Douglas RecordsNew York City Band
"American International Pictures (A.I.P) was an independent film company that had produced many successful horror movies. The music supervisor was a friend of mine. One day he called and asked me to produce a soundtrack for a new film that was in production. When I asked what it was about, he said that A.I.P. had signed John Travolta's brother Joey to star in a 'gang' film that would take place in the slums of Queens New York - a place called 'Sunnyside', and that would be the name of the picture. I thought 'Sunnyside' didn't sound very 'gang' or 'slums' to me but ... He then said he wanted to try for a big soundtrack album as he had done a deal with Casablanca Records, the home of Donna Summers and other major 'disco' artists. I asked, "do you want a disco record?" he answered "let's call it a dance record". For a high quality dance record that needed more than a beat I called Harold Wheeler* in New York to do the conducting and arranging. Harold was on top of his game and could jump in and out of all genres of music. We decided on a big band and lots of voices with the bass and kick-drum up high in the mix, and most of all we had to have good melodic songs."
"Luther Vandross was one of the premier session singers on the New York studio scene and we hired him as 'choir master', responsible for the performance of all the singers hired for the recording. Luther sang lead on most of the chorus tracks and then we came to the two songs that were written for a solo voice - Harold and I both simultaneously shouted 'Luther!'. Luther jumped behind the vocal booth and shouted back "not me!". After a cup of tea and some high powered persuasion by Harold and me, he agreed."
"When you hear Luther's solos on 'Got to have your body' and 'Bo Diddley' you will understand why we worked so hard to convince him to do it."
"Sunnyside was released and played in the theatres for about three days - which is probably why nobody has ever heard this record before."
Alan Douglas, March 2007
Wheeler has the distinction of having been the youngest conductor
on Broadway, beginning a long and distinguished career also as orchestrator
and composer of some of its most memorable hits (The Wiz, A
Chorus Line, Dreamgirls, The Tap Dance Kid, Swing,
The Full Monty, Hairspray). The term 'musical genius' is
not just a cliche when used to describe Wheeler, whose credits are not
limited only to theatrical productions. He has both arranged and produced
for luminaries such as Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Natalie
Cole, Whitney Houston, Al Green, Aretha Franklin,
Nina Simone, Vanessa L. Williams, Brian McKnight,
Anita Baker and jazz great Dizzy Gillespie.