b. Donnie Elbert, 25th May 1936, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A.
d. 26th January 1989, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
Donnie Elbert was born in New Orleans in Louisiana in May 1936.
When he was three his family moved to Buffalo, New York.
He began to learn the guitar and the piano as a child and, by the time he was 19, he and his friend Danny Cannon, had formed the doo-wop group the Vibraharps.
The Vibraharps comprised of Donnie Elbert, Danny Cannon (a.k.a. Lenny O'Henry), Charles Hargro and Donald Simmons, (although Donnie Elbert and Danny Cannon formed the group, Danny Cannon and Donald Simmons were the basis of the group).
Donnie Elbert was a background vocalist, and the groups guitarist and arranger.
walk beside me - 1958 / what can I do? - 1957
Donnie played guitar, and was the songwriter, arranger, and background vocalist, for the group, whose debut release was the 1958 single 'Walk Beside Me' b/w 'Cosy With Rosy' for the Beech Records imprint.
the sensational donnie elbert sings - 1959
After two years with the group, Donnie embarked on a solo career.
He recorded a demo, which landed him a recording contract with the King label's DeLuxe subsidiary.
At Deluxe, he released a debut single, entitled 'What Can I Do?' b/w 'Hear My Plea', which reached number 12 in the U.S. R&B chart in 1957.
Successive singles included 'Believe It or Not' b/w 'Tell Me So' and 'Have I Sinned?' b/w 'Leona' , which made the local charts in Pittsburgh, also in 1957.
Donnie released five singles on Deluxe during 1958, including 'Let's Do the Stroll', 'My Confession of Love', 'I Want to Be Loved But Only by You', 'I Want to Be Near You' and 'Just a Little Bit of Lovin'.
Donnie later played New York's Apollo Theater and toured the chitlin' circuit, and completing an album, 'The Sensational Donnie Elbert Sings', after which he left DeLuxe in 1959.
He then signed to the Red Top Records imprint, where he recorded 'Someday (You'll Want Me to Want You)' b/w 'Help Me' (in 1960), then moving on to Vee-Jay Records, where he had another local hit with 'Will You Ever Be Mine?' b/w 'Hey Baby', also in 1960.
He recorded two further singles for Vee-Jay, which were 'Half As Old' and 'I've Loved You Baby'.
The song sold 250,000 copies in the Philadelphia area, after which he was drafted for a year, and then discharged in 1961.
the real me - 1965 / your red wagon - 1965
Donnie recorded singles for several labels between 1961 and 1965, including Jot, Jalynne, P & L, Parkway, Cub and Checker, and the Gateway label, where he released 'A Little Piece of Leather' b/w 'Do Wat'cha Wanna' in 1965.
The song failed to chart in the U.S., however, it reached number 27 in the pop charts when released on the Sue label in the UK several years later in 1972.
To this date, the song remains a Northern soul favourite.Donnie relocated to the U.K. during 1966, when he married.
In 1968, Donnie recorded 'In Between Heartaches' b/w 'Too Far Gone' for Atco Records, along with a cover version of The Supremes' song 'Where Did Our Love Go?', later for All Platinum in 1971.
He then recorded an album of Otis Redding cover versions, entitled 'Tribute To A King'.
Relocating to Deram Records in 1969, he released 'Without You' b/w 'Baby, Please Come Home', a song which went to the top of the Jamaican single charts.
He returned to the U.S. that year, and had his first U.S. chart hit in over a decade with the song 'Can't Get Over Losing You' b/w 'I Got To Get Myself Together' (recorded for the Rare Bullet label in 1970).
The song reached number 26 on the Billboard R&B chart.
where did our love go? - 1971 / have I sinned? - 1971
'I Got To Get Myself Together' was then turned into an A-Side for his own Elbert imprint in 1970, when he also released 'Sweet Baby' for the label the same year.
'Where Did Our Love Go?' was released on Sylvia Robinson's All Platinum label, and became his biggest hit, reaching number 15 on the U.S. pop charts, number 6 on the R&B charts, and number 8 in the UK during 1972.
He followed that single with the 45 'Sweet Baby', which reached number 30 on the R&B chart the same year.
He released 'You're Gonna Cry When I'm Gone' for the Bradley's label in 1970.
Donnie then signed with the Avco-Embassy imprint, teaming up with the Stylistics production team of Hugo & Luigi.
At the label he recorded a cover version of The Four Tops' evergreen 'I Can't Help Myself' (which reached number 14 on the R&B chart).
The label urged Donnie to record Motown associated material, which led to him leaving the label and returning to All Platinum for a run of R&B hits, including 'If I Can't Have You'.
A dispute regarding the ownership of the song Shirley & Company's R&B chart-topper 'Shame Shame Shame' (which was credited to label owner Sylvia Robinson), led to another label move.
stop in the name of love - 1974 / dancin' the night away - 1977
In 1972, Donnie recorded for the Trip and Polydor imprints, releasing 'I Can't Help Myself', 'Stop In The Name Of Love' and 'This Old Heart Of Mine' (all versions of Motown recordings).
In 1975 he recorded 'You Keep Me Crying (With Your Lying)' and 'I Got to Get Myself Together', for his own A/O label, songs which turned out to be amongst his final recordings.
Donnie released one single for the Echo imprint in 1979, entitled 'Are You Ready (Willing and Able)?' and released a couple of early Eighties singles for Gusto Records.
By the 1980's Donnie had retired from performing, and became the director of A&R for Polygram's Canadian division.
He suffered a massive stroke and died in January 1989, at the age of 52, in Philadelphia.
The Sensational Donnie Elbert Sings (King Records 1959)
The Real Me (ALA Records 1965)
Tribute To A King (Deluxe Records 1968)
Where Did Our Love Go? (All Platinum Records 1971)
Have I Sinned? (Deluxe Records 1971)
Stop In The Name of Love (Avco Records 1972)
A Little Bit Of Leather (All Platinum Records 1972)
Roots Of Donnie Elbert (Ember Records 1973)
Stop In The Name of Love (reissue) (All Platinum Records 1974)
Dancin' The Night Away (All Platinum Records 1977)
From The Gitgo (Sugarhill Records 1980)