The Warner Years

Working with actor Jim Brown, who co-owned a management company, EWF began making the rounds, playing clubs throughout L.A., "living communally in one house and using all my savings", recalls Maurice. "We did showcases at different places. Joe Smith (now Chairman of Capitol Records) at Warner Brothers saw some potential, signed us to the label, designated us a staff producer (Joe Wissert) and we cut our first album at Sunset Sound."

The group’s debut LP yielded a light hit in the form of "Love is Life" in July 1971. A second LP The Need Of Love was released in early ’72. A single, "I Think About Lovin’ You" provided EWF with a Top 40 r&b hit. With the same line-up, the group began touring, playing mostly for college audiences. Included in the schedule was a trip to Denver, Colorado, which was home for an aspiring musician named Philip Bailey.

Like Maurice White, Bailey began playing drums by using two sticks on a trash can "and making a whole bunch of noise! And also like White, a big band parade provided inspiration. While other kids were playing with toys, I was making mock saxophones!"

Jazz – via greats like Miles Davies, Max Roach, Art Blakey and Tony Williams – played a significant role in Bailey’s development, but one vocalist was his dominant influence. "I always had this big range, my falsetto, came from listening to guys like Eddie Kendricks and Smokey Robinson. Actually it was Dionne Warwick who most affected me…it was Dionne, and Mahalia Jackson…"

Bailey’s biggest quandary was deciding whether to focus on singing or playing drums. He chose drums and with schoolmates Larry Dunn (on keyboard) and Andrew Woolfolk (on sax), he played with local group, Friends & Love. "We played all kinds of music: Blood, Sweat & Tears, Ten Wheel Drive, Three Dog Night, Sly, Carole King. Denver wasn’t a heavy black urban area…I think once I joined EWF, I brought a certain pop sensibility to it…."

Bailey had heard EWF’s first album through friend Perry Jones who was working as local promo man for Warner Brothers. "We started some of their music in clubs and we ended up being the opening act when the group came to town in ’71. I thought Maurice was a very unusual kind of guy: he had a certain charisma even then. Verdine was the really hyper guy, lots of energy. To begin with, they were very "Chicago" kinda distant. I also remember they were wearing bell-bottoms and you could really smell that coconut oil they were using!"

Continues in The CBS Years [1972-1973]

THE CBS YEARS [1972-1973]
THE CBS YEARS [1974-1979]
THE CBS YEARS [1980-1990]

Gunnar Homdrum 1996 © 2005