The S.O.S. Band’s story began in 1977 in their native city of Atlanta, where they performed regularly in a club known as “The Regal Room”. Original group members included Willie “Sonny” Killebrew (saxophone), Billy Ellis (flute), Jason “T.C.” Bryant (keyboards), Bruno Speight (guitar), John Simpson (bass),and James Earl Jones III (drums), surrounding the stunning voice of Mary Davis (lead vocals, keyboards). Then they called themselves “Santa Monica”. Later they changed their name to The S.O.S Band, an acronym for ‘Sounds of Success’. And succeed they did.
They were, undisputedly, the hottest R&B band on Atlanta’s club scene. After listening to their demo and being impressed with the bands funky sound, Tabu Records signed them to their first recording contract.
In 1980 they exploded on the music scene with their first hit single,“Take Your Time (Do it Right)”, going platinum selling over 2 million copies.
The debut LP, SOS, went gold, selling over 800,000 copies and holding the number two R&B spot for three weeks. While the band was on its world tour, trumpeter, vocalist and percussionist Abdul Ra’oof joined them. Their second album, Too, went to number 30 R&B in summer 1981. On the band’s third LP, SOS III, they worked with producer Leon Sylvers III and the Time’s Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The breaking single, “High Hopes”, hit number 25 R&B in the fall of 1982 while the album went to number 27 R&B in late 1982.
On their fourth LP, On the Rise, Jam and Lewis took over the production chores. Scoring with the slammin’ number two hit “Just Be Good to Me”and the number five beatbox ballad “Tell Me If You Still Care”, On the Risebecame their second gold album hitting number seven R&B in summer 1983. The formula continued working: Just the Way You Like It went to number six R&B in fall 1984 (included the number six R&B single “Just the Way You Like It”) and Sands of Time went gold and hit number four R&B in spring 1986 (included the number two R&B hit “The Finest”). Many of these releases as well as the sound of early releases of Chicago-born house music helped to popularize the now-classic sound of Roland drum machine, the TR-808.
In 1987, vocalist Mary Davis left the SOS Band to pursue a solo career. The band recorded two more albums, Diamonds in the Raw (number 43 R&B in fall 1989) produced by Eban Kelly and Jimi Randolph and One of Many Nights produced by Curtis Williams.
In August 1994, former lead vocalist Mary Davis reunited with Abdul Ra’oof and Jason Bryant, together they reconstructed a new band with the same funky SOS sound, appearing on comedian Sinbad’s HBO concert specials and Rhino’s new music various artists set, United We Funk issued October 5,1999.
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