Lou Rawls Prepping 'Philly Sound' Revue

Show to be named for the Philadelphia International classic sung by Billy Paul.

Singer Lou Rawls plans to resurrect the sound of Philadelphia with a musical revue called Me & Mrs. Jones: The Songs of Gamble & Huff.

"I got the idea when I was in the touring production of Smokey Joe's Café," Rawls said. "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great if we could do the same thing with all the great Philly International music from the 1970s?' "

Smokey Joe's Café: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller is a popular Broadway and touring revue of music written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

The New York duo penned such rock 'n' roll classics as "Hound Dog" — which was an R&B hit for blues singer Big Mama Thornton before it became Elvis Presley's signature song — and the Ben E. King hit "Stand By Me" (RealAudio excerpt).

The Philadelphia Story

Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff founded Philadelphia International Records in 1966, and they went on to write some of the most popular soul songs of the 1970s. Their emotional lyrics and producer Thom Bell's combination of funky basslines and lush arrangements became known as the "Sound of Philadelphia" or the "Philly Sound."

Classic Philly Sound hits included the O'Jays' "Backstabbers" (RealAudio excerpt), Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' "If You Don't Know Me By Now" (RealAudio excerpt), and Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones" (RealAudio excerpt), the song about marital infidelity from which the revue takes its title.

Chuck Gamble — Kenny Gamble's nephew as well as executive vice president of Philadelphia International — said his uncle and Huff wrote "Me and Mrs. Jones" based on a couple they observed at a restaurant in Philadelphia in the early 1960s.

"They went to the same lunch place every day and kept seeing this couple who were married, but it looked like not to each other," Gamble said. "They would eat lunch, kiss and go on their way."

Since his uncle didn't know the couple's names, Gamble said, he imagined that maybe they used the pseudonym "Jones" to cover their trysts.

Rawls had his own hits on Philadelphia International in the 1970s, including "Lady Love" and "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" (RealAudio excerpt). He said he thinks the Philly hits remain powerful because people connect to them emotionally as well as musically. Chuck Gamble concurred.

"It was always the message and the music," Gamble said. "It made people dance, made them think, made them cry, depending on the song and their emotions."

Rawls said he obtained the rights to use the music from Philadelphia International early this year. He said he's just begun a casting call for the rest of the show.

Rawls hopes to preview the show in the spring but said he didn't have any details yet. Gamble added that Rawls was assembling the show on his own and that he would present it to the label when it's ready.