Arranger Gene Page's appealing orchestrations were a hallmark of million-selling hits by Barry White, various Motown acts, Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams, Whitney Houston, Peaches & Herb, Kenny Rogers, the Righteous Brothers, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, the Whispers, Gladys Knight, and a slew of others. Page arranged the bulk of Mathis' LPs of the '70s and '80s, with "Feelings" being among the best. Page also scored TV shows and movies.
Born in Los Angeles, Page studied classical music during his youth. Winning a scholarship to the Brooklyn Conservatory, Page moved to New York. His first big break in the recording field was doing the string arrangements for the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," which parked at number one pop for two weeks and hit number three R&B on the Billboard charts in late 1964, early 1965. He also arranged Dobie Gray's "The In Crowd," number 11 R&B, and Solomon Burke's "Got to Get You off My Mind," number one R&B for three weeks, both early 1965.
Page first met Barry White when he and the future "Icon of Love" co-arranged Bob and Earl's "Harlem Shuffle" for Marc Records, number 44 R&B, late 1963. In the mid-'60s, when White was hired by Bob Keane for his Bronco/Mustang labels, he hired Page to do arrangements.
In 1968, Bronco/Mustang folded and White started doing freelance independent production. Though White recorded sides for Larry Marks on BMC, Malcolm Hayes on OKeh, and Brendetta Davis on Liberty, and wrote and produced songs for NBC-TV's Saturday morning kids show The Banana Splits, they were lean times. Page helped him out by giving him arranging assignments and non-repayable loans.
White's fortunes began to turn for the better after he met the female singing trio of Glodean & Linda James and Diane Taylor at a recording session where they were doing background vocals. After he renamed the trio Love Unlimited, he worked with them for over a year, developing their vocals, writing songs for them, and recording their tracks.
Meanwhile, Page's busy recording career was now being augmented by film and TV work. He scored the soundtrack for Sid & Marty Krofft's H.R. Pufnstuf, which premiered on NBC-TV's Saturday morning lineup in September 1969. His brother Billy Page wrote "Some Beautiful," the first single from Pufnstuf star Jack Wild's debut album, The Jack Wild Album on Capitol. Page also composed the soundtrack for the 1970 Robert Altman movie Brewster McCloud, released on MGM Records.
Billy also produced Gene's Music From the Original Soundtrack Blacula. Originally issued by RCA Records in the summer of 1972, the soundtrack to the classic horror film starring Shakespearean actor William Marshall and Ketty Lester was one of Gene's first efforts as a recording artist. The Hues Corporation of "Rock the Boat" fame were featured in the movie and on the LP. It was reissued by Razor & Tie in summer 1998.
Larry Nunes, a friend of White's, took one of the recordings to Russ Regan, who was the head of the Uni label owned by MCA. "Walkin' in the Rain (With the One I Love)," with White "phoning" in his part, went gold, peaking at number six R&B, number 14 pop on Billboard's charts in spring 1972. Love Unlimited's From a Girl's Point of View became a million-seller. Soon after, Regan left Uni for 20th Century Records. Without Regan, White's relationship with Uni soured.
With his relationship with Uni in chaos and Love Unlimited contract-bound with the label, White decided he needed to work with another act. He wanted to work with a male artist. He made three song demos of himself singing and playing the piano. Nunes heard them and insisted that he re-record and release them as a recording artist. They argued for days before Nunes somehow convinced White to do it, and White signed with 20th Century Records where Regan was president; Page did the arrangements on his early '70s hits. This decision led to White having a gold- and platinum-laced recording career. White got a contractual release from Uni for Love Unlimited and they joined him at 20th Century.
On Love Unlimited's second 20th Century album In Heat, issued in fall 1974, Gene Page arranged the majestic ballad "I Belong to You," which went to number one R&B in late 1974. In Heat, Love Unlimited's most exciting album, featured the same top-notch studio band heard on White's hits, Page's and White's dynamic arrangements, the follow-up single "Share a Little Love in Your Heart" (number 21 R&B, spring 1975), the standout tracks "Move Me No Mountain" and "I Needed Love-You Were There," a long version of "I Belong to You," and "Love's Theme" -- with lyrics. White continued to use Page's talents on his productions for himself, Love Unlimited, and the Love Unlimited Orchestra.
Gene Page recorded several albums, with the 1978 Arista LP Close Encounters being the most successful. The title track, a disco cover of the John Williams theme from the 1977 Steven Spielberg/Richard Dreyfuss movie, charted at number 30 R&B in early 1978.
In fall 1999, two Barry White best-of sets that feature Page-arranged tracks, All Time Greatest Hits and Greatest Hits Volume 1, were on Billboard's Top Pop Catalog Albums charts, due in part to White's appearances on Fox-TV's Ally McBeal.
Gene Page died in his native Los Angeles in 1998. ~ Ed Hogan