The Jan. 10 edition of Ronnie’s Spirit featured a tribute to vocalist Nicholas Caldwell of The Whispers who passed away on Jan. 5 at the age of 71 due to congestive heart failure.
Included in the program is an encore presentation of a 2014 interview with the singer by DeWayne on his City Nights program, coinciding with the group’s 50th anniversary tour.
In 1964, Caldwell co-founded the legendary group in Watts, Calif., with Gordy Harmon, Marcus Hutson and twin brothers Wallace “Scotty” Scott and Walter Scott. Hutson died in 2000.
The opening segment of the interview focuses on the 50th anniversary of The Whispers, how the group had been able to maintain its quality live performances and what artists were considered influences for Caldwell and his colleagues.
In the middle segment, Caldwell talks about independent projects of the group’s members, their early history when they were based in and cutting singles in California, before a mid-70s period spent recording in Philadelphia. Caldwell also touches on the famed “Philly Sound.”
Even though the primary vocalist on many of the group’s biggest tracks was Wallace Scott, each member played a vital role, according to Caldwell who talked about his responsibility in the group in the third and final segment. He spoke about the legacy of The Whispers, his favorite song, “(Olivia) Lost And Turned Out” and his trademark beard.
The Whispers were inducted into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003 along with such heavy hitters as The Impressions, Earth Wind & Fire, The Isley Brothers, The Association, The Commodores and Martha & The Vandellas.
The group had 50-plus singles chart, including a pair that went to No. 1 on the R&B charts: “And The Beat Goes On” (1980) and “Rock Steady” (1987), which went as high as No. 7 on the Pop chart. Of their 20 studio albums, their self-titled 1979 release and Love Is Where You Find It (1981) went to No. 1 on the R&B chart.
Caldwell was not only a mainstay in the group, but he also wrote and produced many songs for The Whispers and other artists, including Phil Perry.
The Whispers first recorded for local Los Angeles label Dore Records, hitting the charts with “Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong” which went to No. 6 on the R&B and No. 50 on the Pop chart in 1970.
They continued to be a mid-level charting act throughout the ’70s. They cut a pair of records for the short-lived Soul Train Records formed by business partners Don Cornelius and Dick Griffey. Each of the releases, One For The Money (1976) and Open Up Your Love (1977) had a single go to No. 10 on the R&B chart. When Griffey, who was managing the group, parted ways with Cornelius in 1977, Griffey renamed the label S.O.L.A.R., an acronym for Sound of Los Angeles Records where six of nine albums by The Whispers would make the Top 10 on the R&B charts, including two at No. 1.