MFSB (according to the "clean" interpretation, Mother Father Sister Brother) was a pool of more than thirty studio musicians based at Philadelphias famed Sigma Sound Studios. They worked closely with the production team of Gamble and Huff and producer/arranger Thom Bell, and backed up such groups as Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the OJays, the Stylistics, the Spinners, Wilson Pickett, and Billy Paul.
In 1972, MFSB began recording as a named act for the Philadelphia International label. "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" also known as the Soul Train theme was their first and most successful single. Released in March 1974, it peaked at number one on the US Billboard pop and R&B charts. "TSOP" was influential in establishing the disco sound. The track sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA in April 1974.
Assembled by record producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, MFSB was the house band for their Philadelphia International Records label and originated the signature smooth "Philly sound" sound that dominated the early 1970s for the artists who recorded at the Sigma Sound Studios, including the O'Jays, the Spinners, the Bluenotes, The Delfonics, Blue Magic, The Intruders, Three Degrees, Jerry Butler, and Teddy Pendergrass. Later in the decade, the collective would become known for the hi-hat-dominated disco sounds that became popular in the late 1970s with groups such as The Trammps, First Choice, Ripple and Double Exposure.
It was the 1972 release of their first album, MFSB, that put them on the map. This marked the beginning of a string of instrumental hits that brought major attention to a large orchestra who laid the foundation for the Sound of Philadelphia. The line-up of musicians included Karl Chambers and Earl Young on drums; Norman Harris, Roland Chambers, Bobby Eli, and TJ Tindall on guitar; Winnie Wilford and Ronnie Baker on bass; Vincent Montana, Jr. and Larry Washington on vibes and percussion, Harold Ivory Williams on keyboards, plus Leon Huff and Thom Bell on keyboards and Don Renaldo on strings and horns featuring Rocco Bene on trumpet.
MFSB's disco sound first hit the top of the Hot 100 charts as the backing band for The O'Jays' "Love Train" in March, 1973.
In 2005, drummer Keith Benson (who had joined the group upon Young's departure) revived the group with Gamble's help. The lineup included himself on drums, Jimmy Williams on bass, Dennis Harris and Barton French on guitars, and vocalists Carla Benson, Johnny Ingram, and Michael Clark. In 2007, Philadelphia's Inner City Horns (George Bussey, Jr. - saxophone, Bill Hosbach, Jr. - trumpet, and Matt Vernon - trombone) were added to the mix. The group performs live at private and concert events, and was featured at the inauguration of Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter.
In the spring of 1974, Philadelphia International released an instrumental track which had been recorded by the band as the theme music for the television show Soul Train as a single. The record, titled "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)" reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and also topped the R&B chart and the adult contemporary chart. The success of "TSOP" launched a recording career for the band under their own name. MFSB albums and singles were released for the rest of the decade.
MFSB recorded a cover of The Nite-Liters's 1971 instrumental "K-Jee", which gained some popularity when it was featured in a key scene in the film Saturday Night Fever (1977). It is also included in the soundtrack to that movie. "Sexy" (1975) was later used as a prize cue for the "Big Deal of the Day" on the 1980 version of Let's Make a Deal.
Another popular MFSB number, "Love Is The Message", has been a favorite of dance/disco DJs since its release; countless remixes, both official and unofficial, exist of the song. On September 20, 2004, the record became among the first to be inducted into the newly formed Dance Music Hall of Fame. In October 2004, the song appeared in the video game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, playing on funk radio station, Bounce FM.
Due to a disagreement with Gamble & Huff over finances, several members of the group moved on to Salsoul Records, where they became known as The Salsoul Orchestra. Other members began performing as The Ritchie Family orchestra, and John Davis and the Monster Orchestra. Not to be outdone, Gamble & Huff replaced them with a new rhythm section consisting of Charles Collins on drums, Michel Foreman on bass guitar, and Dennis Harris on lead guitar. They also employed Dexter Wansel and others on MFSB's latter recordings for the label.
Since 1980, MFSB's "My Mood" has been the closing theme music for the Friday 6:00 p.m. newscast on WRC-TV (NBC4), the NBC-owned television station in Washington, D.C.. MFSB's "TLC" (Tender Lovin' Care) has been used for decades as the closing credits theme for the Washington, DC version of the "It's Academic" quiz show filmed at WRC-TV.
In 2008, some of the members appeared together on new recordings made at Bobby Elis Studio E/The Grooveyard in the Philly suburbs. Musicians on the session were Earl Young on drums, Bobby Eli and Dennis Harris on guitars, Jimmie Williams on bass guitar, Rikki Hicks on percussion and T G Conway on keys. Two songs have been released from that sessions namely Soul Recession by Double Exposure and There I go falling in love again by Chiquita Green.
According to the book A House on Fire: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul, by John A. Jackson, the "clean" version of the MFSB name means "Mother, Father, Sister, Brother", because according to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, despite the diversity at Philadelphia International Records, all were connected musically. This was in line with their spiritual views at the time. The "other" version was "Mother-Fucking Sons of Bitches", referring to musical prowess.
- MFSB (1972)
- Love is the Message (1973)
- Universal Love (1975)
- Philadelphia Freedom (1975)
- Summertime (1976)
- MFSB: The Gamble & Huff Orchestra (1978)
- The End of Phase One (1978)
- Mysteries of the World (1980)
- The Funk Brothers
- Booker T and the M.G.'s
- The Wrecking Crew (music)
- Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra
- The J.B.'s
- 1.0 1.1 1.2 Nite, Norm N. (1978). Rock On: The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Rock N' Roll, 1964 - 1978, p. 320, New York: Thomas Y. Crowell.
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs, 2nd, London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd.
- Whitburn, Joel (1996). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits
- A House on Fire: The Rise and Fall of Philadelphia Soul:, p.115, John A. Jackson
- MFSB on Philly Soul Classics
- Carl Dixons Bandtraxs home page and blog