Larry “Squirrel” Demps. (b. February 23rd, 1949). Vocalist who came to prominence as a member of American soul group, The Dramatics.
The Dramatics (formerly The Dynamics) are an American soul music vocal group, formed in Detroit, Michigan, in 1964. They are best known for their 1970s hit songs "In the Rain" and "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get", both of which were Top 10 Pop hits, as well as their later 1993 collaboration "Doggy Dogg World" with Snoop Dogg, a top 20 hit on the Billboard Rhythmic Top 40.
The Dramatics, founded by Ron Banks, Willie Ford and Larry Reed, originally formed in 1964, recording as the Dynamics in 1965. Their first release in 1965 entitled "Bingo" was recorded for Wingate, a division of Golden World Records in Detroit, Michigan. Due to a misprint, Wingate changed the name of the group from The Dynamics to The Dramatics in 1966 for the group's second release, "Inky Dinky Wang Dang Doo". By 1967, Motown had absorbed the entire Golden World Records operation. The Dramatics then moved to another local Detroit label, Sport Records, where they garnered their first minor hit single, "All Because of You." After becoming a victim in the July 1967 Algiers Motel incident, including the police killing of the groups’ valet, Fred Temple, Reed left the group.
The Dramatics signed with Stax Records of Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, but moved on after one unsuccessful release. However, producer Don Davis re-signed them to Bolt, a Stax subsidiary, in 1971 after the group teamed up with Detroit writer-producer, Tony Hester. They broke through with their first release recorded with Hester, "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get", which Hester offered them after seeing the group perform in a Detroit nightclub. The song went into the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #9 and climbing to #3 in the R&B chart. "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" was awarded gold disc status by the R.I.A.A. in December 1971.
Their members at this time were Ron Banks (who died of a heart attack on March 4, 2010, at the age of 58), William "Wee Gee" Howard (who died of a heart attack on February 22, 2000, at the age of 49), Elbert Wilkins (who died of a heart attack on December 13, 1992, at the age of 45), Larry "Squirrel" Demps and Willie Ford as well as keyboardist James Mack Brown (who died on November 28, 2008, at the age of 58).
Shortly after the success of their first album, Howard and Wilkins left the group and formed their own version of The Dramatics, recording the single "No Rebate On Love" on Mainstream Records. They were replaced by Larry James "L.J." Reynolds and Leonard "Lenny" Mayes (who died of lung cancer on November 8, 2004, at the age of 53). At the urging of Don Davis and Stax Records, the original group changed its billing to "Ron Banks and the Dramatics". These two groups toured the concert circuit for four years before Banks' group won a court battle, giving them full access to the name. Howard and Wilkins were forced to change the name of their group to "A Dramatic Experience".
Through the 1970s, the group continued to have successful songs, including the Top 10 Pop, #1 R&B hit, "In the Rain" in 1972, "Hey You! Get Off My Mountain" (#5 R&B), "Me and Mrs Jones" (#4 R&B), originally recorded by Billy Paul three years earlier, "Be My Girl" (#3 R&B), and "Shake It Well" (#4 R&B). "In the Rain" also reached #5 on the Hot 100 pop chart and was their second million-seller.
The group recorded for Don Davis' Groovesville and later Great Lakes music production companies during the 1970s, although the recordings appeared on several labels. The group moved from Volt in 1974 after three albums, releasing one album on Chess Records' subsidiary Cadet, sharing tracks with The Dells, who were also being produced by Davis at the time. The group then signed for ABC in 1975 and transferred five years later to MCA, after ABC closed following its buy-out by MCA. Many of the Dramatics' songs initially were written and produced by Tony Hester, including all the tracks on the first two Volt albums. Davis, then Banks and Reynolds took over production later in the 1970s and the early 1980s.
In 1982, the group moved to Capitol Records and made their first album without Don Davis, with Banks acting as producer. Only Banks, Ford and Mayes remained in the group. L.J. Reynolds left to go solo in 1981 and Larry Demps decided to go into teaching and spend more time with his family, after having joined the group's original line-up in 1964 with Banks. When Ron Banks also decided to try a solo career, the group disbanded for a few years, but re-formed in the mid-1980s, with Howard returning to join Reynolds, Mayes, Ford and Banks to record for Fantasy Records.
The group continues to tour and presently consists of Reynolds with Winzell Kelly, Leon Franklin, and Donald Albert. Willie Ford also has a Dramatics group. The Dramatics were officially inducted into the R&B Music Hall of Fame at Cleveland State University's Waetejen Auditorium on Saturday August 17, 2013. The Dramatics were also interviewed at (but have yet to be inducted into) the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on February 2012.
The band are depicted centrally in the 2017, Kathryn Bigelow film Detroit, a dramatization of the Algiers Motel incident.
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