The Whispers Celebrate Their Golden Anniversary Aboard the Soul Train Cruise
A luxury cruise, sapphire blue oceans and radiant sunsets, days and nights surrounded by lifelong friends … it’s an extraordinary way to celebrate a 50th anniversary. And when you’re The Whispers, it’s an absolute dream come true to have it all take place aboard October’s Soul Train Cruise; it's the perfect tribute to the group who was on “Soul Train” more than any other during its 35-year reign.
“If you would have told me that almost 50 years later we would be singing as a vocal group, earning a living, I would have laughed,” marvels Walter Scott. “I never would have dreamed it — it’s like a fairy tale that came true.” Walter, his twin brother Wallace “Scotty” Scott, Leaveil Degree and Nicholas Caldwell will share their fairy tale and mark their golden anniversary with fans and friends during a set of performances on the ship, where they will receive the very first Soul Train Cruise Honors Award. But what The Whispers are most excited about are their fans. “On a cruise, you really get the opportunity to meet your fans up close and personal,” says Walter. “You get to see them and have a real genuine conversation. When you do a concert, you’re on the stage and then there might be a little time where you sign autographs afterward and then you’re gone. On a cruise, they can see you on a daily basis, and I really like that.” Scotty agrees wholeheartedly. “That’s the time you get to pay back. These are the people who have supported you for years and the first thing we all say is thank you for supporting us. They can come up to you and shake your hand and hug you, and that’s what it’s really all about.”
It’s this unwavering appreciation of their fans that has kept the award-winning group popular for an astounding 50 years. That, and sheer talent mixed with a tireless work ethic, not to mention one of the greatest stage shows on the road today. “It’s hard work,” says Scotty, “but, you know, it’s more fun for us than anything. The Whispers’ secret weapon, in my opinion, has always been our live show and it’s the biggest reason why I think we are still here after 50 years.”
“We even have a song called ‘The Whispers Love You Too,’” adds Walter, “telling our fans how much we appreciate them being in our corner for 30, 40, 50 years. After all these years, we want to say thank you.”
Those years began in Watts, Calif., where The Whispers first met while in junior high. “When we first started, we were in the Jordan Downs projects,” recalls Walter, “and we would joke around using a broom as a microphone. And at the end of each song, we would make sounds like a cheering crowd,” he laughs. “And to be honest with you, that all came true. Back then, we never would have dreamed that we’d have a 50-year career.”
“Eventually, we put out a little record called ‘Never Again,’” adds Scotty. “At the time there was a disc jockey up in the Bay Area, and he was the most popular guy up there. His name was Sly Stone — this was before he was THE Sly Stone — and he picked up our record and thought we had a great hit, and he wanted to bring us up there. That’s when I thought maybe this is real, when we were discovered by Sly Stone.” The regional success of “Never Again” led to a string of hits beginning with 1969’s Top 20 R&B smash “The Time Will Come,” the top 10 “Make It With You” and “Let’s Go All The Way,” the Top 5 hits “Keep On Lovin’ Me,” “Tonight,” and “Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong.” By the time The Whispers released their crossover smash “And The Beat Goes On” in 1980, they had solidified their place in R&B history. “We had five or six gold albums at that point,” says Walter. “We really benefitted from the success of that song, it went double platinum, and we thought to ourselves, ‘well, it’s been a great ride.’ And then, lo and behold, we hooked up with these young guys named LA Reid and Babyface.”
Together, they created what introduced The Whispers to a whole new generation of fans. In 1987, “Rock Steady” became a No. 1 R&B hit, a Top 10 pop hit, and was the bonafide song of the summer that year. “Hard work just simply always pays off,” Scotty modestly insists. “Back when we first started, we couldn’t believe somebody was actually going to pay us for something we’d be willing to pay them to do.”
Through it all, there was one fan whose dedication brought the group to new heights and helped keep them there for decades.
“We had first met Don Cornelius back when ‘Soul Train’ was still a local show in Chicago,” recalls Walter. “Through the years we’d come back to play so many times ... we’ve only just recently realized that The Whispers were on ‘Soul Train’ more than any other act in history. Don Cornelius made the careers of so many African-American artists. It really gave these acts a way of getting exposure in a way no one did before and we were a part of that.”
“We were the first act that ‘Soul Train’ signed when it started a recording label,” says Scotty. “And the original theme song for the show was done by The Whispers,” adds Walter. “There was a lot of history there, and then Don and I became personal friends,” Scotty continues. “I think every act will tell you had it not been for Don, there would be no acts. When they hit ‘Soul Train’ that’s when their career started. We can thank Don Cornelius for that.”
