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Markie Bee[Volume 6 Issue 1 Friday 9/14/2012]
Getting Ready For The WLSC 2012
By Markie Bee
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Important Info for the contestants.
 #steppersbeatcolumn

OK, I know it's been a while since I've written anything but I've been going through some personal challenges over the last few months and it's taken a while just to get to the point where I can write the column.

On Wednesday there was a contestants meeting for the WLSC and there were important changes passed on to those in attendance.

Three performances will happen simultaneously in all categories which is a necessity with 107 couples scheduled to be on stage this year.

The contestants were also informed they must check in no later than 7:15 with their partner along with valid ID or they will not perform. In other words; if you and your partner both don't check in together on time you will be disqualified from the competition.  Continued


[9/14/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
Slo Woman by Mint Condition
#stepperssongoftheday

Mint Condition has been together since they were students at Central High School in Saint Paul MN.

Mint Condition is an R&B band from Saint Paul, Minnesota. Formed in the late 1980s, its original members were Stokley Williams (lead vocals, drums, percussion), Ricky Kinchen (bass guitar), Homer O'Dell (guitar), Larry Waddell (keyboards, piano), Keri Lewis (keyboards, synthesizer), and Jeffrey Allen (saxophone, keyboards). Currently, this line-up remains intact, with the exception of Lewis, who left the group to produce for other artists.

The group is well known for its highly diverse musical style (able to play anything from traditional jazz styling's to mainstream R&B and rock-based music to funk grooves and even Latin and Jamaican-based rhythms) and also its captivating live performances. The band is also well known for their well written and produced R&B ballads, mainly in the 1990s. They mostly known for their hits "Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)" (1991) and "What Kind of Man Would I Be" (1996).  Read more about the steppers song of the day

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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 287 Wednesday 6/6/2012]
When Did We Start?
By Markie Bee
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Who remembers when steppers started to travel?
 #steppersbeatcolumn

When did steppers start to travel to dance in other cities? Personally I don't remember when it actually started. I guess I missed the memo. I've tried hard to remember when I first realized people were traveling to go to parties but I do seem to remember long before that instructors were traveling to teach.

I'm pretty sure that is how it started (with an instructor I mean) who invited students to come to a set (most probably in Chicago) after all there's no better place in the country to get your stepping in any day of the week.

It probably was an instructor who was teaching in another city, probably Atlanta or Detroit that asked their students to come to that city and dance with their other students or maybe it was just a group of people who wanted to travel and seek out steppers in other cities.

I remember in the early days of the Razz we used to get some visitors from other cities but I don't think all of it was because we had a steppers set happening. Remember, the Razz was inside of a hotel so out of town guests weren't out of the ordinary.

In the last few years of the Razz we did have some steppers group visits from cities like Los Angeles and Las Vegas from the West and Baltimore and Boston from the East. There may have been others but I really wasn't paying it that much attention at that time. Continued


[6/6/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
One Hundred Ways by James Ingram
#stepperssongoftheday

From funk to soul to R&B to pop to adult contemporary to inspirational, James Ingram's multi-faceted talents have dazzled the American music scene since the early '80s. The Akron, Ohio, native went from playing local bars with Revelation Funk to Los Angeles, where he landed the types of gigs that most aspiring musicians only dream about: singing background vocals and playing piano for Ray Charles' recording studio sessions; recording studio sessions and playing keyboards behind the Coasters for Dick Clark; and providing musical direction for Leon Haywood, who produced Carl Carlton's famous hit, "She's a Bad Mama Jama."

Then fate brought Ingram together with Quincy Jones and to a pivotal breakthrough in his career. Up to this point, Ingram had not yet surfaced as a solo artist, but after a chance listen to Ingram's demo of "Just Once" - which had been recorded for the sum of $50 - Jones immediately recognized the man, the voice and the music as the musical triumvirate that would both captivate listeners and command the music industry's attention. "There'll Never Be". Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 286 Tuesday 6/5/2012]
Let The Games Begin!
By Markie Bee
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It's open season to contest!
 #steppersbeatcolumn

Once again I'm going to say those fateful words; the steppers contest season is now in full swing. There are a few contests to take note of which lead up to and include the WLSC (which has already started its 'semi-finals').

This week the Windy City Steppers National Congress (WCNSC) is starting with its preliminary out-of-town rounds in St. Louis MO and Raleigh NC over the weekend. The WCNSC is in its second year and is striving to become a major player in the contest circuit.

The WCNSC is a contest that's different from the WLSC in a few ways but the most significant way I see is they are actually doing eliminations in the preliminary rounds and the winners of those rounds get paid for winning their prelim.

Also like other major contests in other dance styles (other than stepping) contestants must pay a registration fee. Speaking of other dance styles... this contest involves more than just stepping (a point some steppers have stated they don't like); there are also other competitions for Salsa and Bop as well. It should be noted these styles will not be competing against steppers as these are separate competitions.  Continued


[6/5/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
I Wanna Be Closer by Switch
#stepperssongoftheday

The group, formed in Mansfield, Ohio in 1974 under the name First Class, featured brothers Tommy and Bobby DeBarge and Greg Williams from Grand Rapids, Michigan, along with Akron, Ohio natives Phillip Ingram (brother of James Ingram), Eddie Fluellen and Jody Sims.

They joined Barry White's group, White Heat, as background musicians and were let go shortly thereafter when White Heat experienced financial troubles.

