MFSB (1972-1985)

The Essential MFSB (Album Cover)
The Essential MFSB (Album Cover)

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The Philadelphia International Records house band, MFSB (“Mother Father Sister Brother”), was initially an all-male multicultural R&B ensemble comprising more than thirty resident studio musicians based at Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound Studios. They played the music and occasionally sang backup with many soloists and groups, including Billy Paul, the O’Jays, The Spinners, and The Stylistics.

Founding members were Pianist/composer Leon A. Huff (April 8, 1942, Camden, New Jersey); Pianist/composer Thomas Randolph’ Thom’ Bell (January 26, 1943, Kingston, Jamaica); Guitarist/composer Roland L. Chambers III (March 9, 1944, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania); Percussionist Karl L. Chambers (September 9, 1946, Philadelphia); Guitarist/composer Bobby Eli Tatarsky (March 2, 1946, Philadelphia); Percussionist Quinton Joseph (August 28, 1946, Chicago, Illinois); Bassist/composer Ronald Baker (1947, Philadelphia); Guitarist Norman Harris (October 14, 1947, in Philadelphia); Guitarist Thomas Joshua Tindall (1950 in Trenton, New Jersey); and Vibist/composer Vincent Montana Jr, (February 12, 1928, Philadelphia). These stellar musicians were a vital part of the Gamble and Huff and Thom Bell production team at Philadelphia International Records and were responsible for what would be known as the Philadelphia Sound.

In 1972, MFSB began recording as the principal act for the Philadelphia International label. The following year, in 1973, they released the album MFSB, and in 1974, their “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” which was composed to be the theme for the Soul Train television program, was released and peaked at no. 1 on the US Billboard Pop Chart. It also topped the R&B chart and the Adult Contemporary Charts. This mainly instrumental single hit sold more than a million copies. The following year, in 1975, at the 18th Annual Grammy Awards, MFSB won an award for “Best R&B Instrumental Performance” for “The Sound of Philadelphia.”

In addition, MFSB continued producing a string of hit albums, including Summertime (1976), The End of Phase 1 (1977), The Gamble-Huff Orchestra (1979), and their last album, Mysteries of The World (1981).

Norman Harris died on March 24, 1987, in Philadelphia. He was 40. Ronald Baker died in August 1990. He was 43. Karl L. Chambers died on February 24, 2002. He was 55. Roland L. Chambers III died on May 8, 2002. He was 58. In 2008, MFSB was featured at the inauguration of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. On April 13, 2013, Vincent Montana Jr. died in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He was 85.

In 2013, the Philadelphia Music Alliance inducted MFSB into the Walk of Fame. Three years later Thomas Joshua Tindall died on January 26, 2016, in New Hope, Pennsylvania at the age of 66. MFSB was the only studio house band for a record label to have its own independent career and produce a million-selling instrumental hit record.