Len Barry by: Alan Ray White

Len Barry was a recording star when he was just 17 years old.

His group, The Dovells, were a bunch of wisecracking, doo wop singing white kids from Philadelphia who, behind a string of number one hits, (and the stark, raw, uniquely bluesy lead vocals of Len Barry), quickly became one of the top R & B acts in the United States. Virtually everyone who hadn’t seen them thought they were a black group.

They worked the black theatre circuit, the Apollo in New York, the Howard in Washington, the Regal in Chicago and the Uptown in Philly. The Dovells also toured with James Brown. In 1965 Len Barry took his artistry solo and immediately crashed the charts with hits like “Somewhere”, “Like A Baby” and his worldwide smash and international classic “1-2-3“.

Highlights of his European tour included featured performances at the London Palladium and Royal Albert Hall as well as numerous appearances throughout England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

In 1969 Len, along with brilliant arranger-musician Tommy Sellers, created the Philadelphia disco sound with the first disco hit record, “Keem-O-Sabe,” by a studio group Len named The Electric Indian. Most of the musicians who played on that session went on to become the Gamble-Huff studio players who eventually became known as MFSB, AKA, The Philadelphia Funk Brothers, (a play on the famous Motown studio players of an earlier era). By the mid 1970’s Len had tired of the road and turned his attention to writing and producing for others. Artists such as Lola Falana, Blue Magic, Major Harris, Bobby Rydell, Sylvester and Impact, (new group from Damon Harris), all benefited from the Len Barry touch.

Considered absolute classics in Europe, Slick’s “Space Bass” and “Zoom” by Fat Larry’s Band were both written and produced by Len Barry.

In the recent past Len has turned his attention to prose: novels, teleplays, screenplays and even comic book projects.

James Brown said it first. “Say it loud – I’m Black and I’m proud”.

Len Barry is still saying it...