Eventually changing their name to Switch due to their ability to switch to different instruments during a song, the group got the attention of Jermaine Jackson, former member of The Jackson 5 and husband of Hazel Gordy (daughter of Motown Chief Berry Gordy, Jr.), who heard the group's demo tape. Within days, the group was signed to the Motown Records subsidiary label, Gordy. They recorded and released their self titled debut album in 1978, which featured their first Top 10 R&B hit single, entitled "There'll Never Be". Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 285 Monday 6/4/2012]
Sometimes We Get It Wrong
By Markie Bee
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Give me the big hammer!
 #steppersbeatcolumn

See how backward people have it? I saw a posting in the Dance Fanatics group on Facebook that proved once again how instructors are focusing on the count instead of the dance itself.

At the end of a posting one person said, "After all, each instructor is primarily going to teach you "their" style of dance within the count." When you hear people talk about how so many steppers haven't learned the dance correctly you best look at the counting system and the way it's stressed over and beyond the pattern of dance it was designed to reinforce.

The instructor or instructors who taught this poor misinformed soul should be taken out back and have their dancing shoes revoked for stealing the most important part of the dance from this person.

I'm lamenting the fact that this individual isn't a minority within the dance; they are part of what appears to be the majority of new steppers who haven't been taught how to dance. They have been taught calisthenics or exercise routines under the name of dance by instructors who don't know how to teach beyond one aspect of one tool which is used to help those who are rhythmically challenged.  Continued


[6/3/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
Heart Mind and Soul by El DeBarge
#stepperssongoftheday

Although the featured song was by El DeBarge from his solo career I decided to feature the entire group in this piece.

Groomed to be the heirs to the Jackson 5 throne in the early '80s, DeBarge mirrored the Jacksons early success with a string of hits, but were unable to sustain their winning streak.

Originally formed in 1978 and hailing from Grand Rapids, MI, the quintet was comprised of four brothers (Eldra, Mark, James, and Randy) and one sister (Bunny). The band signed on with the same label that the Jacksons started with, Motown, courtesy of their two older brothers, Tommy and Bobby (both of whom were members of another Motown act at the time, Switch).

Led by the soft-and-sweet vocals of Eldra (or El, for short), DeBarge issued a debut album in 1981, The DeBarges, which showed that the group had yet to hone their hit-making style. But the quintet soon found the formula, as their sophomore effort, 1982's All This Love, would go on to become DeBarge's first gold-certified success, and spawn such hit singles as "I Like It," "Time Will Reveal," and the title track. Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 284 Sunday 6/3/2012]
Grab Some Attention
By Markie Bee
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Sometimes you just need to be wacky...
 #steppersbeatcolumn

Radio and television shows do it all of the time... it's what brings 'engagement' to the medium. With the advent of social media, they have extended their reach by using the web.

I'm talking about what is commonly called in 'the business' as stunts. In other words; something that gets people to take notice. Depending on how 'wacky' a stunt is sort of depends on what kind of a show the stunt is promoting.

Some DJ's have their interns or a 'sidekick' or producers do something outside their studio that may grab some attention. It's all promotion in some form. When a DJ does a remote broadcast; that's a stunt. It's a way to grab some attention to the show or for the station.

When I was younger the DJ's would become an attraction at the sock hops. Later on in my career the station gave away all sorts of swag including T-shirts, key chains and just about anything the station could stick their logo on (the practice continues to this day).

Dance has the contest and in some circles there are those who do 'flash mobs' and there are a few sets like 'Stepping at the Picasso' to gain attention but other than that we as a dance community don't do a whole lot to grab peoples attention.

In order to take the next step maybe it's time to reach out for some attention from the general public by trying some things we haven't in the past. I'm not going to come with a bunch of new ideas because I feel that should be up to you if you want to see the community thrive at the next level.  Continued


[6/3/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
Keep Away Girls by Stephanie Mills
#stepperssongoftheday

Stephanie Mills first came to fame as "the little girl with the big voice" as the star of the hit Broadway play, The Wiz, an adaptation of L. Frank Baum's classic book, The Wizard of Oz.

She had many R&B hits such as "I Have Learned to Respect the Power of Love," "I Feel Good All Over," "(You're Puttin') A Rush on Me," "Something in the Way (You Make Me Feel)," and "Home," along with one certified, million-selling single, "Never Knew Love Like This Before." In addition, she also had five gold albums: Whatcha Gonna Do with My Lovin', Sweet Sensation, Stephanie, If I Were Your Woman, and Home.

Born on March 22, 1957 in Brooklyn, NY, Mills honed her rich vocals singing gospel music at Brooklyn's Cornerstone Baptist Church as a small child. At age nine, she began appearing in the Broadway play Maggie Flynn. She was presented with first prize after winning "The Amateur Hour" talent contest six weeks straight at New York's famed Apollo Theater when she was nine. That success led to her being chosen as the opening act for the Isley Brothers, eventually becoming good friends with lead singer Ronald Isley. Many years later, Isley would manage and later marry singer/songwriter Angela Winbush, who co-wrote one of her number one R&B hits. Mills' debut album... Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 283 Saturday 6/2/2012]
I Have A 'Picture Wife'
By Markie Bee
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Had I known. I would have acted differently...
 #steppersbeatcolumn

I'm sort of surprised I haven't seen too much on Facebook about the White Party in Detroit. In prior years there were posts galore from beginning to end of the event.

Photos are still popping up from the 2012 Stepaganza Memorial Day weekend. My 'picture wife' Shirley has been posting bunches of photos on Facebook. And after all these years of being a happily divorced bachelor; I found this out while I was in St. Louis; I've been a 'picture husband' and from what I understand it's been for a while now... WOW!

If I only knew I could have been performing my 'picture husband' duties; but I just didn't know! I guess with proper 'exposure' we can see how things 'develop' and as good photographers we want to put some light on our subject.   Continued


[6/2/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
The Sweetest Taboo by Sade
#stepperssongoftheday

When singer Sade and her band of the same name were establishing themselves, their record company, Epic, made a point of printing "Pronounced Shar-day" on the record labels of their releases.

