Episode 80. Host Troy Saunders has his latest conversation with the legendary Helen Scott, one the founders of The Three Degrees, best known for their 1973 worldwide hit, “When Will I See You Again”. The Three Degrees have been doing it and doing it strong for over 60 years and this special episode will focus on their incredible career.
Their manager Richard Barrett brought three young teenagers, Scott, Fayette Pinkney and Janet Harmon, together in Philadelphia. The three didn’t know each other before joining the group, which recorded for the Philly-based Swan Records. They scored their first hit in 1965 with the single “Gee Baby (I'm Sorry),” which Troy plays a sample of.
Troy says that The Three Degrees helped initiate Philadelphia International Records (“You can say it, I won’t” quips Scott). Philly International is the legendary Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff soul label that featured The O'Jays, Patti LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass, and McFadden & Whitehead. Philadelphia International Records created a musical legacy that culminated in "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)," the 1974 hit recording by MFSB featuring vocals by The Three Degrees that was the theme for “Soul Train,” the first TV theme song (and perhaps the first disco song) to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100. When Don Cornelius refused to allow any references to “Soul Train” in the single release, The Three Degrees’ singing of the title was removed. But, the group would achieve their own major commercial success when “When Will I See You Again” became a hit later that year.
Troy and Helen discuss how The Three Degrees had tremendous success in the U.K., where they performed for Prince Charles’ 30th birthday celebration at Buckingham Palace. Not only did they tour the palace before most people were able to do so, but they were invited to attend the wedding reception of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, among the few Americans invited. The press even nicknamed The Three Degrees as “Charlie’s Angels”. The group performed for almost every member of the royal family in support of their various trusts and charities.
Helen is proud that The Three Degrees have maintained that name since 1963. It’s been a joyful ride that not many groups have been able to accomplish. The conversation covers the wide range of styles that the group covered throughout their career and Helen is very open and candid in telling their amazing story. She also shares her suggestions to new artists who are just beginning their musical journey. This episode is a memorable dive into a great musical journey from the legendary singer who lived it.
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