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Gerald Alston inherited some big soul shoes and filled them admirably for 17 years. The nephew of gospel great Johnny Fields and the son of Rev. J.B. Alston, the North Carolina-born singer learned his trade in the church. As a teen he formed the New Imperials, a group that did both secular and religious music, calling themselves Gospel Jubilee when they appeared in churches. During a local appearance, the Manhattans borrowed some audio equipment from Alston's band. When they came to pick it up they heard him rehearsing with his band. They asked the 17-year-old to join them, and Alston took over as their lead singer in 1971. Alston remained until 1988, and the group enjoyed enormous success in the '70s and '80s. Their 1976 single "Kiss and Say Goodbye" was both a number one R&B and pop hit, the first (and only one) the band ever earned. They won a Grammy in 1980 for "Shining Star." Alston sang a duet with fledging vocalist Regina Belle in 1986, "Where Did We Go Wrong." The Bobby Womack-produced tune was Belle's debut. Alston signed with Motown in 1988. He didn't have much commercial luck as a solo act, though the releases Gerald Alston and Open Invitation were well-produced and wonderfully sung; Always in the Mood appeared in 1992.