The Three Degrees
The Three Degrees
When you hear the name, The Three Degrees, you immediately think of their most famous song, “When Will I See You Again”.
That song was a major hit record throughout the world, topping the chart in the U.S.A., the U.K., Japan and most European countries, earning the trio gold records and worldwide accolades. They have amassed an impressive list of hit records. Today, the line-up consists of Valerie Holiday, Helen Scott and Freddie Pool. The actual beginning of the group dates back more than 4 decades, when their then-manager, the enigmatic Richard Barrett, brought three young teenagers together in Philadelphia. After a couple of years of constant rehearsing and local record hops, the group made its first mark on the recording scene by way of the Philly-based Swan Records.
During the Swan years, the group’s line up was Helen, Fayette Pinkney and Janet Harmon. Their biggest success on Swan was probably “Gee Baby”, which featured Fayette on lead vocals. Soon thereafter Helen got married and left the group. By this time, they had signed with New York-based Roulette Records and the line-up was Fayette, Valerie Holiday and Sheila Ferguson and this line-up was to remain intact for their glory years with Roulette and Philadelphia International.
The hits began with a remake of the Chantels 1958 hit, “Maybe” and continued through “I Do Take You”, “You’re The One”, “There’s So Much Love All Around Me” (all produced by Barrett) and closed out with “Trade Winds” for Roulette. It was during this two-year span that they made a cameo appearance in the movie, “The French Connection”, singing “Everybody Gets To Go To The Moon”, portraying themselves in a cabaret scene.
In 1972, they aligned their recording fate with Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International label and hit immediate paydirt in 1972 with “Dirty Ol’ Man”. Soon after came “TSOP”, which featured the ladies with MFSB. The following year came ‘When Will I See You Again”. “The whole Philadelphia Sound was the brainchild of Kenny (Gamble) and Leon (Huff),” Valerie explains. “They wrote and produced most of the hits…Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the O’Jays, Billy Paul, the Intruders. During their 3 year stint with Philadelphia International, they enjoyed a good measure of success with “Year Of Decision”, “Take Good Care Of Yourself” and, again with MFSB, “Love Is The Message”. They moved on to Epic Records, where one album was released but did not achieve any major success for the ladies. A year later, they teamed up with Giorgio Moroder (he of Donna Summer fame) and a new string of hits began. “Giving Up, Giving In”, “My Simple Heart” and the lush ballad, “Woman In Love”, were the highlights of this period. In 1986, Sheila decided to leave the group and after a short period of regrouping, Valerie and Helen brought in Cynthia Garrison and set about their business again.
Ever since, they have been constantly touring all over the world, occasionally recording but always working. At the end of 2010 and after more than 20 years as a Degree, Cynthia was forced to retire from the group due to medical reasons. It brought to an end the most stable period in the trio’s long history. Her place has been taken by Freddie Pool, a hugely talented and experienced vocalist who has enjoyed past success both as a solo artist and as a member of other groups. So it is that after more than four decades of existence, the Three Degrees can still make the claim as being the longest running female vocal group in history….see the Guinness Book of Records for confirmation of this fact! And they show no signs of slowing down!
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