In the 1950’s in Chicago, Illinois, Joe and Lillian Hutchinson began raising a family filled with love, creativity and talent. Born in this decade were three ladies considered by the rest of us as true legends and national treasures collectively known as The Emotions. Jeanette, Wanda and Sheila Hutchinson began singing at ages three, four and five under the tutelage of their father. Joe Hutchinson, Sr. had his little girls singing from sun up to sun down. This is the foundation of the intricate harmonies and solid musicianship that has given The Emotions their sound, which is recognized by so many today.
In the early years, the Hutchinson girls sang gospel with their dad in churches and on radio shows all around their native Chicago. Joe, Jeanette, Wanda & Sheila even performed for the legendary Mahalia Jackson. They also appeared on local television shows and also on several radio commercials. During this time the Hutchinson act appeared under several names including Three Ribbons and a Bow, The Heavenly Sunbeams and The Hutchinson Sunbeams.
As the later part of the 1960’s rolled around, The Hutchinson Sunbeams evolved into what we know today as The Emotions. Jeanette, Wanda and Sheila recorded several singles for local labels giving the group more notoriety in their region of the country. Pervis Staples and The Staples Singers were very influential in the next step that was taken by the act. The group appeared in a talent contest at the Regal Theater in Chicago. That evening, The Emotions won the contest and were signed to the Stax/Volt label.
Papa Joe packed up the girls and they were off to record their first album for a major record company, Stax/Volt Records. The Emotions released the song So I Can Love You from the album of the same name in 1969. This was an immediate success for the young teenagers. So I Can Love You was not only a successful recording for the group, but sister Sheila Hutchinson, wrote it.
After releasing the successful So I Can Love You project, The Emotions were on a hot streak and teamed up with producers Issac Hayes and David Porter for their next big hit single at Stax/Volt titledShow Me How from the album Untouched released in 1971. The Emotions were running up the charts consistently with hit records. By this time, The Emotions had definitely proven themselves as an asset at Stax/Volt and began recording a third album for the labelSongs Of Innocence and Experience. Unfortunately, Stax/Volt was beginning to experience some financial difficulties and the album was never released, however almost all of the songs recorded for that album were released as singles, many of which charted and kept The Emotions name out there. Also at this time oldest sister Jeanette took some time off to begin her family. Theresa Davis, who toured and performed with Wanda and Sheila replaced her for a few years. Later in the 1970’s Stax released a collection of previously recorded songs by The Emotions. This released material that was recorded earlier at Stax was put together and titled Sunshine which was released by Stax at the height of The Emotions’ extremely successful Columbia Records release “Rejoice” in 1977.
With the financial problems at Stax/Volt, The Emotions found themselves getting lost in the shuffle. It was at this time that family friend, Ron Ellison told Joseph Hutchinson about Charles Stepney and Maurice White. Charles heard the girls sing several songs, which they had written, and he loved them. By this time Jeanette had returned to the group. In 1976 Charles and Maurice signed The Emotions to Kalimba Productions and Columbia Records where they went on to record their very successful album Flowers which contained three singles Flowers, I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Loveand You’ve Got The Right To Know. The Emotions toured with Earth, Wind & Fire to promote their new project, which re-introduced the group and garnered gold certification for The Emotions.
Without slowing momentum, The Emotions were back in the studio in early 1977 to begin recording Rejoice. This time Wanda and Sheila were joined by baby sister Pamela, who stepped in while oldest sister Jeanette took some time off for maternity leave. This project took The Emotions over the top with the release of their first single, the two million plus selling single Best of My Love. The Emotions had now become superstars, everyone was singing their songs all around the world. The Rejoice album was certified platinum and bore two singles. The second single Don’t Ask My Neighbors completely solidified the group as Pop/R&B divas. The Emotions had come a long way and now they were getting the recognition they deserved. Although Rejoice only released two singles, most of the album tracks received airplay. The Emotions went on an extensive tour (including little brother Joe on guitar) with The Commodores. They not only toured the United States, but Europe and Japan aswell. Many honors and awards were presented to the group in several countries, including America’s prestigious Grammy Award and the American Music Awards.
Again, without slowing down, The Emotions continued working and in August 1978 they released the first single for their third Maurice White production on Columbia Records. The single was Smile from the album Sunbeam. This song went to No.6 on the R&B charts and again put The Emotions back on top. This was a historical album of sorts for The Emotions as it depicted their growth from children, “The Hutchinson Sunbeams” to the ladies that they had become. Jeanette also returned on this project to continue where she left off after having a beautiful baby girl. Pamela returned to her studies in college but remained active in the group. Two additional singles were released from this album, Walking The Line and Whole Lot Of Shakin’. The strength of these songs helped fuel this recording to gold certification. At the same time, The Emotions geared up a tour with The Brothers Johnson. The Emotions exciting and emotional performance along with the elaborate set design of a flowered themed background and movable flowers in which every member sat during certain numbers captivated audiences everywhere.
Not long after The Emotions completed their “Sunbeam” tour they were right back in the studio teaming up with Earth Wind and Fire to work on what would become one of 1979’s biggest hits, Boogie Wonderland. The success of this tune catapulted The Emotions to new heights. So much so that the newest project that the ladies were working on was their most expensive record to date.
