Major Lance – Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um

In the pantheon of soul greats, Major Lance never got the name recognition of Curtis Mayfield, his mentor and collaborator on the Chicago soul scene in the Sixties.

Lesser known, perhaps, but Lance was Okeh Records’ top-selling artist during the decade. And he definitely had the best moves.

Signed to the label in 1962, most of them – including this, his most successful – were written by Curtis Mayfield, produced by Carl Davis and arranged by Johnny Pate.

They were typically marked by a Latin tinge and exuberant brass and, although t’s hard to tell from this performance, I think the back-up singers on this track are The Impressions and the guitarist is Curtis himself.

They certainly are on his first big tune, The Monkey Time, earlier in 1963.

Both are now Northern Soul standards and such was his cult fame on the UK circuit that he moved here in the early Seventies and recorded a highly regarded album – “Major Lance’s Greatest Hits Recorded Live At The Torch” – at the eponymous nightclub in Stoke-on-Trent.

The highlight of this video is surely the three white girl podium dancers but it’s also worth checking out the video for The Monkey Time, not only for the song but to see the Major’s featherlight footwork that made him a talented amateur boxer, baseball and basketball player in his youth.

As for his legacy, Major Lance, who died in 1994, is not just an iconic figure on Northern Soul dancefloors to this day, but his daughter Keisha Bottoms was, until earlier this year, the Mayor of Atlanta, a role in which she championed LGBTQ rights, welcomed refugees, and was an outspoken critic of President Trump.

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