S.O.S. Band (1977-1995)

S.O.S. Band
S.O.S. Band

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The S.O.S. Band (Sounds of Success), a rhythm and blues and electro-funk ensemble, began as Santa Monica Band in 1977 in Atlanta, Georgia.  The group was “discovered” by Milton Lamar, an Atlanta nightclub owner, who became their manager. The founding members were lead vocalist Mary Davis, flutist Billy Ellis, keyboardist/vocalist Jason Bryant, Willie “Sonny” Killebrew, guitarist Bruno Speight, bassist John Alexander Simpson, percussionist James Earl Jones III, and Abdul Ra’oof. The band’s name was changed in 1979 to The S.O.S. Band by lyricist/producer Sigidi Bashir Abdullah during a recording session.

The band signed with Tabu Records in 1980 and released their first single, “Take Your Time (Do It Right),” that peaked at no. 1 on the Billboard Hot R&B chart and remained there for 15 weeks. It also reached no. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and peaked at no. 3 in New Zealand. The song quickly became platinum, selling more than 2 million copies. In addition, their debut album, S.O.S., rose to no. 2 on the R&B Album chart and sold more than 800,000 copies. The following year, in 1981, S.O.S. released its second album, Too, and it went gold, selling more than 500,000 copies. Their 1982 album III also sold more than 500,000 copies. Their single from the album, “High Hopes,” peaked at no. 25 on the R&B chart.

Album four, On the Rise (1983), included the song “Just Be Good to Me,” which reached no. 2 on the R&B charts, no. 13 in the U.K., and no. 17 in Australia. On the Rise became the group’s fourth gold album, selling more than 500,000 copies. Between 1984 and 1991, the band released Just the Way You Like it (1984), produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis; Sands of Time (1986), and The Finest (1987), which became their fifth gold album; Diamonds in the Raw (1989) and One of Many Nights (1991), which came out when they signed with Arista Records. Their last album, the compilation The Best of S.O.S. Band was released in 1995 and went to no. 185 on the Billboard Album chart and remained charted for only one week and the ensemble soon afterwards broke up.

In 2018 the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs in Atlanta honored the S.O.S. Band and the following year, 2019, the ensemble reunited to perform “Just Be Good to Me” at the BET Soul Train Legend Awards.