309 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia, U.S.A.
gamble and huff
Philadelphia International Records is a record label founded by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff in 1971.
Several early ventures into label ownership, notably with Gamble and Neptune, had folded prematurely.
In 1966 Gamble and Huff created an independent label, entitled Excel Records.
Excel was then renamed Gamble Records and in 1972 it was brought into the Philadelphia International umbrella as a subsidiary.
In 1974, the subsidiary's name was changed to TSOP Records.
In the 1990's, Philadelphia International launched a new subsidiary, Uncensored Records.
This imprint included the newer genre's of Black Music, encompassing many of the hip hop artists on the scene.
In it's heyday, Philadelphia International was famous for showcasing the Black music of that particular part of America and it's unique Philadelphia Soul sound.
Much of the music released by the label was recorded and produced at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia International had more than thirty resident studio musicians, known together as MFSB (Mother-Father-Sister-Brother), were based at this studio and backed up many of these recordings.
The label had a distribution deal with CBS Records until 1984, when distribution of the catalog from 1976 to the present was taken over by EMI.
Sony Music Entertainment continued to distribute the catalog from 1969 to 1976.
gamble and huff
In 2007, Legacy Recordings regained the rights to Philadelphia International's full catalog.
Philadelphia International set benchmarks for quality and style, during the Seventies, in the same way that Motown had achieved during the previous decade.
philadelphia international records building demolished...
The above imagery represents, to followers of Philly Soul, the unbearable ‘coming to terms’ that an era has finally passed, very much in the same way that Wigan Casino followers now visit a deserted car park, where their shrine to Sixties Soul music once stood, re-kindling memories of years past.
Back in 2010, Christopher Cimini, a 27-year-old man was charged with arson, relating to the Philadelphia music company offices of the songwriting team Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
The building at 309 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia, was home to many of the finest singers and songwriters of the Seventies and early eighties.
Owned since 1973 by pioneering songwriting partners Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell, the Philadelphia International records building was sold to a company called Dranoff Properties (who intend to build a 47-story SLS International hotel and luxury condominium).
The street called South Broad Street (in front the building) was previously renamed Gamble Huff Walk.
The likes of Teddy Pendergrass, Patti LaBelle, Lou Rawls, Jean Carn, The Jones Girls, the Intruders, the Jacksons, the Three Degrees, Harold Melvin, Billy Paul, MFSB, Jerry Butler, the Stylistics, Archie Bell & the Drells, McFadden & Whitehead, Phyllis Hyman, and the O’Jays all passed through the buildings doors.
Christopher Cimini’s 'antics', caused severe damage, resulting in fire, smoke and water damage, ruining 40 percent of the memorabilia at Philadelphia International Records. Only the recording studio survived.
Kenny Gamble said at the time ‘When I walked through it the other day, it was like an old friend had died, I’m looking for the resurrection. Bottom line is we’ll be back’. Sadly, 4 years down the line, that was not to be the case.
309 S. Broad Street now has been reduced to it’s original kit of component parts, with the future of the site in the hands of the developer.
Kenny and Leon said the ‘Philadelphia International Records was an incredible African-American institution and music and cultural brand’.
Where the next institution of it’s kind will be, who knows, however there are echoes of the ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ regarding the overall picture, namely ‘they paved paradise, put up a parking lot’.
‘The Sound of Philadelphia (TSOP), was the Motown Records of the Seventies.
The imprint came into being in 1971.
Kenny and Leon collaborated with all genres within music, all of which ran parallel with the labels main imprint. These activities included work with the likes of Michael Jackson, Elton John, Dusty Springfield, Wilson Pickett, the Soul Survivors, Laura Nyro, the Trammps, the Dells amongst others.
Many of Philadelphia international’s releases, have now become mainstream classics.
Songs such as ‘Love Train’, ‘If You Don't Know Me by Now’, ‘For The Love Of Money’, ‘Don't Leave Me This Way’, ‘Me and Mrs. Jones’, ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’, ‘Only the Strong Survive’, ‘You'll Never Find A Love Like Mine’ and ‘Ain't No Stoppin Us Now’, are now seen as more than R&B tracks. They are Pop classics today.
The Philadelphia International Records signage was removed before demolition took place.
The sign was disassembled it into six pieces, then transported to safe storage, (along with other artifacts and memorabilia) from the recording studios and offices, are being preserved for future museum consideration.
Before the fire, the Philadelphia International Records offices had become a major tourist attraction. School children and celebrity VIPs, came to the building to see the historic rooms and hallways.
The Philly team included Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, Thom Bell, Linda Creed, Gene McFadden and John Whitehead, Bunny Sigler, Dexter Wansel, Bobby Martin, the MFSB Orchestra, Baker, Harris and Young, Joe Tarsia (Sigma Sound) along with many other notable artists and writers.
Joe Tarsia died in November 2022 at the age of 88.
In an ironic footnote, Gamble & Huff celebrated their 50th Anniversary in 2015.
artists who have recorded for the label include:
Archie Bell & The Drells
The Jones Girls
McFadden & Whitehead
Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
Dee Dee Sharp
Derek and Cyndi
The Three Degrees
The Whitehead Brothers
Talk of the Town
The Soul Survivors