Starting in 1972 out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of the first disco bands in existence was The Trammps. Before becoming one of the godfathers of the disco genre, the group originally started out in the 1960s as The Volcanos, then The Moods, before a series of changes to the lineup of Jimmy Ellis as the lead singer, Earl Young as the drummer and bass vocalist, and brothers Harold and Stanley Wade. Later, Robert Upchurch joined the band and in 1972 as The Trammps and together they began to produce chart-hitting music as recording artists.
Disco Highs and Lows
When disco music began to make its way into the hearts of fans who simply couldn’t get enough of its funky new dance sound, not everybody was quite as receiving. Just like the opposition the rock and roll music scene saw when it first started out as a genre in the 1950s, so did disco music face. Not every radio station was willing to play much of what The Trammps put out. If it was funk, no problem. However, when it came to disco, some of the reservations were great enough where some radio stations were reluctant to play a style of music that found such deep opposition from fans of old-time rock and roll. Over time, as more fans favored disco music and the dance floor, many of the radio stations began to soften their tune.
With the quality level of talent, The Trammps had in their prime, it was difficult not to recognize this, even among the stubborn who simply hated disco music no matter who performed it. The success of The Trammps still saw a gold-certified album from Disco Inferno by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), as well as eight other studio albums released by the band. There are also nine compilation albums and thirty-five singles.
The Trammps Top 10 Songs
#10 – The Night the Lights Went Out
In 1977, The Tramps III was the fifth studio album the group produced, which had tough shoes to follow from its predecessor, Disco Inferno. “The Night the Lights Went Out” was the most successful single from that album, which peaked as high as number six on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart and as high as number ten on the Dutch Charts in the Netherlands. It charted at number eighty on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, which simply showed how hard an act Disco Inferno was to follow, both as a single and as an album.
However, this didn’t deter The Trammps from continuing to do what they do best, which was twist some disco into the funk and funk into the disco. This is what made the long-term fans of this group as loyal as it gets as they saw the music had more value to it than merely chart numbers. This song was actually referencing directly the infamous blackout that affected most of New York City from July 13th until July 14th, 1977.
#9 – Body Contact Contract
“Body Contact Contract” was the third number one hit for The Trammps off the Disco Inferno album after it was released in 1976. This single was the final chart-topping single The Trammps would see on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. The familiar sounds of funk meeting disco are what made The Trammps a heavy fan favorite. Heavy with jazzy pop sounds, as well as the impressive backup vocals, and the bass vocal, worked well enough together to justify why it became a favorite on the dance floor.
#8 – Starvin’
From the Disco Inferno album, “Starvin'” was a number one hit that rocked the US Billboard Dance Club charts in 1976. It rode straight off the heels from the album’s giant title track hit and remains as one of The Trammps’ best disco hits ever produced. This single did not fall short on delivering the funk-meets-disco, at least as far as its catchy groove goes.
#7 – Trusting Heart
The second studio album from The Trammps was self-titled, which was released in 1973. The single, “Trusting Heart,” became a number thirteen hit on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, which was an impressive first-time score for the funk band that had yet to fully develop the disco sound they began to strive for. On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, Trusting Heart charted at number seventy-two.
#6 – Ninety-Nine and a Half
Where the Happy People Go was the third studio album produced from The Trammps. In 1976, the single, “Ninety-Nine and a Half,” became a number eight hit on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, which now became the fifth time in just a year the disco-funk group saw a single reach the top ten of its music chart. On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, it ranked at number seventy-six as it seemed the fans of R&B liked the song enough to see it chart, but not quite enough for it to climb higher. This was during a time where there was a bit of a war going on between different sides of music as not everybody was as welcoming of disco music. Both the R&B genres and the rock and roll genres featured a number of critics and artists that had a strong distaste towards disco music and it showed among the radio stations and television programs that were stubborn at first to give disco the fair chance it deserved.