“It’s the most exciting feeling in the world to be on the ship with all these acts that have done ‘Soul Train’ because we were right there with them,” adds Walter excitedly. Scotty chimes in, “I wasn’t surprised with what Don had laid before he left that we’d have a cruise. I think it’s a great tribute to him that somebody said ‘let’s take it on the water.’”
“We wanted to be a part of it from the very beginning,” explains Walter, “and when we got the call we were elated, no question about it. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.” Continues Scotty, “The reason why we weren’t on the first one is because we were already booked somewhere, so we joined the second one and were just overjoyed about it.”
But it remains all about their fans. “Not only do we recognize the fans who have been coming to our shows over the years,” explains Scotty, “but now we recognize them and their children. They come and they bring their kids and now their kids are bringing their kids. It’s just the most amazing thing — you look around and say ‘I know your mom, I know your dad and now you’re bringing your teenaged kid.’ It’s such a wonderful thing. Who could have believed that something like that would ever happen?”
Earth, Wind & Fire released “Now, Then & Forever” on Sept. 10, led by their first new single in eight years, “My Promise.” The group launched a North American tour in early September, which will include performances aboard The Soul Train Cruise.
Gladys Knight received the McDonald's 365 Black Award. The annual awards program, based on the McDonald's "Deeply Rooted in the Community" 365 days a year campaign, was launched in 2003 to recognize people who are making positive contributions to strengthen the African-American community. Honorees were recognized in the categories of Arts and Entertainment, Business, Education, Sports, Influential Youth and Lifetime Achievement.
President Barack Obama called Jeffrey Osborne his favorite R&B singer this summer in a lighthearted response to mixing up Jeffrey’s name with British Finance Minister George Osborne. “I’m sorry, man. I must have confused you with my favorite R&B singer,” Obama is said to have quipped after the gaffe. Jeffrey just hosted his second annual celebrity golf tournament in his hometown of Providence, R.I. on Aug. 12 and 13, featuring Earvin “Magic” Johnson. All proceeds benefit the Amos House, the Boys and Girls Club of Providence, The Met Center and the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Music School. Further information can be found at www.JeffreyOsborneClassic.org.
Join Jeffrey Osborne for a Special Golf Excursion During Soul Train Cruise 2013
Jeffrey Osborne will be hosting a golf excursion in Puerto Vallarta during Soul Train Cruise 2013. Shall we book your tee time?
La Marina Golf Course has just raised the standard with its new upscale championship facilities and exclusive country club. From the pier you’ll be boarding your air-conditioned transport for a 10-minute ride to La Marina Golf Course. Upon arrival at the clubhouse, you’ll be met by a golf pro who will provide you with all the necessary information regarding the course. You’ll have the opportunity to swing your way through 18 holes of one of the most spectacular courses in Puerto Vallarta.
Space will be limited, so please sign up now. Simply email PVExcursions@ecpcruises.com and tell us you'd like to participate in the golf excursion. Please indicate the names of all participants. We will simply charge your account accordingly, and the amount will be added to your final payment. How easy is that?
NOTES: Included are transportation to the golf course and back to the ship, green fee, golf cart (shared), clubs, balls and tees.
DATE: Tuesday, Oct. 8
DEPARTURE TIME: 8:30 a.m.
DURATION: 5 Hours
ACTIVITY LEVEL: Easy
ALL INCLUSIVE PRICE PER GUEST: $209.95
Includes caddy, club rental, cart, coffee, 25 golf balls, practice in putting green, tees and roundtrip transport.
If you haven't booked your cabin on Soul Train Cruise 2013, it's not too late. Cabins are still available, and you can make your reservation request online now.
Soul Train Trivia
- What All-American department store was one of “Soul Train’s” first sponsors?
- Which act appeared on “Soul Train” every year between 1971–1983?
- After Don Cornelius ended his 22-year run as host of the show, who are some of the hosts that followed?
- How many seconds does a contestant have to win at the Scramble Board?
- Did Don ever make his way down the famed “Soul Train” line?
Trivia Answers …
- The Whispers
- • Comedian Mystro Clark
• Actor Shemar Moore
• Actor Dorian Gregory
- 60 seconds
- Yes, just once.
