Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wannabe Week: The Sylvers

The Sylvers were another family group who saw a rise in their visibility and popularity after the success of the Jackson 5. Hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, they started out in the 1960s with the four oldest siblings, Olympia, Leon, Charmaine, and James, as the Little Angels and they worked as an opening act for artists such as Ray Charles and Johnny Mathis. In 1972 they added the next two brothers, Edmund and Ricky, to their line up and changed their group name and their sound.

Of all the imitators, the Sylvers came closest to giving the Jackson 5 a run for their money. Their talent and good looks (not to mention their amazing afros) helped them push the Jackson 5 from their regular spot on the cover of Right On! magazine, and there were countless stories with titles like "Will the Sylvers Replace the Jackson 5?" And a couple of things made them distinct as a teen group: they were all equally talented on lead vocals and they also wrote a lot of their own music. Here they are singing "I Wish I Could Talk to You," on their first Soul Train appearance, where you can hear Leon, Ricky, and Edmund on lead vocals.

Other than being another young and talented Black family group, there were a couple of other connections between the Jackson 5 and the Sylvers. In the early '70s Edmund Sylvers provided Marlon's speaking voice in the Jackson 5ive cartoon series on Saturday morning television. And their biggest hit, "Boogie Fever," was written and produced by Freddie Perren who had been a member of the J5's early production and song-writing team, The Corporation. By the time The Sylvers recorded it, they had added three more siblings to the group: sisters Pat and Angie, and little brother, Foster, who had had his own solo hit, "Misdemeanor," in 1973, sounding very much like a young Michael Jackson. In this live performance of of "Boogie Fever" from a 1976 Midnight Special, Foster comes in with the counter lead to Edmund's lead vocals.

Check out the bow at the end of this performance. I'll think you'll find it familiar.

Tomorrow: The DeFranco Family


  1. Impressive afros and amazing talent indeed!
    Did any of the other members, apart from Foster, make solo records?

  2. I know Leon did in the late 80s on the Motown label, but he has become best known as a writer and producer for other artists. Edmund had a solo album in the early 80s. He died of cancer 5 or 6 years ago when he was still quite young.

  3. I love the Foster solo record "Misdeamenor"....I think the Sylvers emerged at the right time (mid 70's) to be compared with the J5 although in reality the J5 was way more talented. Leon Sylvers was very responsible for the success of Solar Records as a writer and producer.

  4. I love Misdemeanor, too, ER, and was especially pleased to find the version that has the a capella intro on YouTube.

  5. YEOW I LOVE the Misdemeanor clip! Great version, I feel like I'm in the studio with them. Ye, I loved "Mis" and wanted it to be a bigger hit. A lot of call and response fun, interesting musically, very cute record. Very cool post!

  6. Thanks a lot for that, I only *knew* them because of their pics in the old magazines I have and wondered how good they were.

    Seems like they were quite good.

    I wonder what they all became.

  7. i was just watching the J5 cartoon and edmund did the voice for marlon

  8. @danniebrown

    Jet, Dec 10, 2007
    Leon F. Sylvers III, 54, the eldest brother of the family who formed the group, became an acclaimed music producer. His hits included The Whispers' And The Beat Goes On, Shalamar's Second Time Around and Take That To The Bank and Gladys Knight & The Pips' You're No. 1 (In My Book). Recently he co-wrote Blackstreet's hit Before I Let You Go. Will Smith sampled And The Beat Goes On for his 1997 hit Miami. And Dr. Dre sampled Misdemeanor for The D. O. C.'s song It's Getting Funky.

    "You can always do something new as long as you understand where you're from," said Leon, who has been married 21 years and has five children. "You don't have to be young. Just sound right."

    Angie Sylvers-Polk, 47, has been a paralegal for nearly 20 years. Sylvers-Polk is divorced and has four children. Her son, Kyle, 19, is a dancer who has traveled with Christina Aguilera and appeared in the film Rize.

    "I know that God uses people to touch other people and God intended for this family to use the talents and gifts he gave us to touch other people," she said.

    Foster Sylvers, 45, who played the bass in the family band, is engaged and has three daughters. He is also an accomplished artist.

    Fourteen years ago Foster was convicted with committing a sex act and is now a registered sex offender. He maintains his innocence and said that he is working to have his record expunged.

    "I am going to sing again, for those who are broken, because I was broken and God fixed me," said Foster, a recovering drug addict who is now clean. "The bottom line is victory isn't won to the strong of to the weak or to the fast or to the slow, but it is the one who endures to the end."

    Patricia Sylvers Deruso, 46, and her husband of 14 years, Lorne, are church elders. She is a praise and worship leader and is working on a gospel album with Foster.

    James Sylvers, 52, is married and has two children. Ricky Sylvers, 49, is the father of five. James, a keyboard player, and Ricky, a guitar player, both have appeared on albums with Shalamar and The Whispers.

    The Sylvers are looking forward to recording as a family unit.

    "I see people asking where are The Sylvers now as a call, as a Macedonia call," Sylvers Deruso said, referring to a Bible passage. "I want people to know that we have answered the call and you will see us again."


    Edmund Sylvers died at 47 of lung cancer in Richmond, VA, in 2004 (JET, May 31, 2004). He sang lead on the group's biggest hits, Boogie Fever and Hot Line. In 1971 he was the voice of Marlon Jackson in the Jackson 5 TV cartoon. He recorded a solo album in 1980 that produced the hit single That Burning Love. Edmund was married and had 11 children, one of whom, Jeremy, starred in the 1991 thriller Child's Play 3 (JET, Sept. 9, 1991).

  9. Thanks, Anon! They don't say what happened to Olympia or Charmaine, who just seemed to disappear from the group at some point. Also I thought the Sylvers had one younger brother after Foster who joined the group after Boogie Fever came out. It seemed like every time you turned around, the Sylvers added another sibling to the group!

    And, wow, Foster is 45. That makes me feel old.

    The teen mags always wanted to make Ricky the focus of the group, since he was the youngest and cutest pre-Foster, but he didn't seem to ever want the spotlight shone on him. They could never fit his entire afro into the 8 x 10 pin ups, unless they did a long shot of him.

  10. Thanks for that ER and J5Collector, I think that I might have been a fan if I were born in the states instead of Europe. (They are totally unknown here).

  11. please, i know that all of edmunds children has a reality show called no sylver spoon and it's produce by former rand b star karyn white on her production company,urbanbridgzs.com. i cant want to see what the children looks like. i know jeremy sylvers whern he was his preteens in a gospel play, fake friends in 19996 in greenvill,nc while watching wth a friend,. i must see the show. you must see it too. i tried to REACh mrs. white on facebook.