Archie Bell & the Drells

Archie Bell & the Drells was an American R&B vocal group from Houston, Texas, and one of the main acts on Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff's Philadelphia International Records. The band's hits include "Tighten Up", "I Can't Stop Dancing" (both 1968), "There's Gonna Be A Showdown", "Girl You're Too Young" (1969), "Here I Go Again" (also a UK hit in 1972[2]), "Soul City Walk" (1975), "Let's Groove", "Everybody Have A Good Time" (1977), and "Don't Let Love Get You Down" (1976).[3]

Archie Bell & the Drells
The group in 1968.
Background information
OriginHouston, Texas, U.S.
GenresFunk, R&B, soul, Southern soul
Years active1966–1981
Philadelphia International
MembersArchie Bell
Lee Bell
Joe Cross
Willie Parnell
James Wise
Lucious Larkins
Billy Butler


Early days

Archie Bell, who founded the group, was born in Henderson, Texas, his family moving to Houston before he was a year old.[4] He is the older brother of lead vocalist of Motown's Dazz Band—and world karate champion—Jerry Bell. His brother Ricky Bell (d. 1984) was an NFL player. Eugene Bell was the final brother. Archie formed the group in 1966 with his friends James Wise, Willie Parnell and Billy Butler. They signed with the Houston-based record label Ovide in 1967 and recorded a number of songs including "She's My Woman" and "Tighten Up", which was recorded in October 1967 at the first of several sessions in which the Drells were backed by the instrumental group the T.S.U. Toronadoes.[5][6][7]

The origins of "Tighten Up" came from a conversation Bell had with Butler. Bell was despondent after receiving his draft notice, and Butler, in an attempt to cheer him up, demonstrated the "Tighten Up" dance to Bell. Bell asked Butler what it was, and Butler told him the name. Bell then put together the famous track, which hit the charts following his induction into the Army.

Bell's promoter, Skipper Lee Frazier, unsuccessfully began pushing the flip side of "Tighten Up", a song called "Dog Eat Dog". But at the recommendation of a friend, he gave the other side a try. "Tighten Up", written by Archie Bell and Billy Butler,[8] contained Archie Bell prodding listeners to dance to the funky musical jam developed by the T.S.U. Toronadoes,[9] and it became a hit in Houston before it was picked up by Atlantic Records for distribution in April 1968. By the summer it topped both the Billboard R&B and pop charts. It also received a R.I.A.A. gold disc by selling 1 million copies.[8] According to the Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson, Bell heard a comment after the Kennedy assassination in Dallas that "nothing good ever came out of Texas." Bell wanted his listeners to know "we were from Texas and we were good."

Many believe Bell was wounded in action in Vietnam while the band was still at the height of its fame, but he actually injured his leg in a truck accident while stationed in Germany.[4] The success of the single prompted the band to rush out an album, despite their incapacitated leader. In 1969 the group recorded their first full album with Gamble and Huff, I Can't Stop Dancing, which reached number 28 on the R&B album chart. By this time another of Archie's brothers, Lee Bell (born January 14, 1946, Houston), had replaced Butler, and became the band's choreographer.

Reid Farrell, who was from Houston, was the guitarist who traveled and played with the group.

Later career

The band backing Archie Bell & The Drells from 1975-1979 was called "The Melting Pot Band", which featured musicians from several states. McNasty McKnight was the band leader playing trombone. Graduates of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA) in Houston traveled with the group, including Don Pope and Tony Salvaggio on saxophone. Other musicians included Lonnie LaLanne and Calvin Owens (trumpet), Abel Salazar (keyboards), and Mike Hughes (drums). LaLanne and Owens were alumni of B.B. King's band.

In 1975, the band released their "total-disco comeback album," Dance Your Troubles Away.[10] The single "Soul City Walk" made number 13 in the UK Singles Chart, but reached only number 42 on the US chart. After moderate chart showings in the late 1970s, the group split in 1980. Archie Bell later released one solo album (I Never Had It So Good - 1981) on Beckett Records and continued to perform with The Drells for the next twenty years. During the 1990s the lineup also included Steve "Stevie G." Guettler (guitar, vocals), Jeff "JT" Strickler (bass guitar, vocals), Steve Farrell (guitar, vocals), Mike Wilson (keyboards, vocals) and Wes Armstrong (drums, vocals) of the Atlanta-based group The Rockerz.

On April 16, 2013, the Mayor of Houston Annise Parker honored Archie Bell, Lucious Larkins, and James Wise with a proclamation of Archie Bell and the Drells Day.[11]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Archie Bell & the Drells among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[12]



Year Album details Peak chart positions
US 200 US
1968 Tighten Up 142 15
1969 I Can't Stop Dancing -- 28
There's Gonna Be a Showdown 163 --
1975 Dance Your Troubles Away 95 11
1977 Where Will You Go When The Party's Over -- 47
Hard Not To Like It -- --
1979 Strategy -- 37
1981 I Never Had It So Good
  • Billboard Debut Date: Did not chart
  • Label: Becket Records
      • Only solo album released by Archie Bell
-- --