Soon enough, the music had no problem with the correct pronunciation. With the breakthrough Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten single "Smooth Operator" propelling the debut Sade album, Diamond Life, to the same spot on the Billboard 200 chart in 1985, the band fast came to epitomize soulful, adult-oriented, sophisticated pop. Though only five more studio albums would follow in the next 25 years, the band's following abated only slightly, and each release was treated like a long-awaited public return of a mysterious yet beloved diva.

Born Helen Folasade Adu in Ibadan, Nigeria, about 50 miles from Lagos, Sade was the daughter of an African father and an English mother. After her mother returned to England, Adu grew up on the North End of London. Developing a good singing voice in her teens, Adu worked part-time jobs in and outside of the music business. She listened to Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, and Billie Holiday, and studied fashion design at St. Martin's School of Art in London while also doing some modeling on the side. Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 282 Friday 6/1/2012]
Feed The Beast
By Markie Bee
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Facebook wants to get paid.
 #steppersbeatcolumn

Stepaganza photos

Steppers, If you have a page on Facebook you'll notice they have started to show you how many people you're actually connecting to through your Facebook connections.

It maxes out at 10% (in some cases 20%) of those who 'liked' your page (this also includes shares from the 'share' link). The only way Facebook will let you connect with more than that 10% of your audience is by using their newly added 'Promote' link you have to pay Facebook.

That's the way it has been with Facebook for quite some time... meaning only a small percentage of the people who 'like' your page actually see your posts. It's pretty terrible coverage and I've been saying it all along. Facebook just proved it in their quest for your money.

Another caveat for page owner/administrators is in order for you to even see the button you need to have more than 400 'likes' for your page. When you pay them for 'promotion' they 'stick' your promoted post to the main news feed to get more views. Of course people might check your page anyway so it's a gamble.

There is an upside to promoting your posts. According to allfacebook.com, "A lot of activity happens on Facebook, and most people only see some of it in their news feeds. They may miss things when they’re not on Facebook, or they may have a lot of friends and pages, which results in too much activity to show all of it in their news feed.   Continued


[6/1/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
Baby Come to me by Regina Belle
#stepperssongoftheday

Regina Belle emerged as a prolific, consistently engaging vocalist on the urban contemporary scene.

Born in New Jersey, Belle's early experience was in gospel, though she was also attracted to R&B during her childhood. She studied trombone, tuba, and steel drums, and at 12 won a school contest singing the Emotions' "Don't Ask My Neighbors." Belle sang in a New Jersey vocal group, and studied opera and jazz in college. New York disc jockey Vaughn Harper introduced her to the Manhattans, and she began working as their opening act.

Regina Belle has dazzled critics and fans alike since her debut album, All By Myself, was released in 1987. Acclaimed as one of the most exciting new singers to emerge on the rhythm and blues scene, Belle boasts a style that recalls some of the most successful black pop female singers in the industry, yet is nonetheless distinctive. Jim Miller in Newsweek heralded Belle's entry onto the music scene in 1987: "Move over, Anita Baker and make way for Regina Belle, who may be the most electrifying new soul singer since Baker herself.... Imagine a singer who simultaneously recalls Aretha Franklin, Sade and Anita Baker, and you'll get a fair idea of Belle's singular style." Belle's subsequent albums solidified her place on the American music scene, with reviewers comparing her favorably to jazz great Billie Holiday Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 281 Thursday 5/31/2012]
Never Duplicated
By Markie Bee
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More on last weekend in The Lou.
 #steppersbeatcolumn

Stepaganza photos

The "small town hospitality" with the "big event feel" wasn't the only draw of an (and yes I can say this) international audience (there were two ladies from Germany at the event) to Stepaganza.

Every bit of what Iary and the rest of Word of Mouth Entertainment did was crafted especially to suit their event specifically. Perhaps this is where I say the famous words; 'Often imitated but never duplicated' because it applies to Stepaganza. I think they've found the 'sweet spot' and if you can't tell I like it there!

They may as well take the Sweetie Pies soul food restaurant and put it on next year's flyer because everyone went there anyway. Fortunately (for those of us who went early) there was no hour and a half wait to get served. I heard people talking about the place on the train home to Chicago, it's that popular. Well I guess that happens once you've been on Oprah's channel.

The party within the party was apparently at Evaughn Muldrew's home. Dimples kept up the praise for the food and party hospitality after she returned and never stopped with the praise. Some BBQ's are that good!

The vastly underrated value of spending time with the legends of stepping is... underrated! I got to spend some time with lifetime achievement awardees' Slim, Taboo and Dimples and the information from these folks is priceless. You see I've been doing my homework and I realize the true story of stepping has many sides and aspects and when anyone says there's just one version of the truth about the history of the dance is actually lying to themselves.   Continued


[5/30/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
Get On Up by James Brown
#stepperssongoftheday

"Soul Brother Number One," "the Godfather of Soul," "the Hardest Working Man in Show Business," "Mr. Dynamite" those are mighty titles, but no one can question that James Brown earned them more than any other performer.

Other singers were more popular, others were equally skilled, but few other African-American musicians were so influential over the course of popular music. And no other musician, pop or otherwise, put on a more exciting, exhilarating stage show: Brown's performances were marvels of athletic stamina and split-second timing.

