R&B group, producers
Full Force, which has been around in one form or another for more than a quarter century, has had a far more pervasive influence on contemporary urban music than its own recordings would indicate. The group’s six members first caught the industry’s attention as producers and songwriters who helped conceive and produce chart-busting albums for both new and established artists, ranging from U.T.F.O., Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, and James Brown to the popular boy bands ‘N Sync and Backstreet Boys.
As performers, the members of Full Force have turned out half a dozen of their own best-selling albums, as well as 20 or so singles that made it onto the charts. In mid-2001, after a six-year absence from the spotlight, Full Force released the aptly named Still Standing, a compilation that provides both a retrospective on their past accomplishments and a preview of what they have in store for their fans in the years ahead. The CD, released in a joint venture between their own Forceful Records label and TVT Records, features four big hits originated by the group, five songs they originally produced for other artists, and seven brand new numbers.
Members include Curt “Curt-t-t” Bedeau, vocals, guitar; Gerry C. “Baby Gerry” Charles, vocals, keyboard; Junior “Shy-Shy” Clarke, bass; Brian “B-Fine” George, vocals, percussion; Lucien “Bow-Legged Lou” George, Jr., vocals; Paul Anthony George, vocals.
Group formed as the Amplifiers, Brooklyn, NY, mid-1970s; appeared at Apollo Theater’s amateur night, won first prize four times in a row; signed Steve Salem as manager, late 1970s; rose to prominence by writing and producing R&B hits for U.T.F.O., Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, and other groups, mid-1980s; started releasing solo material, late 1980s; continued to write and produce for others, including James Brown, Selena, LFO, Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync, and Patti LaBelle; released Still Standing, which combined four classic Full Force songs, five top 10 singles produced by the group for other artists, and seven brand new songs, 2001.
Addresses: Record company —TVT Records, 23 E. 4th St., 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10003-7028, website: http://www.tvtrecords.com/home. Website —Full Force Official Website: http://www.fullforcefamily.com.
All six members of Full Force grew up in Brooklyn and all are members of the same family. Half the group is made up of the George brothers—Brian “B-Fine,” Lucien “Bow-Legged Lou,” Jr., and Paul Anthony—while the other half consists of their cousins, Curt “Curt-t-t-” Bedeau, “Baby Gerry” C. Charles, and Junior “Shy Shy” Clarke. The George brothers were encouraged and trained to sing by their father, Lucien George, Sr., and Uncle Cito. All six attended Brooklyn public schools, and in the mid-1970s, put together an R&B vocal group they called the Amplifiers.
They started out performing at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater. In an interview appearing on Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner website, Bowlegged Lou recalled: “Back in the day, every week on Wednesday night was an amateur show… everybody could compete…. We entered and won first prize our first go-round—we were singing this song called “Cloud Nine,” which the Temptations did years and years ago…. We won first prize fours weeks in a row, cuz you had to win four weeks in a row to appear on the professional show…. We were like the little Jackson 5, we sang and played instruments, but we mostly sang. That was before the Jheri curls, of course.”
Those Jheri curls were very much a part of the group’s look during the 1980s, but in their latest incarnation, Full Force members sport clean-shaven heads, a look they deem more appropriate for the new millennium. Although the group continued to appear in local clubs throughout the New York metropolitan area after their premiere at the Apollo, their first big success came behind the scenes, not in the spotlight. Steve Salem, a close friend of Bow-Legged Lou, had signed on as their manager, and he outlined a strategy he thought might help bring Full Force to the attention of the record industry. Because they were not being noticed as performers, Salem suggested they turn some heads by showing what they could do as producers. Once they’d won the attention of recording company executives with their producing talents, they then could show what they had to offer as performers.
For its first big producing project, Full Force teamed with rappers U.T.F.O. in 1985 to cowrite and produce that group’s big hit, “Roxanne, Roxanne.” Next Full Force put together a single with Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, “I Wonder If I Take You Home.” Released on an independent label called Personal, the song made few waves in the United States but turned into a big hit in overseas markets. Rereleased in the United States on the Columbia label, it shot almost immediately to the top of Billboard’s dance chart, and by the summer of 1985, had peaked at number six on the R&B chart. At this point Salem’s strategy kicked in. On the strength of the group’s hit for Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, Columbia signed a contract with Full Force to release solo material.
