16 Songs, 1 Hour

EDITORS’ NOTES

What really distinguished The Dramatics from leagues of likeminded vocal groups that thrived in the '70s was their grittiness. The group had roots in Detroit, but the earthy, concrete funk of “Get Up and Get Down” and “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” wouldn't have happened if The Dramatics hadn’t hooked up Memphis-based Stax Records, which gave them top-notch musicians and a no-nonsense ethos. “In the Rain” is still The Dramatics' best song—there’s nothing else quite like it in music—but interested fans shouldn't overlook the group’s lesser-known tracks, most of which are would-be hits. “Beware of the Man (With the Candy in His Hand)” and “The Devil Is Dope” reflect the social and political issues of the mid-'70s, but The Dramatics were never better than they were on love songs. Led by masculine vocalist Ron Banks, “Highway to Heaven,” “Toast to the Fool,” and “I Panicked” will put you in a place where all is clouds and warm breeze.

EDITORS’ NOTES

What really distinguished The Dramatics from leagues of likeminded vocal groups that thrived in the '70s was their grittiness. The group had roots in Detroit, but the earthy, concrete funk of “Get Up and Get Down” and “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” wouldn't have happened if The Dramatics hadn’t hooked up Memphis-based Stax Records, which gave them top-notch musicians and a no-nonsense ethos. “In the Rain” is still The Dramatics' best song—there’s nothing else quite like it in music—but interested fans shouldn't overlook the group’s lesser-known tracks, most of which are would-be hits. “Beware of the Man (With the Candy in His Hand)” and “The Devil Is Dope” reflect the social and political issues of the mid-'70s, but The Dramatics were never better than they were on love songs. Led by masculine vocalist Ron Banks, “Highway to Heaven,” “Toast to the Fool,” and “I Panicked” will put you in a place where all is clouds and warm breeze.

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About The Dramatics

Before assuming the name the Dramatics, the vocal sextet comprised of Rob Davis, Ron Banks, Larry Reed, Robert Ellington, Larry "Squirrel" Demps, and Elbert Wilkens initially released two singles as the Dynamics on the Wingate imprint that saw no chart action. The group became a quintet upon Ellington's exit, and also changed their name to the Dramatics. They migrated to the Sport label and in 1967 released their first single to hit the charts, "All Because of You," which peaked at number 42 on the R&B charts. However, in spite of the exposure and limited record sales, some groupmembers became discouraged, which facilitated a major personnel change. William "Wee Gee" Howard replaced lead singer Reed, and Willie Ford of the Capitols replaced bass Rob Davis. Also during this time, the Dramatics had signed with producer Don Davis' production company.

Even though the group managed to stay together, the ensuing years were unproductive for chart action and sales. Between 1967 and 1971, the Dramatics made very little noise on the national scene. By the end of 1971, Davis summoned the group to the studio to record producer/songwriter Tony Hester's "Watcha See Is Watcha Get." The single was the Dramatics' first major national hit, peaking at number three on the R&B charts, and sustaining chart action for 15 weeks. That single was followed by the R&B Top Ten single "Get Up and Get Down."

The following year the Dramatics released "In the Rain," which was also penned by Hester. The single torpedoed its way to the number one spot on the R&B charts, maintaining that position for four consecutive weeks; the single also peaked at number five on the pop charts. Ironically, in spite of the national attention the group was receiving, another personnel shuffle was simmering.

Larry "L.J." Reynolds, who had been a member of Chocolate Syrup and was pursuing a solo career during this time, met Dramatics member Banks at the Apollo following a performance by the group. It just so happened that Howard was absent that night. Reynolds auditioned for Banks backstage; it was not too long afterwards that Reynolds, who was also signed to Don Davis' production company, began to occasionally sit in with the Dramatics during Howard's absences.

In 1973, Howard's decision to leave the group opened the door for Reynolds' entrance; Reynolds' vocal presence and permanent entry into the group was manifested with the release of the R&B Top Ten single "Hey You! Get Off My Mountain." And while Reynolds was replacing Howard, Lenny Mayes was replacing Wilkens, which spelled out identity problems for the remainder of the group. Wilkens formed his own version of the Dramatics and began touring. During this time and pending legal procedures, the name of the group was changed to Ron Banks & the Dramatics.

The Dramatics' success continued with mainly R&B Top 20 hits during the heyday of disco, cracking the R&B Top Ten just once more with "Welcome Back Home" in 1980. In 1981, Reynolds went solo; the group disband after Banks went solo in 1983. The group managed to stay active, reuniting to record new material every three or four years since the early '80s. They occasionally reunite for concert events. ~ Craig Lytle

ORIGIN
Detroit, MI
FORMED
1962

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