Through the gospel-impassioned fury of his vocals and the complex polyrhythms of his beats, Brown was a crucial midwife in not just one, but two revolutions in black American music. He was one of the figures most responsible for turning R&B into soul and he was, most would agree, the figure most responsible for turning soul music into the funk of the late '60s and early '70s. After the mid-'70s, he did little more than tread water artistically; his financial and drug problems eventually got him a controversial prison sentence. Yet in a sense, his music is now more influential than ever, as his voice and rhythms have been sampled on innumerable hip-hop recordings, and critics have belatedly hailed his innovations as among the most important in all of rock or soul.  Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 280 Wednesday 5/30/2012]
Stepaganza!
By Markie Bee
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A weekend of stars at Stepaganza.
 #steppersbeatcolumn

Stepaganza photos

I'm back from Stepaganza in St. Louis and I have lots to talk about but I'm going to start by saying this and as they say 'I ain't joking'... If Iary Israel isn't the promoter of the year there is something wrong with the system.

A lot of people made a lot of excuses and reasons not to go to Stepaganza ranging from statements like St. Louis just doesn't have as much to offer like other larger cities. Or the doubts that were cast when he was brutally honest last year when he said he had to change things so he wouldn't go (financially) into the hole again.

This year the event wasn't promoted as a mega event (even though it was a mega event in my opinion). They didn't have any events at the host hotel with their shabby laid-in dance floor that looked like it had been through two world wars and ultra expensive food buffets. Instead he opted to have three main events at the Machinists Hall.

The Machinist Hall is a large airy multi-level building capable of handling large crowds, vendors and it even has meeting rooms (which weren't used by Stepaganza) a very modern building by every stretch of the imagination. It has acres of free parking too. It was a great choice for the main venue which made the event financially feasible and totally accessible.

It was just one of the decisions Iary made that was just golden. The entertainment from the DJ's to the vocalists who performed kept the steppers in attendance entertained and most importantly on the dance floor the whole weekend. I should also say at this juncture that Iary and Word of Mouth Entertainment made the decision to rent a large wooden dance floor that was fantastic. No malfunctions... a smooth and clean dance floor.

Shorty Smooth provided the sound system which was crystal clear and was attenuated properly (most of the time) so people wouldn't go deaf even though the system was capable of shattering windows several blocks away. When I first saw the speakers I thought of the Memorex commercial. Good job there too!

The affairs at the Machinist Hall were all BYO (even though Word of Mouth did provide some morsels to nosh on) for the most part people came to dance and be entertained so the decision not to serve full meals was on point. I'm a non-drinker and the size of the bottle of coke (1 liter) was more than enough for the night for me and drinkers had their mixers readily available.  Continued


[5/24/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
This Love Is Real by Jackie Wilson
#stepperssongoftheday

Jackie Wilson was one of the most important agents of black pop's transition from R&B into soul. In terms of vocal power (especially in the upper register), few could outdo him; he was also an electrifying on-stage showman.

He was a consistent hitmaker from the mid-'50s through the early '70s, although never a crossover superstar. His reputation isn't quite on par with Ray Charles, James Brown, or Sam Cooke, however, because his records did not always reflect his artistic genius. Indeed, there is a consensus of sorts among critics that Wilson was something of an underachiever in the studio, due to the sometimes inappropriately pop-based material and arrangements that he used.

Wilson was well-known on the R&B scene before he went solo in the late '50s. In 1953 he replaced Clyde McPhatter in Billy Ward & the Dominoes, one of the top R&B vocal groups of the '50s. Although McPhatter was himself a big star, Wilson was as good as or better than the man whose shoes he filled. Commercially, however, things took a downturn for the Dominoes in the Wilson years, although they did manage a Top 20 hit with "St. Therese of the Roses" in 1956. Elvis Presley was one of those who was mightily impressed by Wilson in the mid-'50s; he can be heard praising Jackie's on-stage cover of "Don't Be Cruel" in between-song banter during the Million Dollar Quartet session in late 1956.  Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 279 Thursday 5/24/2012]
I'm On The Road
By Markie Bee
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Today's Steppers Beat Column is sponsored by Steppers West Associates 2012 Steppers Jam 3

A steppers point of view on the WLSC
 #steppersbeatcolumn

I'm headed out to St. Louis for Stepaganza 2012 Today. I know my room mate will enjoy the break. I'll be hosting the opening event and I hope to see you there!

I'm not sure how much I'll be able to post during the next week so keep an eye on SteppersUSA and Facebook and Google plus because that's where I'll post some photos and commentary or some reports as I know I'll be worn out each evening. I won't be posting the 'Song and Artist of the Day' feature while I'm on the road. The newsletter may or may not go out... It depends.

It's the 10th anniversary of Word of Mouth Entertainment so you know this one will be special.  Continued


[5/24/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
This Love Is Real by Jackie Wilson
#stepperssongoftheday

Jackie Wilson was one of the most important agents of black pop's transition from R&B into soul. In terms of vocal power (especially in the upper register), few could outdo him; he was also an electrifying on-stage showman.

He was a consistent hitmaker from the mid-'50s through the early '70s, although never a crossover superstar. His reputation isn't quite on par with Ray Charles, James Brown, or Sam Cooke, however, because his records did not always reflect his artistic genius. Indeed, there is a consensus of sorts among critics that Wilson was something of an underachiever in the studio, due to the sometimes inappropriately pop-based material and arrangements that he used.

Wilson was well-known on the R&B scene before he went solo in the late '50s. In 1953 he replaced Clyde McPhatter in Billy Ward & the Dominoes, one of the top R&B vocal groups of the '50s. Although McPhatter was himself a big star, Wilson was as good as or better than the man whose shoes he filled. Commercially, however, things took a downturn for the Dominoes in the Wilson years, although they did manage a Top 20 hit with "St. Therese of the Roses" in 1956. Elvis Presley was one of those who was mightily impressed by Wilson in the mid-'50s; he can be heard praising Jackie's on-stage cover of "Don't Be Cruel" in between-song banter during the Million Dollar Quartet session in late 1956.  Read more about the steppers song of the day


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[Volume 5 Issue 278 Wednesday 5/23/2012]
Stepping Contests… I Really Want To Believe!!
By Markie Bee
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Today's Steppers Beat Column is sponsored by Steppers West Associates 2012 Steppers Jam 3

A steppers point of view on the WLSC
 #steppersbeatcolumn

Today's column is a guest column by Helen Wolf. If you agree with her or disagree with her please comment!

