Friday, June 18, 2021

"Little Walter" by Tony! Toni! Toné!

Song#:  3528
Date:  05/28/1988
Debut:  98
Peak:  47
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B, New Jack Swing

Pop Bits:  This family-based trio out of Oakland, California, consisted of half-brothers D'wayne and Raphael Wiggins and their cousin Timothy Riley. All three had been musicians performing in bands, but Raphael got some big time experience when he was selected to join Sheila E's touring band during Prince's Parade Tour. After he returned home, the trio got together to tinker around with music. It didn't take long for them gel and realize they had something. In 1987, the trio recorded and released the indie single "One Night Stand" under the name Tony Tone Toni. It ended up getting the attention of the Polygram off-shoot label Wing Records, who signed the guys. By the spring of '88, they had finished recording their debut LP Who? with producers Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy. This first single, with their band name updated, was issued out and it became a major hit at R&B reaching #1. As it was approaching that peak, the song crossed over to the Pop chart. It would end up stopping short of the Top 40 mark. It also got to #43 at Dance. Three more singles would be released from the album and all would reach the R&B Top 10. However, none would make the Pop chart. The LP would get to #14 R&B and #69 Pop. Eventually it would be a gold seller.

ReduxReview:  This story song is pretty cool as it combines something old with something new. The melody of the chorus was adapted from the main melody in the old spiritual standard "Wade in the Water" (originally published in 1901). In the modern rock era, a version by Ramsey Lewis made the Pop chart in 1966 (#19) and Herb Alpert took the tune to #37 in 1967. The Wiggins brothers took that melody and the song's message of trouble and turned it into a modern new jack swing tune. I liked the cautionary tale and thought it was an interesting single. It stood out and made an impression. It really should have done better on the Pop chart. Hearing it now, I think the track could have benefited from a better production. It could have been cleaner and harder hitting. It is kind of a lost track these days.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) So what's up with the name? According to an interview with D'wayne Wiggins, it stemmed from a "cap session," which is basically when playful insults are tossed around within a small group of people. Apparently, Wiggins threw out the triple Tony at a roommate during a cap session. Something about it stayed with Wiggins and his bandmates and they started using to describe themselves after they got dressed up to go out on the town. It sort of stuck as a nickname and after adjusting the spelling of each Tony, it soon became the trio's band name.  2) Over the next eight years following their debut, the trio had some solid success. Their next three albums would all be platinum sellers (one 2x platinum) that generated eight R&B Top 10's (including four #1s) and three Pop Top 10s with those three hits going gold. Their two biggest hits would be 1990's "Feels Good" (#1 R&B/#9 Pop) and 1993's "If I Had No Loot" (#8 R&B/#7 Pop). They would also earn two Grammy nominations for their 1993 hit "Anniversary" (#2 R&B/#10 Pop). After four albums, the trio decided to split and do their own projects. Raphael, who would change his last name to Saadiq, would form another trio, Lucy Pearl. Their 1999 self-titled debut album would go gold and generate the #5 R&B/#36 Grammy-nominated hit "Dance Tonight." However, after one album the trio split. Saadiq would head off on a solo career beginning in 2002. He would also collaborate with a big list of artists as a songwriter and producer. Between his solo efforts and work with others, Saadiq would earn fifteen Grammy nominations and one win. D'wayne Wiggins would start his own entertainment company and built a recording studio. Among his first clients was a former Star Search vocal group competitor called Girl's Tyme, who had changed their name to Destiny's Child. Wiggins recorded several tracks with the group, which then helped them get signed to Columbia Records. Wiggins would co-write and produce tracks that would appear on the superstar group's first three albums.


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