Fathers Children

The Washington, D.C.-based group Father's Children are best known for their 1979 self-titled Mercury album and the non-charting single "Hollywood Dreaming" b/w "Shine On," which have become favorites of dance club DJs worldwide. The album and single were co-produced by Wayne Henderson and Father's Children's then de facto leader, Augie Johnson. Until the beginning of the 21st century, this was the group's official history outside of the close-knit Adams Morgan neighborhood of D.C. The truth lies elsewhere, however: the band's origins and first recordings date back nearly a decade before that release.

Father's Children were originally known as the Dreams, a 60s high-school doo-wop vocal trio comprised of Nick Smith, Billy Sumler, and Ted "Skeets" Carpenter. A fourth vocalist, Jackie Peoples, joined the group shortly thereafter. After graduating from high school, The Dreams met Norman Hylton, a Vietnam veteran who ran the People's Center -- a combination rec hall, organizing center, and rehearsal space for local musicians and theater troupes -- and his partner, Larry Bell, formerly of the Carltons. Together they ran Pure Productions. In 1972, the Dreams expanded to include an instrumental backing band with guitarist Steve "Tai" Woods, bassist Michael Rogers, Smith on organ, and drummer Zachary Long.

Influenced by Earth, Wind & Fire, New Birth, Mandrill, and other large groups, the Dreams changed their name to Father's Children and pursued a more socially conscious and spiritual agenda, following Hylton's lead -- he had taken the name Saleem by this time and become a practitioner of ad-hoc Islam, as did the group who their given names to Islamic ones as well. Later in the year, Saleem met local studio owner Robert Hosea Williams, who had worked as an engineer with Gil Scott-Heron, Hugh Masekela, the Soul Searchers, and Van McCoy. The group began to cut sides and tour behind Saleem's promotion. They later replaced him by signing with Fly Enterprises and got as far west as Texas. None of the material they cut with Williams was released due to unpaid studio bills and the closing of the People's Center. Father's Children eventually released their first single, "Linda" b/w "Intellect," but it met with no response from radio or retail.

After almost countless personnel changes and relentless touring, Father's Children eventually signed with Mercury in 1978, and cut their self-titled album with Henderson. They were dropped when the album met with indifference and the story ended shortly thereafter for nearly a quarter century. In 2005 Sumler, Carpenter, and Smith reunited and cut the full-length Sky's the Limit for their own FC label. The early master tapes remained unreleased until 2011. Numero Group's Ken Shipley licensed them from Williams and put together an album's worth of excellent material entitled Who's Gonna Save the World? (named for one of the album's tracks) with Tom Lunt and Rob Seiver. ~ Thom Jurek

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