2021 Introduction: Inducted into The SoulMusic Hall Of Fame in the category “Dance Music Group/Artist,” Philadelphia-based team The Trammps were riding high in August 1977 when David Nathan caught up with Harold ‘Doc’ Wade, one of the founding members of the ‘Disco Inferno’ hitmakers…

The Trammps: Best Dressed Trammps You Ever Did See

By David Nathan

August 1977

“We feel that maybe this one is going to go straight to the top!” exclaims Harold ‘Doc’ Wade, one member of the five-member Trammps who seem to have kept the world in continuous motion with their stream of disco hits which have propelled them to the position of being Top Disco Group of the Year for two consecutive years, with 1977 looking to make it a hat trick.

The “one” that the gentleman is referring to is, of course, “Don’t Burn Your Bridges” from the “Disco Inferno” album. The single of the same name was probably the group’s biggest chart record in the States — pop-wise at least — and of course provided them with a big hit throughout Europe — “it was one of our fastest sellers”, says “Doc”.

Having enjoyed repeated success throughout Europe, it’s hardly even necessary to go back into the history of the group. Originally a quartet (Harold and brother Stanley Wade, Jimmy Ellis and Earl Young), known as The Volcanoes, the group emerged as The Trammps some five years ago and through a string of hits, “Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart”, “Hold Back The Night”, then to “Love Epidemic”, “Where Do We Go From Here”, (through Philly International/Golden Fleece) and now with the addition of Robert Upchurch (replacing John Hart Jr.) — a gentleman who enjoyed some success with a solo record a couple of years back on Philly International, “The Devil Made Me Do It” — the group seem poised for that final breakthrough on Atlantic Records.

“There’s no doubt that we need that big elusive pop hit to break us wide open,” states Doc. “That’s what we’re hoping is gonna come with this record. Sure, it’s hard without it because you have to be continuously working. Once you’ve achieved a certain status via a crossover record, you can be a little more selective about your dates, you can take more time off.”

As it stands right now, you’re likely to find The Trammps out on the road a very large proportion of the year — either working basically up and down the East Coast or making that annual trek to Europe. “I would have to say that the actual word ‘disco’ as applied to us as a group must have contributed to some degree in holding us back. It’s not, of course that our music isn’t in that bag!! Yes, we’re a ‘disco’ oriented group in a sense that our music has direct appeal in the discos and of course, that’s no accident! But we weem to have been caught with it as a constant tag and when you’re trying to beak over, cross your records to the pop market, it can definitely be a drawback just having that as a tag.”

Needless to say, the five Trammps, supplemented by another six musicians on stage, have much to offer musically but the emphasis continues to be on the disco aspect of things. Is that likely to change? “No!” is the very affirmative answer that Doc gives. “Maybe one day we’ll get into more mellow things. But not right now because our audiences, the public, expects us to do what we’re doing — plus we enjoy it!  It’s been given that name (disco) but all the way along the line, we’ve basically been playing the same kind of music. It’s just that with the trend towards things being disco this, disco that, we got labelled that way — our music fell right into the bag.”

It seems quite strange with all the activity surrounding The Trammps’ records, they have yet to pick up a gold album. That they have a host of loyal, hard core followers cannot be denied and naturally the group feels that it’s about time that they got a fair share of the golden pie!  “It could be that we haven’t gotten into a lot of markets that a lot of other people do. Also, our latest album really was something of a rush job — and that’s not something we’re anxious to repeat. It took up a period of six months to complete it — going into the studios whenever we got back to Philly after being out on the road. But the next one — we’re gonna really take some time.  Basically, we have a team of seven writers to work with — we take the very best that they write and use it. But the next album is definitely going to have a lot more work and preparation put into it.”

The Trammps main aim right now, they say, is to gain that financial security which will allow them to be more elective in what they do as far as work goes: “Up until now, we’ve basically worked night clubs, discos. Now we’re getting much more into concerts and once we get that big hit we’re waiting on, it should be a whole lot easier for us to take time out. Our career definitely seems to be on the up and up ever sine we joined Atlantic, so we’re confident that it’s really getting to that point where it will be our turn!”

Certainly, disco music wouldn’t be the same without The Trammps. They’ve truly been the cornerstone for the whole disco craze and it’s only right that they should at last be receiving the kind of acceptance that’s coming their way. Long may they continue to keep the happy people stompin’ their feet to that disco beat!

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