Major Lance Biography

4 April 1939 (1941 is also cited), Winterville, Mississippi, USA, d. 3 September 1994, Decatur, Georgia, USA. A former amateur boxer and a dancer on the Jim Lounsbury record-hop television show, Lance also sang with the Five Gospel Harmonaires and for a brief period with Otis Leavill and Barbara Tyson in the Floats. His 1959 Mercury Records release, ‘I Got A Girl’, was written and produced by Curtis Mayfield, a high school contemporary, but Lance’s career was not truly launched until he signed with OKeh Records three years later. ‘Delilah’ opened his account there, while a further Mayfield song, the stylish ‘The Monkey Time’ in 1963, gave the singer a US Top 10 hit. The partnership between singer and songwriter continued through 1963-64 with a string of US pop chart hits: ‘Hey Little Girl’, ‘Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um’, ‘The Matador’ and ‘Rhythm’. Although Lance’s range was more limited than that of his associate, the texture and phrasing mirrored that of Mayfield’s work with his own group, the Impressions. ‘Ain’t That A Shame’, in 1965, marked a pause in their relationship as its commercial success waned.

Although further vibrant singles followed, notably ‘Investigate’ and ‘Ain’t No Soul (In These Rock ‘N’ Roll Shoes)’, Lance left OKeh for Dakar Records in 1968 where ‘Follow The Leader’ was a minor R&B hit. Two 1970 releases on Curtom Records, ‘Stay Away From Me’ and ‘Must Be Love Coming Down’, marked a reunion with Mayfield. From there, Lance moved to Volt, Playboy and Osiris, the last of which he co-owned with Al Jackson, a former member of Booker T. And The MGs. These spells were punctuated by a two-year stay in Britain (1972-74), during which Lance recorded for Contempo and Warner Brothers Records.

Convicted of selling cocaine in 1978, the singer emerged from prison to find his OKeh recordings in demand as part of America’s ‘beach music’ craze, where aficionados in Virginia and the Carolinas maintained a love of vintage soul. A heart attack in September 1994 proved fatal for Lance.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.