The Brand New Heavies Biography

Simon Bartholomew (16 October 1965, Ealing, London, England) and Andrew Levy (b. 20 July 1966, Ealing, London, England) is the central duo behind London-based band the Brand New Heavies, alongside drummer Jan Kincaid (b. 17 May 1966, Ealing, London, England) and (initially) keyboard player Ceri Evans and singer Jay Ella Ruth. Formed in 1985, they had already suffered one failed recording contract with Acid Jazz Records, who tried to launch them as a ‘rare groove’ outfit, before they joined with US label Delicious Vinyl. The latter’s management put them in touch with N’Dea Davenport (b. Atlanta, Georgia, USA), who had previously provided backing vocals for George Clinton, Bruce Willis and appeared in videos for Young MC and Madonna’s former band the Breakfast Club. Word spread throughout the USA of their liaison, and soon hip-hop teams picked up on the band. They were sampled heavily on a number of early 90s rap records, before inviting members of that community to provide guest raps on their second album, Heavy Rhyme Experience: Vol. 1. These included Black Sheep, Gang Starr, Grand Puba, Main Source, Kool G. Rap, Ed.Og, Masta Ace, Tiger and Pharcyde.

Ceri Evans left the band in January 1992 to undertake production work for Alison Limerick and Galliano, recording solo as Sunship (‘Muthafuckin’’/‘The 13th Key’, for Dorado Records). The Brand New Heavies’ huge success in the USA with the single ‘Never Stop’ was soon mirrored in the UK, with the singles ‘Dream On Dreamer’ and ‘Midnight At The Oasis’ reaching the Top 20 in 1994. Soul artist Siedah Garrett (b. 24 June 1960, Los Angeles, California, USA) became the new lead singer in 1997 after Davenport’s departure the previous year for a solo career. They enjoyed further chart success the same year when their cover version of Carole King’s ‘You’ve Got A Friend’ broke into the UK Top 10. Garrett was replaced by Carleen Anderson (b. USA) following the release of the 1997 studio set, Shelter, although she only stayed long enough to record four songs with the band.

Nicole Russo was the next singer to be recruited to the line-up, making her debut on the 2004 album All About The Funk. Two years later the band reunited with Davenport and the Delicious Vinyl label.

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