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The Showstoppers

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Biography

The Showstoppers were an R&B act who had only one major hit record, but what a record it was: "Ain't Nothin' But a Houseparty" was a particularly potent slice of Philly soul that made the charts in both the U.S. and the U.K., and spawned memorable cover versions by the Contours, the Tremeloes, and the J. Geils Band. The Showstoppers were a four-man vocal group formed by Alec Burke and Vladimir "Laddie" Burke. Alec and Laddie were the younger brothers of soul legend Solomon Burke, and had been singing with a family combo since the late 1950s. In the mid-'60s, Alec and Laddie met up with another pair of brothers, Timmy Smith and Earl Smith, while they were all attending Philadelphia's Germantown High School. The four young men decided to form a group, and Alec and Laddie's brother Solomon offered advice on shaping the group's sound and stage show early on. In 1967, the Showstoppers signed with a fledgling Philadelphia label, Party Time Records, and for their first single, they were given a tune written by Joseph Thomas of the Impressions in collaboration with Del Sharh. "Ain't Nothin' But a Houseparty" b/w "What Can a Man Do?" was an immediate success in the Philadelphia area, but its national success was hampered by an unusually complex release history. Party Time licensed the single to a larger local concern, Showtime Records, who helped push the record into several East Coast markets; it would soon be given a third release by Guyden Records, where the record first hit the Billboard charts, and it eventually found a home at Heritage Records, a label run by producer Jerry Ross that had a distribution deal with MGM Records. By the time the Heritage release had run its course, "Ain't Nothin' But a Houseparty" had risen to just 87 on the Billboard pop charts despite a strong East Coast showing, but the single fared better in England. It was licensed for U.K. release by entrepreneur Milton Samuel, who used it to launch his Beacon Records label, and the single became a major success, rising to number 11 on the pop charts and earning the Showstoppers a spot on the TV series Top of the Pops. Subsequent singles "Eeny Meeny" and "Shake Your Mini" were strong dance numbers but didn't fare well on the pop charts, and the Showstoppers' star quickly faded in the United States. However, they still had a loyal audience in the U.K. and Europe, and Beacon Records released several more singles on the group in England; meanwhile, in 1969, Ross released a Showstoppers single, "Just a Little Bit of Lovin'" b/w "School Prom," which was actually a record by the Fortune Tellers that appeared without notice in 1961! By 1971, the Showstoppers' brief recording career has come to an end, and while they were still a popular live act overseas, by 1972 bookings had dropped off and the group quietly disbanded. In 2011, the Showstoppers' singles were finally collected on a CD release, The Best of the Showstoppers.

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