Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Detroit Emeralds

The Detroit Emeralds were yet another successful R & B act that got their musical start as a gospel group. The Tilmon Brothers, born and bred in Little Rock, Arkansas, consisted of real-life brothers Abrim, Ivory, Cleophus and Raymond and, (for a short time), their brother-in-law Sam.

When Abrim and Ivory decided that they wanted to pursue more of a rhythm and blues sound, brothers Cleophus and Raymond opted to continue performing gospel music. At this point, Abrim and Ivory recruited their childhood friend James Mitchell (originally from Perry, Florida), who became their lead vocalist. The group continued on as a trio, bouncing around from Motown Records to Ric-Tic Records (whom Motown eventually bought out.)

In the early '70's, the group (now calling themselves The Emeralds) relocated to Detroit where they became (quite naturally) The Detroit Emeralds. Signed with the brand new Westwood Record Label, they recorded some tracks with Willie Mitchell while on tour in Memphis, Tennessee. Many of the musicians accompanying them on these sessions would later back up Al Green in the recording studio. Soon they were starting to hit The Rhythm And Blues Chart and in 1972 they scored their biggest hit on the pop charts when "Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms)" went all the way to #19 on The Cash Box Chart. (Again, it fared better here in Chicago, where it rose all the way up to #6!)

A year later, things were already starting to fall apart. (At one point, there were actually two versions of The Detroit Emeralds performing on the road!) Once the dust settled, Abe Tilmon continued on with The Detroit Emeralds' name, later hooking up with Chapter 8 as their back-up band. James Mitchell teamed with Marvin Willis and began writing material for his brother's band, The Floaters, while continuing to perform on the road as part of The Detroit Emeralds. (In 1977, The Floaters would score a #2 Pop Hit with "Float On", a song later parodied by Cheech and Chong as "Bloat On" with minor success. Quite honestly, despite its #2 status, you don't hear "Float On" very much on the radio anymore either!)

Using some of their royalty money, the band opened up The Emerald Lounge in Detroit, where they performed (with any variety of revolving band members) for years as the house band. Abe Tilmon passed away in 1982.