Sunday, 4 January 2009

the ritchie family: the best disco (group) in town

My all time favorite disco group was The Ritchie Family. Remember them? You should, they were responsible for the mega-hit, The Best Disco In Town. Let’s look at who this family was and what happened in their time-span.

The Ritchie Family (who were not related) consisted of Cheryl Jacks, Cassandra Wooten, and Gwendolyn Oliver. The group took its name from creator, Ritchie Rome with tracks written by the same team responsible for The Village People. Their musical debut came in 1975 with the album, Brazil. It fared well on the dance charts across the world.

Their second outing is probably the most famous. The album, Arabian Nights contained, The Best Disco In Town. The track consisted of two parts, easily broken down for a single release. With the single number 1 in various countries the group embarked on a world-wide promotional tour, even including Australia. The concept album was heavily hyped and saw moderate success.

In March 1977 the group released their third album, Life Is Music, with the title track being released as a single, it received heavy radio airplay, the song reached Top Ten in Australia. The album fared less well.

At this time, Producer, Jacques Morali took total control of The Ritchie Family with his partners: Henri Belolo, Phil Hurtt, and Horace Ott. Ritchie Rome was removed from the creative team. The group was rushed into Sigma Recording Studios for a fourth album to be released in August the same year, African Queens. Very much a concept album, the three women sang about the lives of Nefertiti, Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheba.

Following African Queens, the group changed record labels State-side. Sadly with all the changes it was decided to move the Ritchie Family in a new direction. Out also were Cassandra, Cheryl and Gwendolyn.

To this day, it remains a mystery as to what actually happened. The new “family” went on with moderate success for a few years. None of the original albums have found their way to a CD release. A few generic compilations have surfaced. The Sigma Sound Studio was closed in 2003, with the majority of tapes becoming the property of Drexel University Music Archive.

The original line-up have never reunited or appeared together since 1977. It’s also unknown if they have stayed in contact. I love the original Ritchie Family. They left us with some wonderful music.


Hans R. de Vries said...

All your questions are answered in:

Njoy! said...

Once again Hans, I say thanks. If there are fans who want to know what happened and what we are doing, you certainly have given them something to gravitate to. Thanks for caring and for sharing.

Cassandra Wooten
Ritchie Family (original member)

Ryan Bayne said...

Thanks for some great information on the Ritchie Family.