I really want to believe that every stepping contest is judged based on consistent criteria that is understood by the judges and easily accessible to the viewing audience. As a member of the stepping community I’m always one to support first. However, it gets harder and harder when there is the appearance of bias and inconsistency when judging contestants. That’s not to say that the winners didn’t win fair-and-square but what does that really mean?

After attending a number of stepping contests including the creme-de-la-creme, The World’s Largest Stepping Contest, I’m still waiting for that moment of fulfillment that will allow me to say, now that was a great contest. Instead, each time I walk away shaking my head from side to side and thinking, “How did they win?” Then my next thought is, what are the judges credentials and how does the scoring system work?

Is it possible other people are thinking the same thing? Based on the reactions from the audience when some of the winners are announced I would say I’m not the only one.  Continued


[5/23/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
I'm Still In Love With You by Al Green
#stepperssongoftheday

Al Green was the first great soul singer of the '70s and arguably the last great Southern soul singer. With his seductive singles for Hi Records in the early '70s, Green bridged the gap between deep soul and smooth Philadelphia soul.

He incorporated elements of gospel, interjecting his performances with wild moans and wails, but his records were stylish, boasting immaculate productions that rolled along with a tight beat, sexy backing vocals, and lush strings. The distinctive Hi Records sound that the vocalist and producer Willie Mitchell developed made Al Green the most popular and influential soul singer of the early '70s, influencing not only his contemporaries, but also veterans like Marvin Gaye. Green was at the peak of his popularity when he suddenly decided to join the ministry in the mid-'70s. At first, he continued to record secular material, but by the '80s, he was concentrating solely on gospel. During the late '80s and '90s, he occasionally returned to R&B, but he remained primarily a religious performer for the rest of his career. Nevertheless, Green's classic early- '70s recordings retained their power and influence throughout the decades, setting the standard for smooth soul.  Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 277 Tuesday 5/22/2012]
The Weekend Will Be Fun!
By Markie Bee
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Today's Steppers Beat Column is sponsored by Steppers West Associates 2012 Steppers Jam 3

A party, contest and a parade. Oh my!
 #steppersbeatcolumn

There is late addition or two to the events at Stepaganza this weekend in St. Louis. Another performer has been added this time for Thursday night, she goes by the name Natasha and she's from St. Louis and will perform a few numbers while folks step.

Here's one you don't want to miss either... it's just for fun. Let me say this part again it's just for fun (we all know how serious steppers can get)! There will be an Old Skool vs. New Skool competition called the ' Legends vs. New Skool All Stars' as they battle it out for the coveted ' Bragging Rights Cup.'

Nobody is going to take the cup itself home but they will be able to claim bragging rights until next year when they plan on doing it again. I love the spirit of the idea but once again I have to say, again it's just for fun!

I just took my suitcase out and am getting started on the arduous task of deciding what and how to pack it up for the week. My ticket was sent to me last week and I'm ready to go Stepaganza in St. Louis for a long weekend full of fun events and performances. You can still get your tickets (at a discount) by clicking here. You can get an all party pass for $60 which includes parties all weekend long. OH! And I didn't tell you about the parade! Read on...  Continued


[5/22/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
A change is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke
#stepperssongoftheday

He was born Sam Cook in Clarksdale, MS, on January 22, 1931, one of eight children of a Baptist minister and his wife. Even as a young boy, he showed an extraordinary voice and frequently sang in the choir in his father's church. During the middle of the decade, the Cook family moved to Chicago's South Side, where the Reverend Charles Cook quickly established himself as a major figure in the religious community. Sam and three of his siblings also formed a group of their own, the Singing Children, in the 1930s. Although his own singing was confined to gospel music, he was aware and appreciative of the popular music of the period, particularly the melodious, harmony-based sounds of the Ink Spots, whose influence could later be heard in songs such as "You Send Me" and "For Sentimental Reasons." As a teenager, he was a member of the Teen Highway QCs, a gospel group that performed in churches and at religious gatherings. His membership in that group led to his introduction to the Soul Stirrers, one of the top gospel groups in the country, and in 1950 he joined them.  Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 276 Monday 5/21/2012]
We See What We See
By Markie Bee
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Today's Steppers Beat Column is sponsored by Steppers West Associates 2012 Steppers Jam 3

They've got to be kidding...
 #steppersbeatcolumn

Apparently there isn't really as much interest in demonstrating against NATO as once thought. Only a few thousand demonstrators at its peak paled in comparison to the 1968 Democratic convention. I doubt the city should have been shut down the way it was for such a small contingent. What a waste!

It made a great media event though. Every TV station had their news team working overtime like nothing else was happening in the city (at least you'd think that if you watched the news). Do I care what the people were protesting? Not really. However I do defend their right to free speech and to protest what they please.

Steppers have the same right to like or dislike some music or the way some people step to some of that music. It's their opinion and they have a right to that opinion. The fact people are free to have their own opinion is important (even when many act like lemmings and follow instead of expressing their opinions).

There's a world of difference between putting what you believe in out there in the open public and not saying anything. It takes a certain amount of courage to take a stance in public just like it takes a certain lack of courage to mutter disingenuous epithets only to a small group. I've mentioned before roaches scatter when the light gets cast upon them.

