A Taste of Honey was the name of an American recording act, formed in 1971 by associates Janice-Marie Johnson and Perry Kibble. In 1978, they had one of the best known chart-toppers of the disco era, "Boogie Oogie Oogie". After their popularity waned during the 1980s, Johnson went on to record as a solo artist and released the album One Taste of Honey which produced numerous minor hits. In 2004, singers Hazel Payne (guitar) and Janice-Marie Johnson (bass) reunited for the first time in over 20 years to perform on the PBS specials Get Down Tonight: The Disco Explosion and My Music: Funky Soul Superstars.
Formed during 1971, A Taste of Honey hailed from Los Angeles, California. The members of the band consisted of Janice Marie Johnson (vocals, co-writer, bass), Carlita Dorhan (vocals, guitar), Perry Kibble (keyboards, co-producer, co-writer) and Donald Ray Johnson (drums). Long time friends, Kibble and Janice-Marie Johnson were the original members of the band. Each had left a band to join forces, and after employing several drummers, they settled on Donald Johnson (no relation to Janice-Marie). They also had replaced the lead singer (unnamed) with Gregory Walker, who left the band just prior to the successful release of "Boogie Oogie Oogie". Carlita Dorhan left the group in early 1976, and Hazel Payne was added.
The group began to improve its sound over a period of six years prior to being discovered by Capitol Records. Hitting major cities outside of Los Angeles, they also began doing USO tours, with spots in Spain, Morocco, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, and Japan. Upon returning to Los Angeles, while playing in a nightclub, they were spotted by record producers, Fonce and Larry Mizell, who convinced Capitol Records' then vice-executive-producer, Larkin Arnold, to give them an audition. They signed a five-album contract, and billed themselves after Herb Alpert's song "A Taste of Honey." The first single, "Boogie Oogie Oogie", from their debut album A Taste of Honey, spent three weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1978, and sold two million copies. The group was awarded two platinum records for the single and album, and won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist at the 20th Grammys on February 15, 1979. Janice-Marie Johnson calls the single her "lifeline" and credits Capitol Records executive, Larkin Arnold, with ensuring they owned their own publishing. Their subsequent disco releases, such as "Do It Good" (#79 in 1979) from Another Taste, and "Rescue Me" (1980) failed to attract attention, and by 1980 the group had become a duo consisting of Johnson and Payne.
When recording their cover version of the Kyu Sakamoto song "Sukiyaki", from their third album, Twice As Sweet (1980), they resisted suggestions to turn it into a dance tune. As a ballad it brought them their second and final major hit of their careers in 1981, when it reached #1 on the Billboard R&B and Adult Contemporary charts and #3 on the Hot 100.
A Taste of Honey released its final album, Ladies of the Eighties in 1982. It featured their final Billboard Hot 100 single, "I'll Try Something New" (#41). This cover of the Smokey Robinson and the Miracles hit from 1962 also went to #9 on the R&B charts and #29 on the Adult Contemporary.
While preparing to record their fifth album in 1983, Payne left the group and Johnson went on to record as a solo artist to fulfill contractual obligations, releasing One Taste of Honey, which produced the single "Love Me Tonight", a minor hit on the R&B charts. Payne went on to become an international stage actress, appearing in a number of theatre plays around the world including Oh! What A Night.
Upon moving to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in the early 1990s to play in local night clubs and to write music for a television production, Kibble married a local music teacher, Anne-Marie LaMonde, in 1993, and become stepfather to her three children, Natalie, Marci and Gregory Pilkington. Kibble died in February 1999 of heart failure, at the age of 49. Donald Ray Johnson continues to live and play blues in Calgary, where he also married a local. Johnson released several blues albums under his own name. The following year Janice Johnson released her second solo album, Hiatus of the Heart. In 2004 Payne and Janice Johnson reunited for the first time in over twenty years to perform on the PBS specials Get Down Tonight: The Disco Explosion and My Music: Funky Soul Superstars.
Janice Marie Johnson, who is of Stockbridge-Munsee-Mohican heritage according to her website's biography, was inducted in the Native American Music Association Hall of Fame in 2008.
Guitarist Suzanne "Minnie" Thomas died on June 15, 2015 at the age of 60.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license