Blue Magic is an American R&B/soul music group and one of the most popular Philadelphia soul groups of the 1970s. Founded in 1972, the group's original members included lead singer Ted Mills with Vernon Sawyer, Wendell Sawyer, Keith Beaton, and Rich...
Blue Magic is an American R&B/soul music group and one of the most popular Philadelphia soul groups of the 1970s. Founded in 1972, the group's original members included lead singer Ted Mills with Vernon Sawyer, Wendell Sawyer, Keith Beaton, and Richard Pratt. Their most notable songs included smooth soul ballads such as "Sideshow", "Spell", "What's Come Over Me", "Three Ring Circus" and "Stop to Start."
Blue Magic was formed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1972 when former member of The Delfonics Randy Cain brought in singer-songwriter Ted Mills to do some writing with the Philly-based WMOT production company to create a new band. A short time later the group Shades of Love, featuring Keith Beaton, Richard Pratt, Vernon Sawyer and his brother Wendell, came in to audition. (According to Marc Taylor in his book 'A Touch of Classic Soul of the Early 1970s', "although the group performed admirably, they lacked a standout lead singer".) The execs decided to replace the Toppicks, the act Mills recorded with. They inserted Shades of Love (which they owned contractually) with Ted Mills and retitled the group Blue Magic. They were signed with Atco Records through WMOT in the same year.
Recording, early singles, and their first album
The group was one of the earliest acts produced by Norman Harris, a Philadelphia recording veteran. The group's harmonies were supported by the MFSB studio house band. Their first early song release in 1974 was "Spell" which went onto the Billboard R&B charts at number 30 (it was written and co-produced by Mills).
Their second release became their first Billboard US Top 10 hit single, "Sideshow". It was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in August 1974. It climbed to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the R&B chart. A follow-up, "Three Ring Circus" also sold well, reaching #36 in the pop chart and #5 R&B. MFSB guitarist Bobby Eli wrote both "Sideshow" and "Three Ring Circus". Their debut self-titled album was released later in the year.
Because their first three singles releases were slower songs, the group became known mostly for their ballads.
Success, their second album and their first world tour
The album Thirteen Blue Magic Lane in 1975 maintained the group's popularity and spawned their version of the popular dance number "We're On The Right Track", as well as the ballad "Chasing Rainbows". The song "What's Come Over Me" from their debut album was re-worked as a duet with Margie Joseph dubbed in alongside Mills' original lead vocals. The new approach saw the song climb to #11 on the R&B chart again in 1975.In total the group had two R&B chart singles in 1975 and four in 1976.
The group had their first world tour that year which lasted for 42 weeks. The tour included 48 states in the United States, five countries in Europe and a 10-day stay in the Philippines. They concluded their tour with a two-week engagement in the Virgin Islands.
Blue Magic were known also for their choreography. As a visually oriented group, they had several major television appearances, including Soul Train, The Mike Douglas Show, The Jerry Blavat Show, Dancin' On Air, and A.M. Philadelphia.
In April 1975, they were chosen as the best new group of the year which earned two Ebony Awards. The first was presented in New York by Aretha Franklin, the second in Florida by the female recording artist Vanity.
They have shared the stage with other performers such as The Jacksons, Lionel Richie, The Commodores, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Natalie Cole, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Spinners, Earth, Wind & Fire, New Edition, The Stylistics, Mick Jagger and others.
The group also contributed background vocals for Alyson Williams and the Rolling Stones (on the song "If You Really Want To Be My Friend" from the album It's Only Rock 'n' Roll).
Decline of popularity
By 1977, the group's popularity was faded with the rise of disco music and changing music styles, and despite the group continuing to record consistently they failed to chart. Subsequent label moves to Capitol Records for a reunion with Norman Harris (who had left two years earlier) and then the smaller label Mirage resulted in some smaller R&B charting, but no major success.
The 1980s, disbanding, regrouping in the 1990s
Background singer Richard Pratt left in the early 1980s. After singers Vernon and Wendell Sawyer left, the remaining two members Mills and Beaton hired two other singers and traveled to Los Angeles, California to record with Skip Scarborough and some members of the popular group Earth Wind & Fire on the album "Message from the Magic."
In 1988, the original group got back together and had some renewed popularity in late 1989 with the album, "From Out of the Blue."
In 1990, The Amsterdam News carried the story of Mills' near-fatal car accident. The other members of the group brought in new lead Rod Wayne (real name Roderick Bronaugh), who remained with the group until 2004. Bronaugh now teaches at Tennessee State University. After Rod Wayne, Wade Elliot and Leemy Walters, other leads singers were Ivery Bell and Stuart Orlando Morgan. There are now three Blue Magic groups working and touring the classic R&B music circuit. Ted Mills has reunited with Wendall Sawyer and Keith Beaton.Vernon Sawyer has his group...Richard Pratt has a Blue Magic group with Ivery Bell as lead singer.
After surgery in 1996, Mills returned to the music scene as a solo act, recording an album for Casablanca Records that year entitled "This Magic Is Real", featuring the remake of "Tear It Down."
The 2000s and incidental work
Mills appeared in the touring play, "Girl, He Ain't Worth It" with The Manhattans, Meli'sa Morgan and Tito Jackson, and appeared in the play "Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places". In 2007, Mills recorded the album "3 Tenors of Soul" with Russell Thompkins, Jr. and William Hart, released on Shanachie Records and produced by Bobbi Eli.
Two versions of the band touring
Officially, the group known as "Blue Magic", featuring members Keith Beaton, Wendell Sawyer, Fernando Kee, and lead vocalist Leemy Waiters tour worldwide. Waiters replaced Wade Eliot, who had replaced Rod Wayne in 2004. The name was formally trademarked by Sawyer some years earlier. Ted Mills has reunited with this group several times since May of 2013.
Vernon Sawyer tours with his own Blue Magic group, with members Freddie Ingleton, Bennie "BJ" Dixson and Reynardo.