  Continued


[5/21/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
Wonderful by Aretha Franklin
#stepperssongoftheday

Aretha Franklin is one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole. More than any other performer, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged. Her astonishing run of late-'60s hits with Atlantic Records "Respect," "I Never Loved a Man," "Chain of Fools," "Baby I Love You," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Think," "The House That Jack Built," and several others earned her the title "Lady Soul," which she has worn uncontested ever since. Yet as much of an international institution as she's become, much of her work outside of her recordings for Atlantic in the late '60s and early '70s is erratic and only fitfully inspired, making discretion a necessity when collecting her records.

Franklin's roots in gospel ran extremely deep. With her sisters Carolyn and Erma (both of whom would also have recording careers), she sang at the Detroit church of her father, Reverend C. L. Franklin, while growing up in the 1950s. In fact, she made her first recordings as a gospel artist at the age of 14. It has also been reported that Motown was interested in signing Aretha back in the days when it was a tiny start-up. Ultimately, however, Franklin ended up with Columbia, to which she was signed by the renowned talent scout John Hammond.  Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 275 Sunday 5/20/2012]
May Is For Vacations
By Markie Bee
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Today's Steppers Beat Column is sponsored by Steppers West Associates 2012 Steppers Jam 3

I'm ready for vacation.
 #steppersbeatcolumn

After five years and going on six years I've written almost 2,100 Steppers Beat columns on just about every subject I can tie to stepping. I've been the Devil's advocate at times by taking multiple sides in the ongoing controversies between new and old skool.

I've supported and opposed and refined my views concerning certification of the unique dance pattern... mainly because I can see both sides. Do I agree with what many steppers say about the issues of the day? Sometimes yes and sometimes I don't.

Do I think we should always 'read the fine print?' No there's too much fine print already. Is there one truth about stepping? Yes there is one truth per person and every one is correct from their perspective.

There are people out there who will attempt to reinforce 'their truth' about the dance at any cost for the sake of profit. They are usually the ones who protest at length at a continuing frequency when what is brought to light doesn't fit their viewpoints.

I've watched stepper steal from other steppers with workshops which were completely worthless and then turn it around on the complaining people by claiming to be victims themselves. It's a recurring theme... at least since 1996 when I first started actively with the dance.  Continued


[5/20/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
Special Lady by Ray, Goodman and Brown
#stepperssongoftheday

Ray, Goodman & Brown is an R&B vocal group. The group originated as The Moments, who formed in the mid-1960s and whose greatest successes came in the 1970s with hits including "Love on a Two-Way Street", "Sexy Mama" and "Look at Me (I'm in Love)". In 1979, for contractual reasons they changed their name to Ray, Goodman & Brown and had further hits, including "Special Lady". A lineup of The Moments (featuring original member Mark Greene) also tours.

The original members of The Moments were Mark Greene, Eric Olfus Sr., Richard Gross and John Morgan. The Moments formed in Washington, D.C. during the mid-1960s. In 1965, at Washington D.C.'s Howard University, the Mizell Brothers and Freddie Perren (along with schoolmate Toby Jackson) founded Hog Records and signed the harmony group as The Moments. The Moments recorded "Baby I Want You" and "Pray For Me" for Hog. The lineup consisted of Olfus, Gross and Morgan.  Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 274 Saturday 5/19/2012]
Making Charge Is Hard
By Markie Bee
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Today's Steppers Beat Column is sponsored by Steppers West Associates 2012 Steppers Jam 3

It's funny how things remain the same.
 #steppersbeatcolumn

I hear so many people say, "let's keep (get the dance back to) the way it was." Not to mince my words or fence sit in any way, I partially agree with that emotion.

When a dance is choreographed (even informally) and set to a particular pattern perhaps there should be some gate keepers. People who hold true to the original dance as it were when it first morphed from the bop into what they called stepping.

It's definitely different from anything 99.9% of the instructors are teaching today as I've been told. It was a "couple's dance" (starting dancing with male with male) as I've been told but I have also been told what I described was what was called freestyle (starting with the tag being introduced at the WLSC and still is by many).

It's a long stretch from the bop as done in Chicago but nonetheless people say that’s what stepping was and they want to bring the dance back. These dancers say there is so much misinformation out there about the dance, so many "bad instructors" out there that are turning the dance into a bunch of BS.

They don't like the counting systems, or the constant spins... they just can't tolerate them because that's not what the dance was. That's what I've been told. Somewhere in the vast expanse of time somebody from Chicago started to travel and they brought their knowledge of what they thought was the dance to other cities. That's what I've been told.

These people in need of a steppers fix started to teach other people how to dance this unique Chicago styled dance even though they may not have had a full enough knowledge of the dance. That's what I've been told. This happened in many cities starting in the Midwest and eventually spreading to cities like Atlanta, and Los Angeles. That's what I've been told.  Continued


[5/19/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
Magic Man by Grover Washington Jr.
#stepperssongoftheday

One of the most popular saxophonists of all time, Grover Washington, Jr. was long the pacesetter in his field. His roots were in R&B and soul-jazz organ combos, but he also fared very well on the infrequent occasions when he played straight-ahead jazz. A highly influential player, Washington pushed himself with the spontaneity and risk-taking of a masterful jazz musician.

Grover Washington, Jr.'s, father also played saxophone and was his first influence. The younger son started playing music when he was ten, and within two years was working in clubs. He picked up experience touring with the Four Clefs from 1959-1963 and freelancing during the next two years, before spending a couple years in the Army. He moved to Philadelphia in 1967, becoming closely identified with the city from then on, and worked with several organists, including Charles Earland and Johnny Hammond Smith, recording as a sideman for the Prestige label.  Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 273 Friday 5/18/2012]
Making Charge Is Hard
By Markie Bee
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Today's Steppers Beat Column is sponsored by Steppers West Associates 2012 Steppers Jam 3

It's funny how things remain the same.
 #steppersbeatcolumn

I hear so many people say, "let's keep (get the dance back to) the way it was." Not to mince my words or fence sit in any way, I partially agree with that emotion.

