Artist United Honors Philly’s Greatest Musicians
by Melissa Simpson
From Left to Right:
Carl Helm -
Former WDAS Radio Personality & Singer
Phil Hurtt -
Songwriter & Producer
Dexter Wansel -
Producer, Arranger Recording Artist
David Ivory -
Producer & Engineer
Keith Pelzer -
Songwriter & Producer.
Philly is known for having deep musical roots that trail back to the Soul and Motown era of the 60’s and beyond. Philadelphia International Records, founded by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, was the epicenter for soul legends of the likes of Teddy Pendergrass and Patti LaBelle. Over the years, Philadelphia has consistently churned out artists that have helped mold American music.
On Tuesday, January 28th, at Underground Arts, The Artists United unveiled a series of photos as part of their monthly showcase, featuring a handful of some of the most influential artists in Philadelphia’s music history. When it came to organizing the photo shoot, Lox Knox, founder of The Artists United, and Ashley Scott, co-founder of The Artists United and CEO of Philash Entertainment Group, took the lead. “I am very happy to see that Lox and Ashley sat down and put this together. We used to talk on the phone a lot about putting this whole situation together and to see it actually come to light after all these years is the greatest thing,” says Chris Odom, Director of Musicians at The Artists United.
Set in front of Philadelphia’s Museum of Art and shot by Kyle Ober, the photo series featured musicians Lox Knox, Joseph Tarsia, David Ivory, Phil Hurt, Jean Carn, Wilbert Hart, Carl Helm, Bunny Sigler, Ashley Scott, Dexter Wansel, Carvin Haggins, Jim Gallagher, Yusef Muhammad, Keith Pelzer, and Gerald Veasley. Main Course PHL was fortunate enough to get a chance to sit down and chat with some of these pioneers in music.
Ivory and Pelzer are the men behind the Neo-Soul sound that sprung out of Philly during the turn of the millennium. “I was apart of the whole neo-soul thing, it pretty much came out of my room with The Roots. I would be in my room and I would be cutting The Roots, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, and Common. I’m doing all these people out of my room, this was not for a week, this was years,” says Ivory when reminiscing over his time at Sigma Sound Studios.
Ivory, Pelzer, Badu, Scott, and The Roots would not have been able to do anything that they did if it weren’t for cats like Helm and Hurt laying the groundwork. Wansel was the first musician on the East Coast to get his hands on a synthesizer. Beyond that, Wansel wrote and produced songs for Teddy Pendergrass, Elle Varner, Drake, and Patti LaBelle. “I don’t think there is much musicality in music now. When I was working at the Uptown, I used to fall in love with the groups that were singing, harmonizing and trying different things,” said Wansel when asked what he found to be the biggest difference in music from the soul era and today.
Ivory and Pelzer were very appreciative of all of the groundbreaking work that men like Helm, Hurt, and Wansel put into making soul music what it is today and for setting the framework that has allowed them to continue on their own path of musical greatness. The night ended with the honored guests reminiscing on the past and planning for the future.