Formed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
The group comprised of:
James Lee Williams (b. Jimmie Lee Williams, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. d. 31st October 2016, Philadelphia VA Medical Center, 3900 Woodland Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, U.S.A.)
Joseph T. Harris
Leonard 'Butch' Davis
Double Exposure were formed in 1966 as a group called United Image, and were highly experienced, within the industry, when they signed a deal with Salsoul Records.
During the early 70's, as United Image, they recorded 'African Bump' on Stax Records.
Working with Salsoul producers Baker / Harris / Young, 'Ten Percent', was released in 1976 and was a major club success, as did the album of the same name.
Fronted by James Williams, 'My Love Is Free,' and the more controversial, 'Everyman', also charted.
'Everyman's' message didn't appeal to the liberal sections of society.
It spoke of everybody carrying his own weight, and helping themselves.
Part of the song has a beggar asking for spare change, only to be rejected and sent on his way.
Unusual message for the liberated 70's.
A conservative African-American talk show host in Cleveland used 'Everyman' as his theme song.
He went as far as to read the lyrics to listeners who didn't comprehend the message he was trying to put across to the audience.
ten percent - 1976 / fourplay - 1978 / locker room - 1979
Two subsequent albums on Salsoul, 'Four Play' in 1978, and 'Locker Room', the following year, were released, after which, Double Exposure faded into obscurity.
The group, however, released one single in 1981, for the Gold Coast imprint, entitled 'Yes, I'm In Love With You'.
London's Charly Records has released 'Best Of Double Exposure', a CD that contains their best Salsoul tracks, which is their most definitive work on the market.
Double Exposure scored some club hits but never made an impact on America's soul stations.
Their fame rested solely in disco clubs, and England, where their recordings received more 'exposure', if you pardon the pun!
Jimmy Williams, sadly, passed away in 2016 from cancer.
photo by hank dunning
album review - blues and soul 1976
This was very kindly sent to me by Joe Harris from the group:
On December 11, 1975 at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, Pa ,Double Exposure began recording what would become one of the most successful albums ever to come out of the Philly music empire. This empire already contained artist such as the O'JAYS, Billy Paul, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass, The Spinners, Blue Magic, Delphonics, The Tramps, Stylistics, the list goes on and on.
This album was entitled "Ten Percent" with the title cut having tremendous success first as a disco hit, then reaching the" R&B" charts and also having surprising success on the "POP" charts. The second single from that album "My Love is Free" was also a smash on all three charts putting Double Exposure over the top. The results, two gold singles, one gold album.
For Jimmy Williams, Charles Whittington, Leonard (Butch) Davis, and Joe Harris, this was their first taste of real success in the recording business but definitely not their first experience. Formerly known as United Image they have been singing together since Jr. High School.
After High School and military service they reunited and began their quest toward a life long dream of becoming successful entertainers and recording artist. It was not easy but they believed in their God given talents and they just simply loved to sing. They worked hard doing four shows a night (40mim on 20min off) sometimes five and six nights a week. There were times when club owners claimed that they didn't make any money and couldn't pay or just told the guys that they weren't going to get paid. One night a blazing gun battle almost erupted but miraculously the club owner came to his senses. This was all part of working in what was called the chittlin circuit where you paid heavy dues but you honed your craft by really learning how to entertain an audience under the most adverse conditions.
Upon recommendation of some DJ's United Image was introduced to recording executive Lebaron Taylor who signed them to Stax Records. They released a single(Loves Creeping Up On Me) and at least half an album was completed in Philadelphia with Bunny Sigler co-producing, but the project was shelved, apparently due to internal problems at Stax. In addition to three songs from Bunny Sigler(Stick Like Glue, Lavada, Keep A Light Burning In The Window)there was one from Norman Harris and Alan Felder(I Forgot To Come Into Your Heart)who in the early 70's were fast becoming a hot writing team. After the Stax project fell apart they hooked up with local producer Jesse James on Branding Iron Records who had some recent success with Fantastic Johnny C "Boogaloo Down Broadway" and Cliff Nobles & Co "Hitch It To The Horse". They released a dance tune "The African Bump" backed with "Hit Man. Despite their rather contrived titles the recordings aren't bad at all.
United Image had numerous disappointments but they persevered, working day jobs while rehearsing and performing at night. One day Joe was shopping in down town Philadelphia when suddenly heard his name called aloud. He turned around and saw Norman Harris (who was emerging from a business luncheon at a restaurant Joe had just walked by)walking toward him with a big smile on his face. Norman was an old friend and guitar player from those chittlin circuit days who along with Ronnie Baker and Earl Young had left Gamble & Huff to form Baker-Harris-Young Productions. Norman said to Joe, I've been trying to find you guys. Nobody knew how to get in touch with you. I've got a deal for you. Be at my office tomorrow to audition for a record company. That record company turned out to be SAL-SOUL which was represented by vice president Ken Cayre. Also at the audition were many of the staff writers and producers such as Alan Felder and T.G. Conway who wrote Ten Percent and My Love Is Free, Bunny Sigler,(who had hits on the O'jays) Bruce Hawes(who had hits on The Spinners) Ron "Have Mercy" Kersey,(who was a great arranger and had played keyboards with United Image) Vince Montana,(leader of the Sal-Soul Orchestra),and Bruce Gray(First Choice & The Tramps. Needless to say the audition went well. It had been previously suggested that the group name be changed to something more modern. Some band members had been joking about some pictures somebody had taken saying it looked like a double exposure. Well, the name stuck.
