WHOEVER came up with the idea of putting that beautiful family quartet, Sister Sledge, together with platinum Chic hitmakers, Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, is deserving of a medal. Not only from the obviously commercial standpoint (since it looks odds-on that the sisters will finally attain that monster hit they have deserved ever since they joined Atlantic back in '73); but also because Sister Sledge consists of four highly dedicated and articulate young ladies.
Their achievements in the past are impressive — they won the Silver Prize (and the $2,000 that went with it) at the Fourth Annual Tokyo Music Festival; they performed at Muhammad All's big fight in Zaire; they stole Europe's hearts when they toured throughout that continent with the Spinners, Ben E. King and Jimmy Castor back in '75. In fact, on record to date, their biggest successes have been overseas — notably in Britain, where they are verging on the supergroup status.
So that covers their past successes. But Debbie, Joni, Kathy and Kim are still without that elusive major hit record here at home. However, by the time you actually come to read this, "He's The Greatest Dancer" — the first single to be culled from their "We Are Family" album — will almost certainly have solved that problem. The album is a stunner, too.
"Bernard and Nile did all of the arrangements and production for the album," the vivacious Kathie explains. "We started the album back in September so we finished it very quickly really. It's a good mixture of ballads and disco and the thing I love most about it is that it has such a classy sound to it. I love the violins.
"Now we are working on a new stage act to go with the album. All of my sisters have graduated completely except for me and I have taken a semester off from school to work on the album promotionally. I'll keep my studies going independently, though, because my education is so very important.
"We really feel that we are close to that big record this time and we have so many things we want to do that we don't want to miss the opportunity. Eventually, we'd like to get more involved in songwriting and even producing — maybe one day we'll even be able to produce ourselves."
Kathy is studying Therapeutic Recreation and her dream is one day to be able to open a chain of centers specialising in working with children and retarted people. "I get so much satisfaction from being able to contribute to their lives," she says. "Maybe one day I can make enough money from that to afford to open up my chain of centers!"
Prior to this album, Sister Sledge's last offering was the "Together" album that they recorded in Munich, Germany, with Silvester Levay and Michael Kunze, whose track record includes some impressive achievements with Silver Convention.
"We liked it a lot — especially the Stevie Wonder song, "As", — and we hoped it would have done the trick for us…but it didn't," Kathie points out. "But we do feel that the marriage with Bernard and Nile is just right!"
Meanwhile, sister Joni has other aspirations. "Obviously the main goal in my life is for the group to make it; that is my priority," Joni stresses. "But then my other goal is to become involved in film production. I majored in school in Film Production but there are not that many opportunities out there to channel such talents."
In fact, all four sisters are particularly academic and they credit their mother with giving them the drive they possess. It was she who encouraged them to sing when very young at their local church, the Second Mecedonia in North-east Philadelphia. Prior to joining Atlantic in 1973, the girls had done a little background work for Gamble and Huff at Sigma Sound and obviously Henry Allen — then Atlantic's senior Vice-President and now President of Cotillion Records and who signed the girls to the company in the first place — knew a good thing when he saw it.
Now it seems that everybody's patience and faith is about to be handsomely repaid.