Soul, R&B, doo-wop, and disco group, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes were one of the most popular Philadelphia soul groups of the 1970s. Despite group founder and original lead singer Harold Melvin's top billing, the Blue Notes' most famous member was Teddy Pendergrass, their lead singer during the successful years at Philadelphia International.
In the early 1950s, the group began as The Charlemagnes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They had several hits on Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International label between 1972 and 1976. They performed and recorded until Melvin's death in 1997. The group changed their name to "The Blue Notes" in 1954, with a lineup consisting of lead singer Harold Melvin, Bernard Wilson, Roosevelt Brodie, Jesse Gillis, Jr., and Franklin Peaker.
The group recorded for a number of labels without success from its inception into the 1960s. The 1960 single "My Hero" was a minor hit for Val-ue Records, and 1965's "Get Out (and Let Me Cry)" was an R&B hit for Landa Records. During this period, the group's lineup changed frequently, with Bernard Wilson leaving the act to start a group called "The Original Blue Notes," and Harold Melvin bringing in new lead singer John Atkins.
In 1970, the group recruited Teddy Pendergrass as the drummer for their backing band. Pendergrass had been a former member of The Cadillacs, and was promoted to lead singer when John Atkins quit the group the same year.
Melvin replaced Pendergrass with David Ebo, and the Blue Notes departed Philadelphia International for ABC Records in 1977. "Reaching for the World" became the group's final major single. Harold Melvin , Jerry Cummings, and new members Dwight Johnson, David Ebo and William Spratelly moved to MCA Records. In 1980 they recorded two commercially successful albums.
Harold Melvin continued to tour with various lineups of Blue Notes until suffering a stroke in 1996. Melvin died on March 24, 1997 at the age of fifty-seven. Brown died on April 6, 2008 at the age of sixty-three of a respiratory condition. In addition, three former members of the group would die during the year 2010. First Teddy Pendergrass died on January 13, 2010 at the age of fifty-nine from complications of colon cancer.
Six months later, original member Roosevelt Brodie, who was the second tenor for the original Blue Notes, died July 13, 2010 at the age of seventy-five due to complications of diabetes. And just five months later in that year, Bernard Wilson died on December 26, 2010 at the age of sixty-four from complications of a stroke and a heart attack. Pendergrass' predecessor, John Atkins, and successor David Ebo, are also deceased.
For his album This Note's for You, singer Neil Young named his back-up band, The Blue Notes, without permission from name rights holder Harold Melvin. Melvin took legal action against Young over use of the Blue Notes name, forcing the singer to change the name of the back-up band to "Ten Men Workin'" during the balance of the tour that promoted the This Note's for You album.