Double Exposure was signed to Sal-Soul records and began rehearsing new songs
for their up coming album. Along with Ten Percent and My Love Is Free, Every Man
(has to carry his own weight)was another big dance hit. There was a superb update
of the Four Tops(Baby I Need Your Loving) along with three ballads "Give My Love Away"
written and produced by Bruce Hawes, "Just Can't Say Hello" produced by Vince Montana,
and "Pick Me" a bluesy tune written and produced by T.G. Conway. This album gave Double Exposure world wide exposure. They were a hit not only in the United States but also Canada, South America, England, South Africa, and Kenya. Sal-Soul records did not do a good job
getting them R&B radio air play but through their own efforts they still got a lot of work and
sold a lot of records.
By the end of 1977, Double Exposure was on top of the world benefiting from two smash singles off of a very strong album. They had also gained a reputation of having a very strong, polished, and energetic stage show which was backed up by excellent musicians. This was the experience gained during those chittlin circuit days finally coming to light. Then they uncovered some very disturbing information. They discovered that their manager had stolen thousands of dollars from them by pocketing monies allocated for certain business expenses, making off the top deals with their booking agency, and a host of other improprieties. Double Exposure immediately took steps to correct this matter. They had already begun recording their second album but Sal-Soul records did not want to proceed with any further recording until this matter was resolved. This explains the large gap of time between their first album "Ten Percent" and their second "Four Play". All of the momentum gained with "Ten Percent" was lost because there had simply been too much time between albums. Double Exposure could have continued recording if they had been willing to try and work things out with their manager but he had stolen too much money and could never be trusted again. The time gap really was Sal-Soul's fault because they assisted in making the deal(buying out the manager)exactly the way Double Exposure wanted it, only they wasted valuable time by making the deal one year later. All was not lost because during all of this the guys were still performing and making a living. Around the spring of 1978 the "Four Play" album was released. There were none of Alan Felder's up tempo dance tunes like "Ten Percent" ,My Love Is Free", and "Every Man" but there were some good songs. Two were produced by Ron Tyson(currently with the Temptations),there was a remake of First Choice's "Newsy Neighbors" ,but the strongest song on the album was a ballad called "Perfect Lover" written by Akins, Bellman, Drayton, &Turner known as The Corner Boys. (Don't Let the Green Grass Full You)( by Wilson Pickett)."Perfect Lover" was arranged and produced by old friend Ron "Have Mercy" Kersey who had also arranged "My Love Is Free" and "Baby I Need Your Loving.
"Perfect Lover" was a hit getting heavy air play from the album on R&B stations around the country but Sal-Soul would not release it as a single. They had become one track mined pushing only disco dance music and not caring about R&B which was Double Exposure's roots to which they were dying to return but they had two years left on their contract and Sal-Soul would not release them from it. They also found out later why there were no Alan Felder songs presented for the "Four Play" album. Alan and Norman Harris, who was responsible for producing Double Exposure for Sal-Soul Records, had a disagreement and as a result Norman wouldnt use Alan on anymore of his projects. Double Exposure flipped out. They were seeing something so petty effecting their career and there wasn't a thing they could do about it and Sal-Soul wouldnt intervene. So again they had to persevere.
New life came again in October 1978.The international representative for Sal-Soul Records called to inform them that "My Love Is Free" and the "Ten Percent" album had both went gold in South Africa and that international promoters wanted to book them for some tour dates. There first reaction was no because of the apartheid, but after speaking with the South African reps, it was learned that black South Africans were mostly responsible for the record sales and they were dying to see Double Exposure. Well, with all the hell they're catching and they can still find time and money to buy our records
,said Joe Harris, we've got to go. So on the night of October 5th, 1978, Double Exposure landed at Johannesburg International Airport and the party started and it would last for a month. That tour was one of the most thrilling, educational, and outright partying experiences of Double Exposures' career.
After returning to the states and going into 1979 things had started to slow down. The group hadn't had a hit single in two years. Gigs were fewer and money was less but there was another brain storm brewing. In preparing for their next album, it was decided to do a athletic theme because the Olympics were coming in1980 and with proper planning they could get some mileage out of it. In December of1979 Double Exposure again found themselves in Africa this time in Nairobi, Kenya. They were bringing in the New Year and were very upbeat about their upcoming project. Ideas had been sent to the Olympic Committee and their response was very positive. Everything was a go until the Russians invaded Afghanistan. Then later President Carter boycotted the Olympics. That was the end of Double Exposures' plan and some of the guys had to take a break. They never declared the group broken up but other ways of making a living had to be established. In July of1980 Joe returned to his trade as an electrician. Butch opened a small but successful pluming business. Charlie became a machinist but later went to medical school and became a P.A. Jimmy found another group to sing with. The Trammps lead singer (Jimmy Ellis) had left and they needed a second tenor. Jimmy Williams' voice was a perfect fit but Double Exposure vowing never to call it quits was at it again in 1981.Produced by Lionel Job and under the controlling eye of Cecil Holmes, they released a single "After All This Time "backed with "Yes Im In Love With You" on Marv Stuart's Chicago based Gold Coast label. Stuart was previously with Curtis Mayfield at Curtom Records. After All This Time (an up tempo tune) reached the R&B charts and began making some noise but it was said that Gold Coast developed financial problems and could not continue. Again Jimmy Williams returned to the Tramps and everyone else to their other ventures.
It's been over twenty years since Double Exposure last recorded together although you will still hear "Ten Percent" and "My Love Is Free" played on radio. They have however done a few shows in New York and Florida. Whenever they can find the time to get away from work, personal business ,and family obligations, it's like old times and they can still light it up. These guys are a family having been personal friends for over forty years. The comradery is true, the love is genuine, and the friendship is priceless.'
Ten Percent (Salsoul Records 1976)
Four Play (Salsoul Records 1978)
Locker Room (Salsoul Records 1979)