When a dance is choreographed (even informally) and set to a particular pattern perhaps there should be some gate keepers. People who hold true to the original dance as it were when it first morphed from the bop into what they called stepping.

It's definitely different from anything 99.9% of the instructors are teaching today as I've been told. It was a "couple's dance" (starting dancing with male with male) as I've been told but I have also been told what I described was what was called freestyle (starting with the tag being introduced at the WLSC and still is by many).

It's a long stretch from the bop as done in Chicago but nonetheless people say that’s what stepping was and they want to bring the dance back. These dancers say there is so much misinformation out there about the dance, so many "bad instructors" out there that are turning the dance into a bunch of BS.

They don't like the counting systems, or the constant spins... they just can't tolerate them because that's not what the dance was. That's what I've been told. Somewhere in the vast expanse of time somebody from Chicago started to travel and they brought their knowledge of what they thought was the dance to other cities. That's what I've been told.

These people in need of a steppers fix started to teach other people how to dance this unique Chicago styled dance even though they may not have had a full enough knowledge of the dance. That's what I've been told. This happened in many cities starting in the Midwest and eventually spreading to cities like Atlanta, and Los Angeles. That's what I've been told.  Continued


[5/18/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
Heavenly by Peabo Bryson
#stepperssongoftheday

Peabo Bryson is an American R&B and soul singer-songwriter, born in Greenville, South Carolina. He is well known for singing soft-rock ballads (often as a duo with female singers) and his contribution to several Disney animated feature soundtracks.

As one of the oldest of three siblings, two sisters and a brother, he spent much of his childhood on his grandfather's farm in Mauldin, South Carolina. His love for music stemmed from his mother, who often took the family to concerts of well known African-American artists at the time, such as Sam Cooke, Little Richard and Billie Holiday.

At age 14, Bryson marked his professional debut singing backup for Al Freeman and the Upsetters, a local Greenville group. It was Freeman's difficulty in pronouncing Bryson's French West Indian name, 'Peapo', that led Bryson to change its spelling to Peabo. Two years later he left home to tour the chitlin' circuit with another local band, Moses Dillard and the Textile Display. Bryson's first break Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 272 Thursday 5/17/2012]
The Passing Of A Legend
By Markie Bee
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Some thoughts on the passing of a queen.
 #steppersbeatcolumn

With today's loss of Donna Summer music lost yet another bright star. Her influence on the world of dance was large because not only did she appeal to the disco crowd but her musical influence ushered in a whole new way of dancing to the rest of the world changing it forever.

She had that crossover appeal many artists can only dream of having. Her version of the song "Love To Love You Baby" had a sensual sound to it that even the people who claimed to hate disco loved is a prime example of her appeal to more than the perceived niche she was associated with.

Long time DJ Steve Breeze Brewer said in a post in the Steppers Music Group; "May you R.I.P. she helped usher a new style of music that changed the dancing habits of the world. The great Donna Summer... As a DJ I will always remember playing that long sensuous track, "Love To Love You Baby." He's referring to the extended version of the song which ran 13 minutes long. (The link I'm pointing to has both the short and extended versions in it) I remember some slowed down remixes of the same song years ago.  Continued


[5/17/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
Special Lady by Freddie Jackson
#stepperssongoftheday

To urban contemporary listeners, Freddie Jackson was one of the biggest stars of the latter half of the '80s, dominating the R&B charts seemingly at will. Jackson's forte was sophisticated, romantic soul ballads aimed at adult audiences, but he was also capable of tackling urban contemporary dance fare and even the occasional jazz tune.

Yet unlike many of his peers Luther Vandross, Anita Baker, Peabo Bryson, etc. Jackson never managed to cross over to the pop charts, where none of his R&B smashes even breached the Top Ten. As new trends like hip-hop altered the urban contemporary landscape, Jackson gradually faded from view during the '90s.

Jackson was born October 2, 1956, in Harlem, and like so many soul stars, he was trained as a gospel singer from an early age, singing at the White Rock Baptist Church. There he met Paul Laurence, who would later become his producer and songwriting partner. After completing school, Jackson joined Laurence's group LJE (Laurence-Jones Ensemble) and played the New York club scene. During the early '80s, Jackson moved to the West Coast and sang lead with the R&B band Mystic Merlin, but soon returned to New York to work with Laurence at the Hush Productions company. He sang on demo recordings of Laurence's compositions, and also served as a backup singer for Melba Moore after she caught his nightclub act. Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 271 Wednesday 5/16/2012]
The Other Way Around
By Markie Bee
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Today's Steppers Beat Column is sponsored by Steppers West Associates 2012 Steppers Jam 3

The tickets to the WLSC are now on sale.
 #steppersbeatcolumn

Tickets are now on sale for the 2012 World's Largest Steppers Contest at the Majestic Gents website (MajesticGents.Net). The VIP tables chart is online so pick your table and place your orders.

As I sort of expected, there has been some backlash to the thought the contest should be sold before making the contest an elimination contest. It seems people think it should be the other way around. Give them the elimination contest and then they will attend. At least that's the gist of what people are saying (to me).

The next weekend will be 'interesting' (to say the least) in Chicago with the NATO summit being held in the city with fears of mob rule and violence stemming from protests and what looks like a giant police ramp-up and presence. The city will effectively be disrupted.

