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The Commodores

the largest selling act for Motown throughout the 1970s and 1980s

The Commodores

The Commodores were founded by Lionel Richie (saxophone), William King (trumpet), Thomas McClary (guitar), Milan Williams (keyboards), Ronald LaPread (bass) and Walter "Clyde" Orange (drums), at Tuskegee Institute, in 1968. The name "Commodores" was chosen at random from the dictionary. The group played primarily around Tuskegee until taking a chance and playing a gig at Smalls Paradise in New York City. Despite the fact that the venue's owner was less than impressed with their performance, he invited them back to fill in for a last-minute cancellation. This time the Commodores played before a standing-room-only crowd, and they were booked for another two weeks (the owner did not know that most of the audience was comprised of friends and family of the band members).

In 1971 the Commodores auditioned to be the opening act for the Jackson 5 on that group's European tour; they went on to play that role for more than two years. It was while so engaged that the Commodores were signed by Motown, in 1972. Their first Top Ten single, "Machine Gun," was followed by the Top Twenty single "I Feel Sanctified" and the Number One hit "Slippery When Wet," all within seventeen weeks of signing with Motown. The Commodores went on to become the largest selling act for Motown throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Lionel Richie left the Commodores in 1983 to pursue a solo career. He was replaced by James Dean "J.D." Nicholas, formerly the lead vocalist for Heat Wave. In 1986, the Commodores won their very first Grammy, for the multi-platinum single "Night Shift." Their contract with Motown expired soon after, and the group signed with Polydor. They were released from their contract after two low-selling albums and most of the band members left to pursue other career options.

In late 1991, Orange, King and Nicholas began creating all new digital recordings of Commodores hits. They formed Commodores Records and Entertainment in August 1992, and released an anthology of greatest hits soon after.

Discography (Albums)

Machine Gun (1974)
Caught in the Act (1975)
Movin' On (1975)
Hot on the Tracks (1976)
Commodores (1977)
Commodores Live! (1977)
Natural High (1978)
Greatest Hits (1979)
Midnight Magic (1979)
Heroes (1980)
In the Pocket (1981)
Love Songs (1982)
All The Great Hits (1982)
Commodores 13 (1983)
Commodores Anthology (1983)
All the Great Love Songs (1984)
Nightshift (1985)
The Very Best of the Commodores (1985)
United (1986)
Rock Solid (1987)
Commodores Christmas (1992)
No Tricks (1993)
The Very Best (1995)
The Definitive Collection (2003)

Tuskegee Institute

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This page was last updated on 06/04/2017.