Five brothers from New Bedford, Massachusetts joined together to create one of the most memorable soul groups of the 70s and 80s. Many of their instantly recognizable international hits, such as “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel” and “More Than A Woman”have become classics.
The brothers – Ralph, Tiny, Chubby, Butch and Pooch Tavares – originally called themselves “Chubby and the Turnpikes”. Working the clubs in their native New England beginning in the late 60s, the brothers honed their harmonies, alternating lead vocals, when Capitol Records’ then-new black music division signed them. Their debut album, Check It Out, was issued in early 1974. The title track slow jam single went to No. 5 R&B on Billboard’s charts in summer 1973. The next single, the ballad “That’s the Sound That Lonely Makes”, hit number ten R&B in early 1974.
Capitol teamed the group next with Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, hot producers and writers who worked with the Four Tops, among others. This led to two successful Tavares LPs, Hard Core Poetry and In The City. A cover of Hall & Oates’ “She’s Gone” gave the group their first No. 1 on the R&B charts, and “It Only Takes A Minute” was their first top 10 pop hit.
“Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel” and “Don’t Take Away the Music” were huge hits from their next release, Sky High, (produced by Motown veteran writer and producer Freddie Perren). Perren moved the group to a hotter beat and heavy sound just as the disco boom was about to explode. The group teamed with Perren again for their Love Storm and Future Bound LPs in 1977 and 1978. The Bee Gees wrote “More Than A Woman” for Tavares for the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, giving the group its greatest exposure ever, as well as a Grammy award.
In 1979, the brothers released the ballad-drenched Madam Butterfly LP. Produced by Philly veteran Bobby Martin, this disc highlighted the group’s Soul foundation, especially on the hit “Never Had A Love Like This Before” and three Sam Dees’ ballads (including the incredible “Let Me Heal The Bruises”). Tavares then teamed with pop producers Bobby Colomby and David Foster for Supercharged, a solid but underappreciated disc that spawned a minor hit with “Bad Times”.
As musical tastes evolved in the 1980s, Capitol Records began to lessen its promotional focus on Tavares, which found the Tavares brothers next two releases (Love Uprising and Loveline) failing to chart. The brothers went in search of a new label, and in 1982 found a temporary home in RCA’s young black music division. They released two albums for RCA, New Directions and Words and Music, which featured the Grammy-nominated “Penny For Your Thoughts” and their final R&B hit, “Deeper In Love”, but the albums were overall an artistic step down from the group’s highest moments.
Ralph resigned from the group in 1983 to spend more time with his wife and their two children. He become a court officer in New Bedford, a position he still holds today. The remaining four brothers continued to tour internationally and continued to record throughout the years. A number of Tavares compilation albums have been released in recent years, including A Lifetime With Tavares. Brother Tiny also later left the group to go solo.
Chubby, Butch and Pooch continue to tour as Tavares, also appearing on occasional television specials. They still enjoy seeing their many loyal fans around the world and making new fans wherever they appear singing their timeless hits.
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