It was as Total Concept that the Rose Royce combo came to London a few years ago. There followed a spell on the road with Yvonne Fair but now they're on the way to realising their ambition to become The Greatest Group.
WITHOUT a shadow of doubt, one of the success stories of the past year or so has been Rose Royce. After their runaway, golden and international success with the "Car Wash" soundtrack, the nine-piece self-contained group from Los Angeles have now consolidated on that success with their second album — though first for Whitfield Records — "In Full Bloom".
But the thing that has most amazed the band itself was the rapidity of the pop crossover of "Car Wash".
"I guess, though, that you can put most of that down to Norman Whitfield," smiles the band's spokesman, Kenji Brown, lead guitarist and vocalist. "Certainly, meeting and being with him is our big break and he has given us the refinement and polish that we needed. And in the studio, he has that magic touch.
"We were actually introduced to Norman by Edwin Starr, for whom we were the backing group for almost two years. In fact, that's how we came to London four or five years ago but then we were known as Total Concept. In fact, it wasn't until directly before "Car Wash" that we actually became Rose Royce.
"But we were the first act to be actually signed to Norman Whitfield's own company and it was he who assigned us to "Car Wash". That, of course, was Norman's own brainchild because we in the group had never actually seen the movie until the night of the premiere. And I think Norman only had the basic script to work by so that will stress his creativity. He was the one with the foresight."
Prior to that, the band had been working as a backing band. Firstly with Edwin Starr, briefly with Yvonne Fair and then, finally, with the Undisputed Truth.
"Working with Edwin gave us our first experience of being on the road," Kenji relates. "It was our first experience of the business really and it encouraged us enough to want to go out for our own sakes.
"We were then with Yvonne for about three months — we worked Las Vegas with her and that was a different trip for us. It meant that we had to control ourselves just a little but Yvonne is high energy, like Edwin.
"You know, she is married to Sammy Strain, who is the new guy with the O'Jays. Anyway, we also recorded on her "Bitch Is Black" album. And working with the Truth gave us our first experience of concert work and, of course, it meant getting closer to Norman all the time.
"All of this experience, though, merely convinced us that our goal should be to make ourselves the greatest. And it has not changed. We have the talent both behind and within the group and with enough hard work, we feel we can become the greatest group.
"Even in the early days with Edwin when there wasn't much money about, we always had a kind of blind faith in our ability. Sure, there are many times when we despaired of ever making it and there were many times when we hungry. But that was all our apprenticeship and that is a necessity.
"I think it was during the time we were the Undisputed Truth that we became aware that we could break through."
As mentioned earlier, Rose Royce have consolidated that "break through" because "In Full Bloom" is currently No. 1 on the American chart and the single, "Do Your Dance" is climbing both British and American charts with an amazing vitality.
"I guess that "Full Bloom" is an extension of "Car Wash"," Kenji admits. "With "Do Your Dance", we wanted something to connect us to "Car Wash" and the song that Kenny Copeland sings, "You're My World Girl", is a very similar to "I Wanna Get Next To You".
"A couple of the tracks were actually recorded at the same time we were cutting "Car Wash". But since we write most of our own material, we feel we are the best judges of what's right for us.
"Our aim really is to become even more involved in writing and producing but, of course, it will take time. In fact, we are already working on ideas for our next album although we won't expect to start recording until the first of the new year."
For the fact-finders, the line-up of Rose Royce is: Kenji Chiba Brown, lead guitar, vocals; Kenny 'Captain Gold' Copeland, trumpet, vocals; Gwen Dickey, lead vocals; Freddie Dunn, trumpet; Henry 'Hammer' Garner, trumpet; Lequeint 'Duke' Jobe, bass, vocals; Michael Moore, saxophone, vocals; Mike Nash, keyboards; Terral 'Powerpack' Sanyiel, percussion, vocals.