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
1968 "Tighten Up"
  • Recorded October 1967 in Houston
  • Debuted 3/30/1968
1 1 -- Tighten Up
"I Can't Stop Dancing"
  • Recorded May 1968 in Philadelphia
  • With Leon Huff and The Bobby Martin Orchestra
  • Debuted 7/20/1968
9 5 -- I Can't Stop Dancing
"Do The Choo Choo"
  • Recorded May 1968 in Philadelphia
  • With Leon Huff and The Bobby Martin Orchestra
  • Debuted 9/28/1968
44 17 --
"Love Will Rain On You"
  • B-side of "Do The Choo Choo"
  • Recorded June 3 & 4, 1968, in New York City
-- 25 --
"There's Gonna Be a Showdown"
  • Recorded November 1, 1968, in Philadelphia
  • With Thom Bell, Leon Huff, & Bobby Martin's Orchestra
  • Debuted 12/14/1968
  • Re-released as a UK single in January 1973
21 6 36 There's Gonna Be a Showdown
1969 "I Love My Baby"
  • Recorded November 1, 1968, in Philadelphia
  • With Thom Bell, Leon Huff, & Bobby Martin's Orchestra
  • Debuted 3/29/1969
94 40 --
"Just A Little Closer"
  • B-side of "I Love My Baby"
  • Recorded October 24, 1968, in Houston
128 -- --
"Girl You're Too Young"
  • Recorded May 16, 1969, in Philadelphia
  • With Leon Huff & Thom Bell's Orchestra
  • Debuted 6/21/1969
59 13 --
"My Balloon's Going Up"
  • Recorded circa August 4, 1969, in Philadelphia
  • Debuted 9/13/1969
87 36 --
"A World Without Music"
  • Recorded November 15, 1969, in Philadelphia
  • With The Roland Chambers' Orchestra
  • Debuted 12/27/1969
90 46 -- Single only
"Here I Go Again"
  • B-side of "A World Without Music"
  • Recorded May 16, 1969, in Philadelphia
  • With Leon Huff and Thom Bell's Orchestra
  • When re-released as a UK single in October 1972, this song became a surprise hit.
112 -- 11 There's Gonna Be a Showdown
1970 "Don't Let The Music Slip Away"
  • Recorded November 15, 1969, in Philadelphia
  • With The Roland Chambers' Orchestra
  • Debuted 4/18/1970
100 -- -- Single only
"Wrap It Up"
  • Recorded circa June 1970 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama
  • With The Wade Marcus Orchestra
  • Debuted November 28, 1970
  • Final charting Atlantic single
93 33 --
1973 "Dancing To Your Music"
  • First single on Glades Records
  • Debuted March 3, 1973
61 11 --
"Ain't Nothing For A Man In Love"
  • Debuted June 23, 1973
-- 36 --
"You Never Know What's On A Woman's Mind"
  • B-side of "Ain't Nothing"
-- FLIP --
1975 "I Could Dance All Night"
  • First single on TSOP/Philadelphia International Records
  • Debuted June 14, 1975
-- 25 -- Dance Your Troubles Away
"The Soul City Walk"
  • Debuted December 27, 1975
-- 42 13
1976 "Let's Groove (Part 1)"**
  • Debuted February 28, 1976
-- 7 --
"Don't Let Love Get You Down"
  • Released summer 1976
  • Re-released as a UK single in June 1986
-- -- 49 Where Will You Go When The Party's Over
1977 "Everybody Have A Good Time"
  • Debuted April 9, 1977
-- 68 43
"Glad You Could Make It"
  • Debuted September 17, 1977
-- 63 -- Hard Not To Like It
1978 "I've Been Missing You"
  • Debuted January 21, 1978
-- 56 --
1979 "Strategy"
  • Last charting single on Philadelphia Records
  • Debuted August 11, 1979
-- 21 -- Strategy
1981 "Any Time Is Right"
  • Only charting Archie Bell solo single
  • Debuted May 9, 1981, on Becket Records
-- 49 -- I Never Had It So Good
  • NOTE: "Let's Groove" also charted at #3 on the U.S. Dance chart.
  • NOTE: "Dance Your Troubles Away", while never released as a single, reached #11 on the U.S. Dance chart in late 1975.

See also


  1. Ed Hogan (1944-09-01). "Archie Bell & the Drells | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-08-19.
  2. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 52. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  3. Rice, Tim; Rice, Jonathan; Gambaccini, Paul (1990). "Guinness Book of British Hit Singles & Albums". Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness World Records and Guinness Publishing. ISBN 0-85112-398-8. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. Dansby, Andrew (2007-08-26). "Archie Bell lets loose on his long, storied career". Chron. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2016-06-25.
  5. "Atlantic Records Discography: 1967". Jazz Discography Project. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  6. "Atlantic Records Discography: 1968". Jazz Discography Project. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
  7. Boone, Mike. "HISTORICAL ANALYSIS - Archie Bell & The Drells". Soul-Patrol Newsletter. Archived from the original on 2 July 2006. Retrieved 30 April 2006.
  8. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 236. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  9. Gray, Chris; Koshkin, Brett (12 December 2007), "The TSU Toronadoes: The twisted history of "Tighten Up"", Houston Press, retrieved 30 October 2011
  10. Aletti, Vince (April 1976). "I Won't Dance, Don't Ask Me". The Village Voice. Retrieved November 20, 2018 via The Quietus.
  11. "City Council Chamber, City Hall, Tuesday, April 16, 2013" (PDF). Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  12. Rosen, Jody (25 June 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019.

Other sources

  • Whitburn, Joel (2011). Record Research Online Database. "Archie Bell" Billboard Chart Discography. Retrieved March 25, 2011.
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