Love, Peace & Happiness

The '70s version of the Challengers III, the group that recorded in the early '60s for Harvey and Gwen Gordy-Fuqua's Tri-Phi label. Ann Bogan sang with both groups and replaced Gladys Horton in the Marvelettes between the two gigs. With Challengers III (aka the Challengers), Bogan sang with James Hutchinson and a female remembered only as Dorothy; in Love, Peace & Happiness (LPH), she's the Ms. between Mr. Melvin and Leslie Wilson. All three were also members of New Birth. LPH was part of Vernon Bullock's revue concept that Harvey Fuqua made a reality with New Birth, the Nitelighers, and Love, Peace & Happiness. The theory behind the mini revue was that three recording acts working together increased the chances of everybody gigging more, because the odds were greater that at least one of the three would have a hit at any given time. The Nitelighters scored first with "K-Jee," a staple of high school and college marching bands. Then New Birth rattled off a string of dramas that lit up Billboard's R&B chart. But, despite two solid RCA albums and a few singles, LPH never had a hit. Bogan's blustery contralto complimented the Wilsons equally strong vocals. The three went way back a long ways. Bogan had met the brothers on gospel shows and brought them to her mentor's attention. In addition to admiring her voice -- Fuqua recorded a duet with Bogan on Harvey ("Will I Do") -- and felt he owed her something. When Motown absorbed Tri-Phi and Harvey, the Challengers became Motown artists. But only Junior Walker & the All-Stars, and to lesser degrees, Shorty Long and the Spinners received any attention. Johnny Bristol became a noted producer/writer, but the others, including the Quails, bemoaned the business deal. (The Elgins redid the Quails' "Been a Long Time" as "It's Been a Long Time" on VIP; it came out after the release of their only album and didn't make the LP.) When RCA released their first single, "Don't Blame the Young Folks," in 1970, it marked Bogan's eighth year in show biz. Eight financially rough years. The Challengers' recordings, "Honey," "Stay With Me," and "I Hear an Echo," were under-financed and didn't have a chance. When Bogan became a mom, her mom insisted she raised her own kids; i.e., give it up (show business), it hasn't gotten you anywhere. She didn't travel with the show and Fuqua wired her money to get to wherever they were playing. Sometimes she made it; but often she didn't, which added another nail in the groups' coffin. After a few more singles, "Strip Me Naked" and a rendition of Gladys Knight & the Pips' "I Don't Want to Do Wrong," they disbanded. The Wilson brothers remained the key ingredients in New Birth, and Ann Bogan settled into a secure nine-to-five J-O-B in Cleveland. LPH's two RCA albums, Love Is Stronger (1971) and Here T'Is (1972), ought to be on a CD. ~ Andrew Hamilton

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