Actually, that's not exactly true ... this building's history stretches back nearly two more decades when it was first home to the Cameo / Parkway record label from the late '50's through the mid '60's. SO much great music was created between these walls that it's almost hard to fathom.
Early greats like Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, Dee Dee Sharp, The Orlons, Charlie Gracie, The Tymes and many others recorded their biggest hits right here in these studios.
Then, after the company was driven into bankruptcy in 1967, songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff stepped in and resurrected the label, scoring HUGE hits with songs like "Cowboys To Girls" by The Intruders, "La La Means I Love You" by The Delphonics and "Expressway To Your Heart" by The Soul Survivors into the late '60's.
But it was in the 1970's that the newly formed Philadelphia International Records REALLY exploded and took over both the pop and the soul charts.
Their roster boasted artists like The O'Jays, Teddy Pendergrass and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, The Stylistics, Billy Paul, The Spinners and more chose to record many of their biggest hits here.
In 2010, the building was ravaged by fire and was never rebuilt. All that remained was the legendary sign out front, reminding people of the musical legacy that was recorded here.
But last week, even that sign was removed ... soon the building will be demolished (cue Miley Cyrus and "Wrecking Ball") to make way for a new high-rise hotel and some luxury condominiums. (Wouldn't THAT be something cool to have on display in your basement?!?! ... The Philadelphia International Records sign!!!)
Frannie and I were fortunate enough to take a private tour of these facilities back in 2009, a year before the fire, thanks to our friends (and Forgotten Hits readers) Rich and Mamie, who made arrangements for us to go through the facilities when the building was normally closed to the public. It truly was like stepping into a time machine, seeing everything from all the gold records rewarding their success ... to the mega-thick shag carpeting on the walls of the recording studios where these hits were made.
For all intents and purposes, it had already ceased to exist as a recording facility by then ... instead, it was more of a tourist attraction, offering guided tours and memorabilia for sale ... their day-to-day work consisted mostly of licensing their incredible catalog of music to film and television projects ... but just walking through the halls, the rooms and the studio sent chills up our spines, knowing that all of the great music had been recorded there. We spent a fair amount of time in their museum / memorial gift shop as well, where many of the gold records presented to the label were prominently displayed on the walls.
Our original coverage of our private tour dates back to our pre-website days ... but here is our original report on the arson fire from 2010 ...
Along with some pictures of our historic visit the year before. Also included ...
Some of the media coverage marking "The End Of An Era"
Frannie and I, entering the building that Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell
put on the musical map in the 1970's
Mamie and Frannie in the foyer inside the building
Just one incredible hallway
Frannie with one of her favorites ... Teddy Pendergrass ...
part of a beautiful mural depicting many of the label's biggest and best-known artists
Me and Rich, looking over the memorabilia for sale ...
And gold records on the wall
The incredible Kenny Gamble ...
Standing next to a cardboard cut out of me ..
(or is it the other way around???)
An actual recording console ...
On display in the gift shop with more gold records, tape decks and editing equipment
Frannie and I ... in the studio, sharing a mic
(I'd say cutting a rug ... but actually the rugs were all around us ...
All of the walls and floor were covered with deep, shag carpeting
to help muffle and contain the sound ...
hard to imagine that this was "state of the art" recording back in the day!
This is a chair inside the recording studio where Billy Paul
cut his #1 Hit "Me And Mrs. Jones" in 1972.
Our tour guide told us that Gamble and Huff would eat at this little diner
across the street from the studio
and would see this couple meeting there every day
to share a cup of coffee and snack.
They started to make up a little story about the couple
and what they were doing there ...
"They'd meet every day ... at the same cafe" ...
And before you knew it, another #1 Gamble and Huff Hit was born!
We were told that, once inspired, they came back to the studio and finished the song
with Kenny Gamble sitting in this very same chair that I'M sitting in in this picture.
(Now how cool is that?!?!?)
Hard to imagine that ALL of this is gone now.