#5 – Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart
The debut single for The Trammps was “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” which was the first of four singles from the group’s first studio album, The Legendary Zing Album. The original version of this song was composed by James F. Hanley in 1934, which was performed by Hal Le Roy during the broadway production, Thumbs Up! In 1938, Judy Garland covered this song many times over on different recordings and it was featured in her motion picture, Listen, Darling, as well as performed by her in concert and on television appearances.
The 1972 version performed by The Trammps served as a funked-up version of the classic that helped popularize the song with a brand new generation of listeners. On the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart peaked at number seventeen and charted at number sixty-four on the US Billboard Hot 100. The popularity of this song was even greater in the Netherlands as its GfK Dutch Charts saw it climb as high as number five. In the UK, it charted at number twenty-nine.
#4 – Hold Back the Night
The Trammps’ first studio album, The Legendary Zing Album, was released in 1972, but the single, “Hold Back the Night” appeared on the music charts on two different occasions. In the US, it was on the charts as early as 1972. In the UK, it wasn’t until after its re-release in 1975 where the song peaked as high as number five on its official music chart. In the US, “Hold Back the Night,” peaked at number ten on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. In the Netherlands, the song charted at number eleven, and in New Zealand, it charted at number twenty-nine.
The US Billboard Hot 100 also charted “Hold Back the Night,” which reached as high as number thirty-five. Among the singles The Trammps released, “Hold Back the Night,” wasn’t as heavy into the disco sound like the rest of the band’s material, but definitely had the R&B charm to it, as well as just enough soul to win over the hearts of listeners who agreed the song deserved to be called a hit when it came out.
#3 – Disco Party
“Disco Party” was one of two number one hits from The Trammps’ 1976 album, Where the Happy People Go. This actually replaced the band’s first number-one single on that exact same US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. Not only was this feat the first-time feat on this particular music chart, but still remains as the one and only occasion two songs from the exact same band would see the first hit get taken out by the second. This particular song was used as one of the theme music for a Brazilian version of the infamous game show, Wheel of Fortune.
#2 – That’s Where the Happy People Go
When soulful piano, playful funk, and disco meet, this is where the happiest people tend to be. “That’s Where the Happy People Go” seem to agree, at least it did in 1976, according to the single’s subject matter. The album with the matching title was the group’s third from the studio and produced four charted hits. That’s Where the Happy People Go became the first time The Trammps realized a number one hit on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart.
At the time, it was referred to as the US Billboard Disco File Top 20. On the US Billboard Hot 100, the song charted as high as number twenty-seven and was a number twelve hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. It was also an international hit when it charted as high as number twenty-five in New Zealand and at number thirty-five in the UK.
#1 – Disco Inferno
“Disco Inferno” became the signature song for The Trammps after it was released as a single in 1976. The song “Disco Inferno” was featured on the soundtrack album to the 1977 motion picture Saturday Night Fever. Fueled by the success of the film, the song “Disco Inferno,” became a number eleven hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1978. It already appeared in 1976 on the exact same chart, but only climbed to number fifty-three at that time. Also in 1976, it peaked as high as number nine on the US Billboard Hot RIB/Hip-Hop Songs chart. However, on the US Billboard on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs chart, Disco Inferno topped it. In the UK, the song reached number sixteen on its Official Music Chart.
The song unfairly received limited airplay when it first came out, but that changed after it was heard on the movie soundtrack. It charted a second time, this time peaking as high as number six on Canada’s Top Singles chart and at number six, which was an improvement from the 1976 chart rank of number seventy. This timeless classic was disco music at its best, even as legendary as becoming an anthem among disco music fans who couldn’t get enough of this song. Still among the clubs that play this song today, the moment it starts, the most eager fans will rush to the dance floor and burn it up, just as the song suggests. Disco Inferno’s influence as a song was so great that in 2005, it was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame.
Top 10 Songs From The Trammps article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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