Although Brainstorm did well enough in the States with their debut single, Britain woke up to them first and they established themselves to a greater degree this side of the ocean.
IT'S GETTING to be a habit, isn't it? You know, the bit about Britain waking up to an American record before the usually aware Statesiders. Because it's certainly the case with Detroit's new band, Brainstorm.
Certainly, their debut single, "Wake Up And Be Somebody" did well enough in their homeland to establish the new RCA distributed Tabu label but it's in Britain that they have achieved Top 30 R&B status and the successor, "Lovin' Is Really My Game", is already one of the swiftest selling import items (both on 7 inch and 12 inch) of the day.
The band consists of nine Detroit based musicians and comes directly as a splinter group from 5th Revelation, a group who had two Barratt Strong-produced singles on Epic just over two years ago.
When that whole business turned sour, Chuck Overton — who had had a single released on MCA as a solo artist in 1972 — and Larry Sims (saxophone and trumpet respectively) decided to set about forming their own group and that's how Brainstorm was given birth.
The first addition to the group was vocalist, Belita Woods, and then drummer Renell Gonsalves. Renell had previously been with a local Detroit band called Riot whilst Belita had been doing some solo and session work. Trenita Woods was the next addition with bass player, E. Lamont Johnson — who was replaced two months ago by former Blackbyrd, Deon Estes.
The last additions came last year and just before the Brainstorm "Stormin"' album was recorded. They were Willie Wooton and Jeryl Bright, both of whom had been involved with the Dramatics for several years, and then Gerald Kent, who is the writer of "Wake Up And Be Somebody".
Prior to actually recording, Brainstorm had become established as just about the hottest non-recording property in the Detroit area and their manager, Lee Norris, decided to approach his old friend, Clarence Avant (formerly president and owner of the defunct Sussex label) because he knew Avant was starting his own label, Tabu Records. Avant was immediately impressed and arranged to have the band record a whole album and it is from this album that the two aforementioned singles have been culled.
"Yes, we are happy with the album," Chuck Overton points out. "When we were searching for material, we deliberately wanted to have a wide range of styles because this best summed up the vast experience within the group."
Charles is also the first to acknowledge the assistance gained from the experience with Barratt Strong and cites this as the foundation for Brainstorm's highly professional approach.
"He showed us how to get where we wanted to go and we learnt a great deal from the simple experience of just being with him," Chuck stresses. "Sure, we were all disappointed about the lack of success for the 5th Revelation but on reflection maybe it was a good thing because we are more ready now for any success we may be lucky enough to get.
"For example, we are hopeful that our success in Britain will allow us to come over and work there and that is something that we would have never been ready to do with 5th Revelation. Today, our act is right and we would be proud to show it to the world."
For the fact-finders, Brainstorm consists of:
Charles 'Chuck' Overton, group leader and alto/soprano sax player. Now 28 years old, Chuck started playing sax fifteen years ago in his St. Louis home town.
Belita Karen Woods, lead vocalist and whose nickname is B.B. Belita was born on October 23, 1948, and has worked background with the Four Tops, the Spinners, Walter Jackson, Houston Person and Barratt Strong and it was while working with the latter that she met Chuck Overton, joining Brainstorm almost at its inception.
Jeryl Bright, born July 18, 1955, plays trombone and sings background vocals. Though born in Los Angeles, Jeryl lived in Shreveport for a while before settling in Detroit and working a year with the Dramatics before joining Brainstorm last year.
Larry Sims is one of the two founder members and has the nickname of Leap. Born June 25, 1951 Larry was featured on many of the Invictus/Hot Wax hits of the early 70s and became a member of Brainstorm early in '75.
Gerald Kent, 25 years old, plays lead and rhythm guitar as well as background vocals and enjoyed a great deal of experience with various local Detroit groups before becoming a member of Brainstorm last year.
Trenita Womack bears the nickname of Bongo Lady Way and sings background vocals and takes care of all of the group's percussion. But she also plays piano, flute and several other intruments. Prior to joining Brainstorm, Trenita was with Kim Weston's roadshow and she now handles a lot of the group's writing chores, too.
Willie Wooton is the keyboard maestro and though still only 23, claims to have been playing piano for twenty years. He spent three years with the Dramatics prior to joining Brainstorm last year. Incidentally, he perfected his keyboard understanding at the Detroit Art Centre.
Renell Gonsalves is the group's drummer and is the son of Paul Gonsalves, who played with Duke Ellington's legendary band. Born in Chicago on July 13, 1948, Renell is another who played on a bunch of Invictus/Hot Wax sessions a few years back.
Finally, there's bass man, Deon Estes, who replaced Eugene Lamont Johnson, the previous bass player who wrote much of the original material on the "Stormin"' album.
HAVING established themselves on an international basis with "Wake Up And Be Somebody", Brainstorm are trying to take a step further with the second release, "Lovin' Is Really My Game".
"We've just got back from doing the 'Soul Train' TV show in Los Angeles," Chuck enthuses, "so we are hoping that this will give the record the impetus that was missing from "Wake Up And Be Somebody"."
Meanwhile, RCA are planning to release the record in a month or so — by which time the slowly fading "Wake Up And Be Somebody" will presumably have finally vanished. And judging from the pre-release interest, the follow-up could succeed to the point that it will encourage the Detroit band to cross the Atlantic.