One of the most influential groups in the history of R&B, Charlie Wilson and his brothers, Robert and Ronnie, made themselves famous with their nonstop humorous funk grooves. You can probably get a witness of their style from many of the “new school” performers such as, R. Kelly, Keith Sweat, Ruff Endz, Guy, Blackstreet, Jagged Edge, and Aaron Hall who borrowed their grooves or vocalese from the Gap Band’s arsenal.
The sons of a Pentecostal minister, the Wilson brothers started performing in 1967 when they formed a group along with Tuck Andress of Tuck and Patti Fame. The GAP Band, named after the black business hub of their native Tulsa, Oklahoma (Greenwood, Archer, Pine Streets), became the band of choice for visiting musicians. “We used to be called the Greenwood Archer Pine Street Band,” Charlie explains, “but that was a bit too much to put on posters, so we abbreviated it to G.A.P. Band. Then once, through a typographical error, the periods disappeared and out popped the GAP Band.”
During the band’s early career they opened for major hit bands like The Rolling Stones, and supported J.J. Cale, Willie Nelson, D.J. Rogers, and Leon Russell. In the 80’s, Charlie toured with Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics. The GAP Band has always been a touring powerhouse. Known for their high energy, groove thumpin, party-like set the band is dubbed in many circles as “the black Aerosmith”.
Throughout their career they have performed with an eclectic set of other performers such as, Frankie Beverly and Maze, The Isley Brothers, R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige, L.L. Cool J, Destiny’s Child, Ashanti, Ja Rule, and Dru Hill. From the late 70s to early 80s, the band dominated the R & B charts.
Four of the band’s 9 albums went platinum plus (The Gap Band II, The Gap Band III, The Gap Band IV, and Gap Band V – Jammin), selling millions of records and including 15 Top Ten R&B hits, and four #1 R&B hits, such as, “You Dropped a Bomb on Me,” “Party Train,” “Burn Rubber”, “Outstanding”, “Oops Upside Your Head”, “Early in the Morning”, and the smooth love song, “Yearning for Your Love”. “Outstanding” alone remains one of the most sampled songs in history and has been used by over an astonishing 150 artists, including, Madonna, Tina Turner, Will Smith, Usher, George Michael, and even Laker’s Center Shaquille O’Neal, to name a few.
Over the years, Charlie has been one of the most sought after vocalists in the industry. He has added his trademark voice to many chart topping hits from many contemporary artists. In the late 80s. he recorded a track with his friend Roger Troutman for ZAPP’s record entitled “Computer Love” which became an instant smash. In 1994, Charlie performed with his protégé, Aaron Hall, for the Boomerang soundtrack, starring Eddie Murphy, on “It’s Gonna Be Alright”. Later, in 1995, Charlie performed on tracks for Quincy Jones’ album Jook Joint with the Quincy Jones Orchestra, on the hit, “Stomp”. In 1996, the band reunited to perform a live greatest hits album, cleverly titled, The Gap Band: Live and Well.
Charlie has also performed with the No Limit family of soldiers, working with Master P, Mia X, Mystikal, and others. The single “Whatcha Wanna Do,” with Mia X, slammed the charts. Charlie also performed with Snoop Doggy Dogg on Snoop’s platinum Doggfather album, singing, “Snoops Upside Ya Head” and many others, and still continues to collaborate with Snoop on an ongoing basis. His latest includes the smash “Beautiful” featuring Uncle Charlie and Pharrell from the Neptunes. He also toured with Snoop around the world and on the 1997 40-city, Lollapalooza tour. Staying mainstream, Charlie continues working with other younger performers and producers such as, Pharrell and the Neptunes, R. Kelly, Rodney Jerkins, Steve Huff, Terry Lewis, Shekspeare, Angie Stone, Case, Avant, Mark Nelson, Tricky and Laney Stewart, Dr. Dre, D.J. Pooh, and Teddy Riley.
Charlie’s solo album, Bridging the Gap, which included guest artists, Case, Avant, Mark Nelson, Angie Stone, Snoop Dogg, and Nate Dogg, performed extremely well, and the first single, “Without You”, a beautiful ballad written by Laney Stewart, sky-rocketed to number #1 on the Urban A/C Chart and was listed as one of the Top Twenty Songs of the Year in Billboard Magazine for 2001.
Charlie and the Gap Band continue to bring their music to the stage as they still continue to sell out concerts all year round. They have one of the most energetic concert performances and will always leave their audiences satisfied.
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