Eugene Record died last week. He was the lead singer for the Chi Lites, a Temptations wannabe group out of Chicago that had some hits in their day. "Oh Girl" and "Have You Seen Her?" are probably two of their best known tunes.
Back in the eighties I wrote a blues lyric for a Velveeta commercial and the music house I used hired Eugene to do the singing. I remember he was coming back from the Grammy Awards that day and was running a little late. So we lay down the rhythm tracks and a kickass harmonica riff by a great Chicago blues guy whose name escapes me right now.
When Eugene, Mr. Record to me, showed up, he was all business. I have that effect on black people. Okay, what is the suburban white chick doing here? He exchanged small talk with the music house producer while things were getting set up for him. Another singer did the sound check while the rest of us waited for everything to be ready for Gene, MISTER Record, to do his thing.
While they all chatted about the Grammy he just won, I was intrigued by his glasses. I couldn't stop staring at them. They were heartshaped and so out of character for this very suave man with the sleek, shiny hair. It was like he borrowed them from Carrot Top. The look did not compute. But nobody was going to tease him. Least of all me.
The time came for him to go into the studio and sing. The levels had been set for the other singer, not Eugene. So when he opened his mouth the sound almost blew us out of the room. The man had a set of pipes that could be heard across town. He and Patti LaBelle should have had children.
I was in awe of his amazing voice. It was just huge. I can still remember how my ears rang when he started out and we were blasted to the far wall. But getting to hear him was a short-lived experience because he was done in two takes.
The Velveeta commercial didn't make it to air. We were pushing the envelope having a very sensual R and B voice singing the praises of melted cheese, while a macro lens panned hot dogs, pasta, and vegetables as they were drenched in slow motion pours. A little too sexy for middle America.
But I got a chance to work with a great legend up close and personal. Even though he pretty much treated me like lint. Regardless, it sure was nice to see what all the fuss was about.
He was 64. There was a time when I considered sixty-four the same way Paul McCartney did. Old as dirt. Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four? Now, it seems too young to die.