The Commodores is an American funk/soul band formed at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, USA. In 1968 the group was formed while all the members were in college at Tuskeegee Institute. After being discovered by Berry Gordy, the Commodores went on to sell over 60 million records for Motown.The group’s most successful period was in the late 1970s and early 1980s when Lionel Richie was the co-lead singer. The band’s biggest hit singles are ballads such as Easy, Three Times a Lady, and Nightshift and funky dance hits which include Brick House. In 1986, the Commodores won their first Grammy for the song Nightshift.
The Commodores’ Walter “Clyde” Orange, James Dean “JD.” Nicholas and William “WAK” King have influenced both artists young and old and in all genres with their classic songs. The group continues to perform, playing at arenas, theaters, and festivals around the world.
Commodores Band History
The members of the group met as freshmen at Tuskegee Institute in 1968, and signed with Motown in November 1972. The Commodores originally came together from two former student groups, the Mystics and the Jays. Richie described some members of the Mystics as jazz buffs. Together a six man band was created from which the notable individuals were Lionel Richie, Thomas McClary, and William King from the Mystics Andre Callahan, Michael Gilbert, and Milan Williams were from the Jays. They wanted to change the name. To choose a new name, William King opened a dictionary and randomly picked a word. “We lucked out.
The band originated while its members attended Tuskegee University in Alabama. After winning the university’s annual freshman talent contest. They performed mostly cover tunes and some original songs with their first singer, James Ingram. Lionel Richie and Orange alternated as lead singers. The Commodores made a brief appearance in the 1978 film Thank God It’s Friday. The songs Brick House and Easy were also played during the movie.
In 1982, Lionel Richie left to pursue a solo career. Skyler Jett replaced Richie as co-lead singer. Over time, several founding members left, McClary left in 1983 to pursue a solo career and to develop a gospel music company. McClary was replaced by guitarist vocalist Sheldon Reynolds, while LaPread left in 1986 and moved to Auckland, New Zealand. Reynolds departed for Earth, Wind & Fire in 1987, which prompted trumpeter William (WAK) King to take over primary guitar duties for live performances. Keyboardist Milan Williams exited the band in 1989 after allegedly refusing to tour South Africa.
The group also gradually abandoned its funk roots and moved into the more commercial pop arena. In 1984 former Heatwave singer James Dean (J.D.) ,Nicholas assumed co-lead vocal duties with drummer Walter Orange. In 2010 a new version was recorded, dedicated to Michael Jackson. The Commodores were on a European tour performing at Wembley Arena, London, on June 25, 2009, when they walked off the stage after they were told that Michael Jackson had died. Initially the band thought it was a hoax. However, back in their dressing rooms they received confirmation and broke down in tears. The next night at Birmingham’s NIA Arena,” J.D.”Nicholas added Jackson’s name into the lyrics of the song, and thenceforth the Commodores have mentioned Jackson and other deceased R&B singers.
In 2012, the band was working on new material, some contributions written by current and former members.The Commodores now consist of Walter (Clyde) Orange, James Dean “J.D.” Nicholas, and William” WAK” King, along with their five piece band, known as the Mean Machine. The group continues to perform, playing at arenas, theaters, and festivals around the world.
- Current members
- William “WAK” King – trumpet, rhythm guitar, keyboards, vocals (1968–present)
- Walter Orange – drums, vocals (1972–present)
- James Dean “J.D.” Nicholas – vocals, keyboards (1984–present)
- Former members
- Lionel Richie – vocals, keyboards, saxophone (1968–82)
- Milan Williams – keyboards, rhythm guitar (1968–89)
- Thomas McClary – lead guitar (1968–83)
- Andre Callahan – vocals, drums, keyboards (1968–70)
- Michael Gilbert – bass guitar, trumpet (1968–70)
- Eugene Ward – keyboards (1968–70)
- Ronald LaPread – bass guitar (1970–86)
- James Ingram – vocals, drums (1970–72)
- Skyler Jett – vocals, keyboards (1982–84)
- Sheldon Reynolds – lead guitar (1983–87)
- David Battelene – lead guitar (1987-1989)
- Mikael Manley – lead guitar (1995–2005)
- Studio albums
- Machine Gun (1974)
- Caught in the Act (1975)
- Movin’ On (1975)
- Hot on the Tracks (1976)
- Commodores (1977)
- Natural High (1978)
- Midnight Magic (1979)
- Heroes (1980)
- In the Pocket (1981)
- Commodores 13 (1983)
- Nightshift (1985)
- United (1986)
- Rock Solid (1988)
- No Tricks (1993)
- Easy (1977)
- Brick House (1977)
- Sail On (1979)
- Nightshift-Single Version (1985)
- Three Times a lady (1978)
- still (1979)
- Jesus Is Love (1980)
- zoom (1977)
- Lady (1981)
- Just to Be Close to You (1976)
- Easy Like Sunday Morning
- Sweet Love ( 1975)
- Stuck On You (2006)
- Say Yeah (1978)
- High On Sunshine (1976)
- Machine Gun (1974)