Black History Month: Deep Dive – Five Special
For today’s Deep Dive in honor of Black History Month, we’re diving a little deeper than usual and spotlighting a band that released three albums on Elektra between 1979-1980 and even scored a top-10 hit on Billboard’s R&B Singles chart, yet they don’t even have their own Wikipedia page.
Now we ask you: is that deep, or is that deep?”
Formed in Detroit in the late ‘70s, Five Special consisted of – you guessed it – five guys: Bryan Banks, Steve Boyd, Greg Finley, Steve Harris, and Mike Petillo. If anyone within their roster had an existing claim to fame when the group started, it was Bryan Banks, whose brother Ron was a member of The Dramatics, so it’s probably also worth noting that Ron produced all three of Five Special’s albums.
The self-titled debut by Five Special definitely found the group starting out on the right foot, as that’s the LP that contained the top-10 R&B hit we referenced a moment ago: “Why Leave Us Alone,” which ultimately made it to #9 before beginning its descent. Their second album, SPECIAL EDITION, earned them a second hit, if one that didn’t hit the same heights as its predecessor, but when a song makes it into the top 30, as “Jam (Let’s Take It to the Streets)” did when it topped out at #29, that still qualifies as a relatively big deal.
Unfortunately, the group’s third album, TRAK’N, failed to set the charts alight with any of its singles, and in fairness to Elektra, the band had actually already broken up by the time the album was released, so it’s not like they were in a position to do much in the way of promotion.
It’s interesting to note that, of the five members of Five Special, four of them seemingly never did anything else in the way of recording music, provided that Discogs.com has all of their ducks in a row. The one member who did go on to forge a solid career for himself, by the way, was Steve Boyd, who subsequently contributed vocals to albums by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (FREAKEY STYLEY), Paul Shaffer (COAST TO COAST), Prince (GRAFITTI BRIDGE), and George Clinton (THE CINDERELLA THEORY and HEY, MAN… SMELL MY FINGER), among many others.
In addition to working with Clinton on his solo endeavors, Boyd has also been a part of the Parliament-Funkadelic family for a few decades now, which has provided him with the opportunity to tell his story on the group’s website. You can check out his page by clicking right here, and you should, but fair warning: the text is a little hard to read, not to mention a little bit free-flowing.
Don’t worry, though: it’s worth it.