I know since I'm living on the North side there's no way to avoid the influence of what's happening since you can't go past downtown (or on the north side expressways because of the constant NATO motorcades from O'Hare stopping traffic). I'll just stay in the neighborhood away from all the 'action.' I have laundry to do! Plus I need to think about packing for my trip to Stepaganza in St. Louis.  Continued


[5/16/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
Falling by Melba Moore
#stepperssongoftheday

There were early signs that Melba Moore would become an entertainer. The most obvious motivation was her mother, Bonnie Davis, who was also a successful singer.

Witnessing the success that her mother endured, Moore knew the entertainment industry would not escape her. The world of performing arts was formally introduced to her by way of dance lessons at the age of four. Moore's mother impressed upon her that "if you don't touch people's hearts, it doesn't mean anything." Her stepfather would also become an instrumental figure in the development of her early career.

All her siblings were musically inclined. Melba's interest was dance. However, her stepfather insisted that she learn the piano. Against her will, she conceded and to her benefit. She gained much admiration for the blues and jazz pianists. Upon graduating from college, she became a music teacher, which she found very fulfilling. Nonetheless, Moore's affinity for the entertainment industry persisted. Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 270 Tuesday 5/15/2012]
They Need Money To Run
By Markie Bee
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Today's Steppers Beat Column is sponsored by Steppers West Associates 2012 Steppers Jam 3

You want elimination rounds... Here's How!
 #steppersbeatcolumn

Yesterday Pete Frazier told me a secret that everyone probably already knew (if they have been paying attention) about when it comes to eliminations in the semi-final rounds of the WLSC.

Eliminations are contingent on ticket sales. Wow! That was simple now wasn't it? Let me explain it to you. If he can sell out the VIP tickets he said he will start doing elimination rounds. Simply said, if the VIP tickets aren't sold out by the Chicago semi-finals he won't be able to do elimination rounds.

To make it even simpler to understand for those reading this that may not be business minded; he has to make the money to make the contest work the way we want it to work. They don't have major sponsorship like the contest had in the early '90's to pay the expenses and a gigantic purse. It takes money to put it all together so if you want to procrastinate and wait for the last minute to buy the tickets expect a show instead of the contest you've been clamoring for.

I fully understand as a businessman the need for having the funding ahead of time. Of course I also understand the point of view of the steppers enthusiast who wants to see a contest that lives up to it's name. Yea, it seems like a high pressure move but since people always go to the event why not 'call his bluff' buy the tickets sooner than later and hold him to his word. This way everyone is happy.

Over the next day or so I will be completing the Majestic Gents website which will include the seating chart and the facility to buy those tickets online right from the site. There will be an announcement when you can view the chart and make your purchases.  Continued


[5/15/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
La La Means I love You by The Delfonics
#stepperssongoftheday

The Delfonics were one of the first groups to sing in the sleek, soulful style that became popularized (thanks to producer Thom Bell) as the "Philadelphia sound."

A vocal trio made up of brothers William and Wilbert Hart and high school friend Randy Cain, the Delfonics roots go back to doo wop singing at school dances in the early '60s. They were well-known in the Philly area for their supple, airtight harmonies talent that brought them to the attention of record producers, eventually landing them a contract with Cameo-Parkway.

While their early records brought them little if any notice, it did bring them to the attention of producer/arranger Thom Bell who signed the band to his soon-to-be influential soul label Philly Groove. Right from the start this was a perfect match as the band released the classic "La La Means I Love You" in 1968, a song that began a string of hits lasting into the mid-'70s. Read more about the steppers song of the day


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Markie Bee[Volume 5 Issue 269 Monday 5/14/2012]
Can't Script This Dance
By Markie Bee
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Today's Steppers Beat Column is sponsored by Steppers West Associates 2012 Steppers Jam 3

You can't do footwork while you're spinning...
 
#steppersbeatcolumn

It's truly about the footwork. If there's one thing that sets Chicago style stepping apart from all of the other dances it's the footwork. "How you gonna do footwork if you're spinnin' all the time?" that's the question veteran stepper Jannice Robinson asked (and poignantly pointed out) when we were talking about the dance yesterday while in a conversation with her and Steppin' Luther about the Chicago's Largest Contest.

"You can't script the dance." Jannice pointed out. "You can't copy anyone and call it stepping because that's not what the dance is. I'm an original and I know." She went on to say how many of the people we look at today as original steppers really aren't. The most pointed statement she made (to me) in the conversation is the current crop of dancers aren't stepping.

Jannice and her partner Lil' Alfred tied for 1st place in the first World's Largest steppers contest in 1990. One of the awards at the Chicago's Largest Contest is in memory of Lil' Alfred. Once again this year the contest will be held at the completely remodeled Matteson Hotel and Convention Center in October.   Continued


[5/14/2012 Steppers Song Of The Day]
Gotta Make It Up To You by Angela Bofill
#stepperssongoftheday

Angela Bofill (born on May 2, 1954 in The Bronx) is an American R&B contralto vocalist and songwriter.

Bofill was born to a Cuban father and Puerto Rican mother. She performed with Ricardo Morrero & the Group and Dance Theater of Harlem chorus prior to her 1978 debut album, Angie. She scored several dance hits such as "Angel Of The Night," "Something About You," "Holding Out For Love," and "Too Tough." However, she is probably best known for her ballad "This Time I'll Be Sweeter" and her signature tune, "I Try". In the early 1980s, she recorded You're A Special Part Of Me, a duet with romantic balladeer Johnny Mathis. Her 1983 album "Teaser" featured the Top 10 R&B chart hit "I'm On Your Side," which also became a hit for Jennifer Holliday in 1991. Read more about the steppers song of the day


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