ICONIC ‘PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL RECORDS’ NEON SIGN TO BE LOWERED AS LEGENDARY RECORD LABEL CLOSES AND HISTORIC BUILDING, RAVAGED BY ARSON FIRE, PREPARES FOR WRECKING BALL
Former Home of Gamble & Huff’s Legendary ‘Sound of Philadelphia’ and Cameo-Parkway Records to Make Way for Hi-Rise Hotel and Luxury Condominium
The iconic PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL RECORDS blue neon sign that adorns the historic "Sound Of Philadelphia" building at 309 S. Broad Street will be permanently removed Wednesday, October 15, in final preparations for the building’s demolition. The sign symbolizes the end of a legendary record label, and an era whose music continues to resonate deeply with “people all over the world.” The sign’s removal is in conjunction with the closing of Philadelphia International Records and the sale of the building - owned since 1970 by pioneering songwriting partners Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell – this week to Dranoff Properties. The building, ravaged by a 2010 arson fire from which it never recovered, is scheduled to be demolished in 2015, when ground will be broken at that site on the 47-story SLS International hotel and luxury condominium. The PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL RECORDS sign will be immediately removed from the site and placed into safe storage with other artifacts and memorabilia from the famous recording studios and offices for future museum consideration, according to Chuck Gamble, executive vice president of Philadelphia International Records and Gamble-Huff Music.
In recent years leading up to the arson fire, the Philadelphia International Records offices in the monumental brick building had become a major tourist attraction where Michael Jackson, Teddy Pendergrass, Patti LaBelle, the O’Jays, Lou Rawls, Chubby Checker and dozens more created worldwide smash hits. From school children to celebrity VIPs, Philadelphia International Records continually hosted visitors eager to see the historic rooms and hallways where the legendary “Sound of Philadelphia” music was created. The offices and recording studios also have been the site of several film documentaries and television specials and media visits, as well as special receptions, including a recent event honoring Motown founder and friend Berry Gordy. Gamble & Huff also originated their recent radio series on Sirius XM from the third floor recording studios.
As the corporate office for Gamble & Huff, the building served primarily as the source of the vast music catalog’s worldwide licensing. Their music has been featured prominently in television programs ("The Apprentice"), films ("The Nutty Professor") and advertising spots (Coors, Verizon, Old Navy, The Gap) for more than 35 years, entering the musical DNA of contemporary culture. Prior to the Philadelphia International Records era, this also was the building where Chubby Checker recorded “The Twist” and Dee Dee Sharp recorded “The Mashed Potato” as the home of the legendary Cameo-Parkway record label. Gamble & Huff wrote over 3,000 songs within 35 years, including R&B #1 hits, pop #1 hits, gold and platinum records, Grammy winners and BMI songwriters' awards honorees. With a stable core of artists led by the O'Jays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Billy Paul, MFSB and the Three Degrees, Gamble and Huff co-founded Philadelphia International Records and created monster hits almost from the first day of its inception. Songs they have written and produced together, like "Back Stabbers," "Love Train," "For The Love Of Money," "If You Don't Know Me By Now," "Cowboys to Girls," "Don't Leave Me This Way," "Enjoy Yourself," "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me," "Only the Strong Survive" and "TSOP," have received songwriters' awards from Broadcast Music International (BMI). All told, the Gamble & Huff / Philadelphia International Records music machine has generated over 50 Gold and Platinum records and over 50 Top 10 hits.
PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL RECORDS SAYS GOODBYE
AS ‘SOUND OF PHILADELPHIA’ BUILDING FOREVER
The “Love Train” that has carried “The Sound of
PHILADELPHIA (TSOP)” to “people all over the world” for
almost half-century made its last stop at 309 S. BROAD
STREET this week as the legendary PHILADELPHIA
INTERNATIONAL RECORDS label, founded by ROCK AND ROLL
HALL OF FAME producer-songwriters KENNETH GAMBLE and
LEON HUFF, was officially shut down with the sale of its
historic building to a prominent local developer.
"The closing of the company and building is definitely
bittersweet, but we are extremely proud and honored to
have been able to create so much great music out of our
‘309’ location,” said GAMBLE & HUFF in a joint statement.
“It was such a blessing and miracle how all of this came
together over 50 years. More importantly, we would like to
thank all of the wonderful musicians, artists and staff
members who helped make PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL
RECORDS what it became -– and what it remains –- an incredible AFRICAN-AMERICAN institution and music and cultural brand."
Boy, if ever there was a theme song for a musical movement, this has got to be it ... "T.S.O.P." (The Sound Of Philadelphia) by M.F.S.B. (Mother Father Sister Brother), a #1 Hit From 1974.