Q&A With Tony Cornelius
Tony Cornelius has been a part of Soul Train since his teenage years, learning the business from the inside out, first as a production assistant and later rising to the role of producer. He now carries on the legendary show’s legacy and heads the Don Cornelius Foundation in honor of his father.
Recently, Tony spoke about “Soul Train,” his father, and how both will be honored during October’s Soul Train Cruise.
“Soul Train” was a program that forever changed music, fashion and culture for generations of people around the world. And you were in the unique position of being right there in the middle of it all, working in so many aspects of the production. What was that experience like?
Tony: It’s amazing how much information I had access to, and that my father gave me the opportunity to learn every facet of the business. Starting as a production assistant — I think it’s really important when getting involved in this business to start from the bottom and work your way up — it was an awesome experience for me.
Working on the show was something I wanted to do. And it wasn’t enough just to work but to study as well (Tony majored in cinematography in college). And from that study grew a passion for the business. It was a long road and it was a tough road because there are things that happen in production that you don’t expect and you have to learn to continue to move the project forward, as my father always said to me. There were so many things that I learned from him. And you’re only as good as the person behind you or in front of you. It’s a collaborative effort.
At what point did you and everyone around you start to notice the impact the show was having, or was that always something that was planned?
It was certainly always part of the plan. And my father worked hard and long to make sure that plan came to fruition. He used to always say, “You find a need and you serve it.” Although I think a lot of people who were involved in the show didn’t really know the impact it was having at the time. When you’re in it, you’re doing what you know and taking care of what people need, and when it’s all said and done you stand back and can finally see what kind of impact you’ve created. That’s when you really know that you’re doing good work. It was a metamorphosis that developed right before our eyes.
It was a great feeling to have people like what you’re doing. Artists enjoyed performing on the show, dancers enjoyed being there every day. You can tell when people show up and they’re excited about what they’re doing. Cameramen and directors and editors and audio men and publicists and agents. It was just an exciting time.
At what point did the team start to realize that the potential for “Soul Train” could go beyond just a television show?
I think that we tend to understand things better when they are over. After the lights go off and when it’s not there anymore. People really miss it. We all really understand that we were part of something that was larger than ourselves.
“Soul Train” transformed into a record label, award shows, DVDs ... Could you ever have imagined it would launch a cruise?
Well, to be honest with you, no (laughs). As every day passes, you find out that there’s more to the Soul Train legacy and more and more ways to honor it. The cruise is unbelievable. The inaugural launch was fantastic. I was fortunate enough to be on that first cruise and there was amazing music every day — it was just an unbelievable experience. This is something that I’m enjoying. StarVista/Time Life and ECP Cruises have really put their knowledge and their expertise into creating an atmosphere on the cruise that is really second to none. I can’t wait for the October trip.
The Whispers have always had a special relationship with “Soul Train” and will receive the very first Soul Train Cruise Honors Award on the ship in October.
My father was extremely close to The Whispers and they were to him as well, really right from the beginning. Scotty (Wallace Scott) and Walter (Scott), they’re like family to me, from bowling to sharing meals and holidays together. We’re still very, very close.
What's it going to be like to see them perform on the cruise?
Fantastic! I am extremely proud and happy for them and their 50th anniversary in the business. I’m very, very excited about seeing them during the cruise.
You’ve started the Don Cornelius foundation to help others ...
The Don Cornelius Foundation is dedicated to establishing programs for the awareness, prevention and support of those contemplating suicide or for survivors who have lost a loved one. It’s incredibly important to me. I miss my dad so much and it’s something that I am really pushing forward with so that it doesn’t happen to others. Currently we’re launching the Don Cornelius Foundation’s inaugural People All Over The World campaign at www.DonCorneliusFoundation.org.
Questlove of the Roots Releases a New Book, ‘Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of a Generation’
One of the biggest fans of the show, the musician-turned-author has written a book on “Soul Train,” with our very own STC ’13 performer Gladys Knight contributing the forward. Questlove blogged on OkayPlayer.com that “next to Berry Gordy, Don Cornelius was hands down the MOST crucial non political figure to emerge from the civil rights era post 68 … Don managed to show US how important we were.
“Soul Train to me is the GREATEST creation and inspiration of my life.”
The vibrant book commemorates the legacy of “Soul Train” with 350 photographs of the show's most memorable episodes and the larger-than-life characters who defined it: the great host Don Cornelius, the extraordinary musicians, and the people who lived the phenomenon from the stage, dance floor, and behind the scenes. Click here to pre-order your copy today!