Read the success story of Colonel Abrams trapped. It's an interview
that Colonel Abrams gave for Blues and Soul magazine in 1985.
FIRST there was Major Lance and then General Johnson. Now here comes
Colonel Abrams (yes, that's his real name!), a New York resident who
was born in Detroit. Jumping up the dance charts on both sides of the
Atlantic is his hot MCA single, "Trapped" and the record looks destined
to give the 6' 3" Colonel a "major" hit!
In Los Angeles for a brief promotional visit prior to making his first
video, Colonel happily related the somewhat complex story of how he
started singing back when I was 10, around the time when my family
moved to the Big Apple from Detroit. During the late 60's, I formed
several groups and we performed throughout New York. With my brother
Morris, I had a group called Conservative Manor and we did quite well.
"Some of the places we played at included the Grand Finale, Bogard's
and the Cafe Reginette in Manhattan and we began working with one of
New York's top radio DJs ? G. Keith Alexander."
COLONEL'S first venture into the recording studios was less than
profound! "I went for an audition as lead singer for a group called 94
East who had a contract with Polydor Records. This was around 1976.
You'd never believe who was playing guitar with them?"
"It was Prince. You see, the group was from Minneapolis and he might
have stayed with them if he hadn't been offered his own deal. As it
turned out, I got the job and I did record one song with the group, but
it was never released." Undeterred,
Colonel went on to join another group, known as Surprise Package, all
residents of East Orange, New Jersey, original home for original
members of Slave, including Steve Arrington. After a few years without
a great deal of national notoriety, our gallant young man decided to
strike out on his own in 1982. It's at this point that our story
becomes filled with intrigue!
recorded three songs on an 8-track tape machine at home, "Runnin"',
"Release The Tension" and "Celebrate" with one of New York's top DJs
and his partner producing them. The DJ (who shall remain nameless)
started playing the songs on the air and then two major clubs ? The
Paradise Garage in New York and Zanzibar in Newark ? got copies of the
tapes and started playing them. The club-goers went crazy . . .
especially because they couldn't get the songs in the record stores
because they were still on tape!"
local record companies began to ask the producers of the tape to make a
deal. Meanwhile, the Colonel had been receiving other offers.
He explains: "I'd recorded a full complete master on a ballad called
"Leave The Message Behind The Door" and Streetwise Records were real
interested in that one. My name had gotten out there with all the
excitement about the other songs so I found myself in this dilemma."
Much to the distress of the producers of his hot disco tapes, Colonel
opted for a deal with Streetwise. "I didn't feel to good about the
other company that the guys had been talking with and I felt that
Streetwise was a small label with a good reputation."
When it was released at the beginning of last year, "Leave The Message"
did well on the black music charts. "But", laments the Colonel, "I was
haunted by those other three songs which were still getting lots and
lots of club play. The radio DJ who'd produced them was still playing
them every week too."
Streetwise felt that it would be good strategy to follow the ballad
with an uptempo side "so they called in one of their staff producers,
Winston Jones, and we collaborated on a song, "Music Is The Answer". It
was a serious dance track and so it got tremendous response. It was
almost as if the public was ready for it."
the producers of the famous unreleased tapes had decided to re-cut one
of the songs, "Release The Tension", with another singer.
"They did a deal with 4th & Broadway Records and put the record out
witha group called Circuit. The problem was that people who'd
heard the song on the air and in the clubs went into the stores and
bought the record expecting to take it home and hear me! In fact, I
heard that some people brought the record back to the stores and wanted
their money back!"
mid-'84, Streetwise Records had closed its doors. "I kept on doing
personal appearances off of "Music Is The Answer" and I was performing
those three famous songs. But the guys who had produced them asked meto
stop so, naturally, I respected their wishes," says the Colonel.
Obviously not one to be deterred by the politics of the music biz,
Colonel went back into his home studios and came up with two songs,
"Trapped" and "Speculation".
"With the network of people who were hip to my music by now, we got
lots of immediate response. Even though, at this point there was no
record, tapes of the songs were played in clubs in Boston, Washington
DC and Detroit as well as in New York and Newark and my friend the
unnamed NY deejay put the songs on the air."
Through a gentleman by the exotic name of Apache Ramos, "Trapped" was
brought to the attention of the management of hit group New Edition.
The management team were sufficiently impressed by the feedback on i
"Trapped" that they approached MCA Records who'd already been getting
reports that the song was an underground hit.
"By July, the company had signed me and I went into the studio with
Richard Burgess ? who had produced Spandau Ballet, Adam Ant and King ?
to re-cut "Trapped". I found working with him real easy. He's very
open-minded and he's really into black music."
Burgess is producing an additional five songs, including "Speculation"
for the Colonel's upcoming album with Cerrone (of "Supernaturel" fame)
producing three others. "Working
with Cerrone is quite different from working with Richard," reports the smiling Colonel.
"I'm very happy with the way the whole album is turning out ? it's
going to be a combination of different kinds of music ? naturally, some
very strong dance
tracks as well as some slower tunes."
The Colonel ? who is the fourth in his family line with that military
name ? is excited about finishing the album and doing his first video.
"Being with a big company like MCA makes a whole big difference. I feel
like I'm now ready to follow in the footsteps of some of my personal
favourites ? people like Luther Vandross, Al Jarreau, Teddy Pendergrass
and Marvin Gave."