Not to be confused with jazz saxophonist Lonnie Simmons (who played with well-known improvisers like Fats Waller and Ella Fitzgerald), the Lonnie Simmons profiled here is a funk/soul/urban contemporary producer/manager/label owner who is best-known for his work with the Gap Band. The Los Angeles resident started making a name for himself in the R&B world in the '70s, when he operated a South Central L.A. nightclub called the Total Experience (which was located on Crenshaw Boulevard, one of the most famous thoroughfares in L.A.'s African-American community). The Total Experience was often described as an R&B equivalent of the Roxy (a well-known club on West Hollywood's Sunset Strip), and like the Roxy, Simmons' venue tended to book artists who weren't big enough to headline the Inglewood Forum or the Long Beach Arena, but could still attract several hundred people on a given night. Simmons also owned a recording studio in the '70s, and by the end of the decade, he founded Total Experience Records (which landed a distribution deal with Mercury/Polygram). One of the label's first signings was the Gap Band, who Simmons met through soul singer DJ Rogers (known for his 1975 smash, "Say You Love Me"). Before meeting Simmons, the Gap Band had been struggling; their first two albums, which came out in 1974 and 1977, received little attention. But thanks to Simmons, the Gap Band's fortunes improved considerably in 1979, when Total Experience Records put out the group's third album. Boasting the smash hit "Shake," that self-titled LP made the Gap Band superstars. "Shake" was the first of many smashes that the Gap Band recorded for Simmons' label; in 1979 and the early- to mid-'80s, the trio was huge thanks to a string of major hits that also included "I Don't Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance (Oops)," "Steppin' Out," "Burn Rubber," "Humpin'," "You Dropped a Bomb on Me," "Early in the Morning," "Outstanding, and "Party Train." The Gap Band wasn't the only well-known act that recorded for Simmons' label in the '80s; Total Experience Records was also the home of the male/female duo Yarbrough & Peoples, who weren't as big as the Gap Band but did enjoy major hits with "Don't Stop the Music" in 1980, "Don't Waste Your Time" in 1984, and "Guilty" in 1985. Because Simmons was a successful, R&B-oriented entrepreneur and label owner, there were those who compared him to Dick Griffey (president of Solar Records) and the Kenneth Gamble/Leon Huff team (who founded the '70s gold mine known as Philadelphia International Records). However, Total Experience Records didn't have as large a roster as Motown, Philly International, or Solar, and Simmons didn't oversee a stable of multi-platinum stars -- the Gap Band was the only Total Experience act that had at least ten major hits. Nonetheless, his contributions to R&B in the '70s and '80s were impressive -- and in the early 2000s, hip-hop producers were continuing to sample his work with the Gap Band and, to a lesser degree, Yarbrough & Peoples. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi