The Manhattans – In Session for Soul! – NET-Public Television – October 31, 1968 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection
Another installment of rare Soul performed live tonight. This time it’s The Manhattans; a group known more in the later 70s than the 60’s, but still a powerhouse of talents.
This is the original group lineup, as it was in 1962 when they started out – with George “Smitty” Smith, Edward “Sonny” Bivens, Winfred “Blue” Lovett, Kenny Kelley and Ricky Taylor. They recorded initially for Carnival Records and were awarded Most Promising Group from NATRA in 1968. Shortly after, in 1970 the group went through tragedy with founding member George Smith succumbing to a brain tumor. In 1976, The Manhattans scored with their first million seller, Kiss And Say Goodbye.
In the 2000s, there were two versions of The Manhattans. One version featured original founding member Bivins, plus Hardy, Hemphill, Pazant and Williams. They released the CD Manhattans Now in 1994. In 1996 the group formed their own full-service music corporation company called Manhattan Entertainment Inc. In 2003 and 2007 they were featured artists in two theater plays, Girl He Aint Worth It and The Chicken Shack. In June 2013, the group released a single called “Just For Tonite” written by Bivins and Pazant and produced and arranged by Leroy Burgess. In 2015 Lee Williams retired and was replaced by Keni Jackson as the new lead singer. And they still continue to perform, with the same line up in 2018.
The other version of The Manhattans featured original member Blue Lovett, plus Gerald Alston, the lead singer on the group’s biggest hits. Other members include Troy May and David Tyson, brother of The Temptations’ Ron Tyson. In the past, the group also featured Eban Brown, who later spent eighteen years as lead vocalist for The Stylistics. This group has also released some CDs, including Even Now. This version of the group was featured in two PBS specials and performed at casinos and theaters across the United States. Alston appeared on Wu-Tang Clan’s album, 8 Diagrams, on the song “Stick Me for My Riches” in 2007.
Edward “Sonny” Bivins, founding member of the Manhattans, died on December 3, 2014, at the age of 78. He sang on every Manhattans hit since the group’s inception, and wrote many of their hit songs. He led the Manhattans up until his death.
Winfred “Blue” Lovett, the group’s original bass singer and songwriter, died on December 9, 2014, at the age of 78. His bass voice was heard on many Manhattans hits, including the spoken word intro to “Kiss and Say Goodbye”.
Kenneth “Wally” Kelly, the last surviving original member of the group, died on February 17, 2015, at the age of 74.
Lead singer Gerald Alston is the only member alive of the group’s heyday lineup.
Tonight it’s the original Manhattans, as they were on October 31, 1968, performing live on the NET-Public Television program Soul!
A total rarity, as I understand almost none of these original videotapes are rumored to have survived.
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