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The Soul Notes


Born in the same Bessemer hospital as future O’Jay Eddie Levert, William Bell was another Alabaman who eventually found sanctuary in Cleveland. Having already rumbled with Eddie Kendricks in high school talent shows, Bell was eager to establish musical camaraderie in his adopted city. Along with Leroy Elie, Ricky Dannison, and John Berry, William Bell formed the singing group the Soul Notes (and intentionally bucked the trend of adding the “-ation” suffix to their band name). The Soul Notes became fixtures at several local showcases that traveled the back roads of Ohio and the Southeast, bringing black entertainment to citizens along the Chitlin Circuit. Once Jim Brown’s deal with MGM necessitated the rapid expansion of Way Out’s roster, the Soul Notes were soon situated on the indie labels staff. But with greater visibility came greater responsibility. Professionals by union standards, the Soul Notes could no longer play the local haunts and holes-in-the-wall where they built their reputation. What was once a collection of four guys singing in a living room had now become a full time job.


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