In the late fall of 1979 The Emotions released the highly acclaimed album Come Into Our World. This recording contained a host of proclaimed writers, arrangers and producers including The Emotions themselves. The inner sleeve featured the lyrics to the songs on one side and a picture of younger sister Pamela and brother Joe on the other side indicating that, as always, Pamela and Joe were still a part of the group. The first release from this album was an up-tempo dance number called What’s The Name Of Your Love. As with previous albums, many of the other tracks on the record received airplay. The second single from the album was the heart wrenching ballad Where Is Your Love featuring the soft and breathy allure of Sheila’s lead vocal. The group toured to promote this album in the USA and Europe. Sheila took a brief leave of absence during this tour as Jeanette, Wanda and Pamela brought the house down, continuing the long standing tradition of outstanding performances they had become known for.
The group continued on preparing for their next release, which wasNew Affair. This album was released in August 1981. Although Jeanette, Wanda and Sheila didn’t tour with this project it still stands as a tribute to The Emotions, one of our nations most underrated treasures. Turn It Out was the first single from this album and that is exactly what they did – they turned the joint out. As always Wanda sang the lead vocal with such conviction that you knew she meant what she said. Now That I Know, the group’s second single from New Affair followed this tune. This was the group’s last album recorded for the Columbia/ARC label.
During a brief hiatus from the business, The Emotions remained active with other projects on an individual level. Wanda and Jeanette worked on the Jennifer Holiday project Feel My Soul and Sheila became involved with commercials back in Chicago. Pamela also remained busy working with Wanda and Earth, Wind & Fire on several projects. Wanda also collaborated extensively with her husband Wayne and Maurice White on many Earth, Wind & Fire tunes including Lets Groove, Fall In Love With Me, Side By Side,Thinking Of You to name but a few.
In 1984 The Emotions returned in a big way with their albumSincerely on Red Label Records. This collection brought the group back to the forefront with the first single You’re The One. The song crashed into the top 20 on the R&B charts. Once again fans were happy to see them back doing what they do best. Lee Young Sr, who served as the executive producer headed this record. Wanda and her husband, Wayne also produced several of the album tracks along with several other well known producers including Billy Osbourne and Zane Giles. The second single was You’re The Bestwhich was released as a 7” single version and a 12” remixed eight minute dance version that strongly forced its way up the Billboard dance/club charts. Sincerely produced one more single Are You Through With My Heart a lovely emotional ballad that was undeniably a trademark of the band.
At this time, The Emotions were again on a roll. They were disappointed with the way Red Label Records handled their album and sought attention elsewhere. The group signed with Motown and released If I Only Knew in 1985 which featured the first single Miss Your Love. This was a funk/rock mix of soul and was a side of the band we hadn’t seen before. This tune was exciting for fans everywhere yet it received little airplay. Miss Your Love was followed up by If I Only Knew (Then What I Know Now), which was a beautiful ballad. Although this record didn’t receive the attention it deserved, several of the tracks on the album including Supernaturaland Good Times were played in many markets.
In 1985 a very traumatic event occurred in the lives of The Emotions. Their father and mentor Joseph lost his battle with cancer. Joe was a wiz, not only did he manage the band, but he also maintained and recorded a diary of the entire career of his girls. He truly was and is an inspiration, not only to his children but also to the rest of us aswell. From him you can learn true endurance, dedication and commitment all of which shines through in all of his children.
The Emotions by this time have become drained and needed a well deserved break. Each of the ladies worked on several individual projects including raising their families, recording, teaching, consulting, theater, commercials etc.
By the time 1990 rolled around The Emotions were becoming restless and needed to get back out there and begin performing again. In 1992 the band recorded I Want To Thank You For Your Love for the motion picture soundtrack to BeBes Kids. Before you knew it our girls were back performing at several different venues around the country. They continued this for several years until Jeanette came up with an idea while attending an acting class. She felt the group should write a story about their lives. The product of this brainstorm was the critically acclaimed and hit musical ”Bigger Than Bubblegum”. The musical was originally performed in 1995 but garnered so much praise and attention that a full on production was staged and went on to play for over 2 months in 1997 at the famous and historic Pasadena Playhouse. It regularly played to sell out audiences. During 1996 between the original production and the full production of the musical, The Emotions released Emotions Live which is a must for any collector. This CD was pure and contained live versions of the songs we have come to know and love. It was released on Sundown Records, the group’s very own label.
In the late 1990’s the group continued to perform and was in demand. The Emotions made their presence known and continue to do so up until today. Not only have The Emotions been appearing, but also their songs are being picked up and played on many motion picture soundtracks, such as “Summer Of Sam” and “Boogie Nights”.
In March 2001 The Make A Wish Foundation honored The Emotions with the 2001 Prestige Award and in November 2001 the band were the recipients of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In August 2003 they featured on NIU-FM’s “Icons & Legends” show in New Zealand. Presently The Emotions are recording for their new release and they are making appearances at various cities and venues around the nation. Get ready to dance, be happy and love ‘cause Wanda, Sheila and Pamela are back!
TONY DENTON PROMOTIONS
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