A highlight for the MFSB backing band, I'm not sure why, but the song also sounded like it had been recorded live.    

- 1974's 'Sexy Ways' b/w 'It's Forever' (Philadelphia International catalog number ZS7 3503)


(side 2)
1.) I'm So Glad I'm Me
   (Kenny Gamble - Leon Huff) - 3:01

Another earlier single, the rollicking I'm So Glad I'm Me' showcased the group's harder edge.  It also showcased Tuten's powerful, if fragile voice.   You could hear him going right up to the edge of losing control on this one  It was still a great dance track.   rating:  **** stars

2.)  I'll Try   (Leon Huff - John Whitehead - Gene McFadden) - 6:10

Another big old ballad with Tuten pulling out his best Teddy Pendergrass impression.  A bit over-the-top for me, but still nice and the harmonies were to die for.   rating: *** stars

3.)  Nation Time   (Kenny Gamble - Leon Huff) -4:58

If you were in high school in the mid-'70s you grew up with Gamble-Huff string of uplifting "message" songs.  They may have seemed hopelessly naive, but I've always had a soft spot for these tunes.  While this one may not have been as well known as some of the other's (think Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes 'Wake Up Everybody'), it was easily as good as any of the others.  In fact, with a bouncy melody, their amazing harmonies (each member also got a solo shot),  and those optimistic lyrics, it might have been even better.   rating:  **** stars

4.) I Believe   (E. Drake - I. Graham - J. Shirl - A. Stillman) - 4:30

Lots of folks will give their vote to the original 1953 Frankie Laine hit, but my nod would go to this Gospel-tinged cover.   With a sweet, easy-going charm, it's my pick for the album's best ballad - this one brought out their finest qualities.  The song was also released as a single:

- 1974's 'I Believe' b/w 'Nation Time' (Philadelphia International catalog number ZS7 3541)  # 34 R&B

5.) You're the Reason Why   (Kenny Gamble - Leon Huff) - 3:04

The Thom Bell arranged 'You're the Reason Why' served as their first Philly International release and one of their biggest hits for the label.  A big, heavily orchestrated ballad the tune encapsulating the Tuten-Beasley interface, but personally this one didn't do all that much for me.  Tuten sounded sluggish and Beasley sounded shrill. Be warned there were lots of "baby, baby. baby. babies" in the lyric.   rating: *** stars