This week on My Classic Soul Podcast, Sister Sledge star Kathy joins SoulMusic.com founder David Nathan and Bethany Dawson to reflect on her storied career, from working with Chic legend Nile Rodgers to what Sister Sledge have in store for 2020. Listen to the full podcast below.
ON SISTER SISTER'S BREAKTHROUGH IN THE LATE 70'S:
Dawson: "Kathy Sledge and her siblings in Sister Sledge formed the group in 1971 and achieved international success later in the decade in 1979 that breakthrough album, We Are Family included the US Top 10 singles "He's the Greatest Tour" and "We Are Family," which in my opinion, both absolute bops. The 80's brought another international smash with their single "Frankie," which spent four weeks at number one in the UK. The group continues to perform and tour, which you'll hear about as we join David Nathan and his guest, the amazing Kathy Sledge."
ON THE TIMELINE OF KATHY'S INCREDIBLY ENDURING CAREER:
NATHAN: "This is 2020. Did you have any thought when you were growing up in Philadelphia with your sisters and your family and when you first started your recording career that you would still be recording, performing, touring?"
SLEDGE: "Not an inkling. It's funny because honestly, as a little girl, I don't even remember saying I want to sing when I grow up. It just happened. Everything just happened like lightning and no, but the facts and the thought that we are, and I still am, is remarkable to me because I actually get to do what I love. It's never felt like work to me, so that's pretty special."
ON AUDITIONING FOR SOUL & FUNK ICONS KENNETH GAMBLE & LEON HUFF:
SLEDGE: "We really did audition for gambling Hough years ago, who to this day are great people. I see them every now and then in the industry, but we were told we were too young. We were told we were not mature enough, you know? I believe the song we auditioned with was "Three Degrees" - [sings] 'when will I see you again?' Now I get it. Cause I was what, 13 or 14?"
"We got a chance to audition and you know our first successful signing was actually in New York, not in Philadelphia."
NATHAN: "And then I know that there are some Philadelphia producers that were involved with Phil Hurtt and Tony Bell, a younger brother of Thom Bell. Was anyone else involved in that particular group?"
"Baron Taylor was then, the record company executive. Phil Hurtt, whom I still stay in touch with - thank goodness for Facebook - I mean, we've known him, but just to talk to them every other day. It's cool. Phill Hurtt, he actually nicknamed my sisters and myself. He nicknamed us his ulcers because we would, you know, we were kids, we'd drive them crazy."
"The way that all worked out is we were a local act and we were always working the clubs and Phil Hurtt and Tony Bell approached us because they were trying to get a production deal. And they said, 'Will you sing these songs?' And as it turned out, that song that we sing, [sings "Mama Never Told Me"] as you know, went to number one."
ON THE MAGICAL COLLABORATION BETWEEN SISTER SLEDGE AND CHIC LEGEND NILE RODGERS:
SLEDGE: "And what Nile Rogers in the late Bernard Edwards did is they were in a very interesting predicament. They had given Columbia records a hit record with "Just Can't Wait Til Saturday."
"And so I believe how the story goes is our record company, our then record company president, Jerry Greenburg, came to them and said, 'Look guys, you kinda owe us a favor. Like give us a hit. Choose any artists on this list. The Rolling Stones were on this list and they wanted them to give them a hit with The Rolling Stones."
"Nile and Bernard were in a sophomore place in their life. They had hits, they were doing amazing success, but they said, you know, if we do a record with The Rolling Stones, it's going to be a hit. We need an act that no one knows of, but people can actually say, 'Wow, they're excellent producers and they did a great job with this,' which I thought was pretty genius."
"They were names on this list and we were on that list and we were kind of like this obscure act here in the United States, only locally, no. And they thought, and, and I always like telling this part of the story. We were described by Jerry Greenberg as this act, you know, 'There are these girls, and they always come up to the record label...and they're family. And they flock together like birds of a feather.' And as he was telling this, Nile and Bernard took the notes, and that really is the portrait, the lyrics of "We Are Family."
"So I always love telling this story. I don't know why Nile doesn't tell it as much, but it really was the the evolution of that song that was really written about the description, the portrait of these sisters."
Listen to the full podcast here.