Vincent Montana Jr. (February 12, 1928 – April 13, 2013), known as Vince Montana, was an American composer, arranger, vibraphonist, and percussionist, best known as a member of MFSB and as the founder of the Salsoul Orchestra. He has been called "the Godfather of disco".
Montana was born in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and grew up in an Italian-American neighborhood. He began playing drums as a child and soon took up other percussion instruments, including the glockenspiel and marimba. By the late 1940s, he regularly played in nightclubs with jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Clifford Brown and Red Garland. He then spent time as a musician in Las Vegas hotels, accompanying and arranging for Harry Belafonte, Louis Prima and others. He returned to Philadelphia in the late 1950s, playing vibraphone on Frankie Avalon's 1959 hit "Venus", as well as recordings by Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell and others. Around the same time, he started to be featured regularly on the nationally syndicated TV talk show, The Mike Douglas Show.
He helped to set up Sigma Sound Studios, owned by Joe Tarsia in Philadelphia in 1967 and began working there with record producers Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell. He was a founding member of MFSB and recorded several albums with the orchestra, including the international hit track, "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)", a Grammy Award winner released in 1973. He played on and arranged many tracks by The Intruders, The Delfonics, The Spinners, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, The O'Jays, The Trammps, Eddie Kendricks, William DeVaughn, Billy Paul, Lou Rawls, The Stylistics, Teddy Pendergrass, and many others.
However, he fell out with Gamble and Huff over financial issues and in 1974, after being introduced by Joe Bataan, joined with the Cayre brothers - Cayre brothers, Kenneth, Stanley, and Joseph - owners of Caytronics, a New York-based distributor of Latin music - to set up the Salsoul label. Several of the Philadelphia musicians, including Norman Harris, Ronnie Baker and Earl Young, left MFSB to join him for sessions and production work. Montana established The Salsoul Orchestra and their first record for the label, "Salsoul Hustle" was a commercial success. The orchestra recorded six albums for the label over the next three years, including a 'gold' Christmas album, with Montana producing, arranging and conducting most tracks. Ken Cayre praised Montana's skill at scoring strings, brass and diverse percussion in such a way that it all worked within a dance recording. The Salsoul Orchestra has been credited as "the first disco orchestra". Montana also worked at Salsoul with other musicians and singers, including First Choice and Loleatta Holloway.
Montana left Salsoul in 1978 to join Atlantic Records for several albums before launching his own Philly Sound Works label. His recording of "Heavy Vibes", a reworking of part of MFSB's "Love Is the Message" credited to the Montana Sextet, reached #59 on the UK singles chart in 1983. In later years, Montana worked with house music duo Masters at Work, which rekindled interest in his work. Most recently, Montana worked on "New York City Boy" by the Pet Shop Boys.
He died at Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on April 13, 2013, at the age of 85.
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