Full Force enjoyed some modest success on its own, particularly with the singles, “All in My Mind,” “Temporary Love Thing,” and “Unfaithful So Much.” Another of the group’s early chart breakthroughs was “Alice, I Just Want You for Me.” In their profile on the Festival Mushroom Records website, Bow-Legged Lou said of the single: “We were one of the first groups to incorporate hip-hop loops onto R&B-flavored tracks, and we got a reputation for blending hip-hop and R&B early on.”
The group, however, remained best known in the recording industry as a successful production team. Some of the major hits they produced for Lisa Lisa included “Head to Toe,” “Lost in Emotion,” and “All Cried Out.” In 1988 Full Force offered its producing expertise to R&B legend James Brown on his I’m Real album, the title track of which scored a big hit. Others for whom the team produced during this period included Samantha Fox, Jasmine Guy, and Cheryl Pepsii Riley. By the end of the 1980s the group’s unique blend of styles had given the winning edge to seven gold albums, four platinum albums, and eight gold and platinum singles, all of which racked up total sales of more than $16 million.
In the early 1990s Full Force focused its producing talents on fledgling pop acts that were trying to get established. Interviewed by Gene Geter for the Black Voices website, Bow-Legged Lou recalled a time when black music executives were less than receptive to the group’s requests for some producing jobs. “When I was in a bad car accident and we were looking for production jobs again, we called the black executives and they had amnesia at the time. We went to see some other executives because we make music for everybody. They opened the door, and that’s how we started producing for Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync, Britney Spears, and LFO. It was the best thing that happened in our career.” Full Force produced what turned out to be one of the Backstreet Boys’ biggest hits, “All I Have to Give.”
Full Force’s July of 2001 album Still Standing featured a number of guest spots by big-name performers. After several years out of the performance spotlight themselves, Full Force feared that an album featuring them alone wouldn’t attract the audience they hoped to reach. Among the many artists who contributed to Still Standing are Gerald Levert, ‘N Sync, Montell Jordan, Ginuwine, Da Brat, Backstreet Boys, and Method Man.
Writing in Pulse! magazine, reviewer Soren Baker said of the compilation CD: “With Still Standing, Full Force incorporates several of its past party-pleasers and a batch of new songs that show its production talents are as fresh as they were when they propelled U.T.F.O. (“Roxanne, Roxanne”) and Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam (“I Wonder If I Take You Home”) to the top of the pop music charts in the 1980s. Those hits still contain the group’s spark and sound surprisingly fresh alongside such new selections as “No Other Love Will Do,” which feature the Product G&B and Sole. As it’s done throughout its distinguished career, Full Force delivers another satisfying round of pop rap and R&B selections.” The group is likely to continue to influence contemporary urban music—both as performers and producers—for years to come.
Full Force, CBS, 1985.
Get Busy 1 Time, CBS, 1986.
Guess Who’s Coming to …, CBS, 1987.
Love Is for Suckers, CBS, 1987.
Ain’t My Type of Hype, CBS, 1989.
Friends B4 Lovers, CBS, 1989.
Kiss Those Lips, CBS, 1989.
Smoove, CBS, 1989.
Don’t Sleep, Capitol, 1992.
Quickie, Capitol, 1992.
Can I Get Your Number?, Forceful, 1994.
Back Together Again, Homegrown, 1995.
Sugar on Top, Forceful, 1995.
Still Standing, Forceful, 2001.
Billboard, October 3, 1992, p. 19; August 9, 1997, p. 32; January 16, 1999, p. 76.
“Bowlegged Lou Talks about Resurgence of Full Force,” BlackVoices, http://new.blackvoices.com/entertainment/music/bv-lou010917.column (March 17, 2002).
“Family Affair: Full Force,” Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner, http://www.daveyd.com/fullforceinterview.html (January 2, 2002).
“Full Force—Album: Still Standing” Festival Mushroom Records, http://www.fmrecords.com.au/viewartist.cfm?Artistld=294 (March 17, 2002).
“Full Force: Band Bio,” TVT Records, http://www.Mrecords.com/artists/?art_id=240 (January 4, 2002).
“Full Force Featuring Bambue,” Soul Train, http://www.soultrain.com/st/fforcebk.html (January 2, 2002).
“Full Force: Still Standing,” Pulse!, http://pulse.towerrecords.com/contentStory.asp?contentld=1792 (January 2, 2002).
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