You Say It's Your Birthday: LaMonte McLemore of the Fifth Dimension

LaMonte McLemore, a singer with the '60s syrupy-soul group the Fifth

Dimension, was born 57 years ago today in St. Louis, Mo. Before he started

down the road to pop stardom, McLemore played minor league baseball and

then started working as a photographer. Through his photographic work, he

met Miss Bronze California Grand Talent Award winner and future host of

Solid Gold Marilyn McCoo in 1964. They recruited future Friends of

Distinction leaders Floyd Butler and Harry Elston and formed the soul group

the Hi-Fi's. The Hi-Fi's toured in 1965 with Ray Charles revue and then

broke up after getting off the road. McCoo and McLemore then recruited

their mutual friend Ron Townson, another Miss Bronze California Grand

Talent Award winner, Florence LaRue, and Billy Davis Jr., a singer with the

Saint Gospel Singers. They were signed to the Soul City label as the

Versatiles and then changed their name to the Fifth Dimension at the

encouragement of label president Johnny Rivers.

In 1967 they released and hit it big with Up, Up and Away, a

sugary, sort of pre-psychedelic soul album that earned them four Grammys

based on the strong reaction to their cover of the Mamas and The Papas' "Go

Where You Wanna Go" and the balloon rider's anthem "Up, Up and Away."

In 1968, they hit #3 with "Stoned Soul Picnic" and #13 with "Sweet

Blindness," both written by Laura Nyro. Their biggest hit came in 1969, a

medley of "Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In," both songs from the hippie

musical Hair. The '70s saw the Fifth Dimension moving towards an "easy listening" sound, mostly ballads mixed in with the occasional pop song.

Their flowery costumes and vocal harmonies were a staple on the variety

shows which ruled television in that era. McCoo and Davis left the group

in 1975 and hit #1 in 1976 with "You Don't Have To Be A Star To Be In My

Show." The Fifth Dimension continued without them, although not nearly as close to the level of their previous successes. 1975's Earthbound reunited them with "Up, Up and Away" composer Jim Webb but did not make a dent in the pop charts. The group has continued to tour all these years, adding Phyllis Battle and Greg Walker to replace McCoo and Davis. They attempted a comeback in 1995 with In The House, a collection of Bee Gees, Neil Sedaka and Laura Nyro songs filled with drum machines and Fifth Dimension harmonies. It didn't hit, so these days the group is sticking to singing their old hits at casinos and revival shows.

Other birthdays: Fee Waybill (The Tubes), 47 and John Penny (Ned's Atomic

Dustbin), 29.