Mr. T

One of the stars of the mid-'80s NBC-TV hit series The A-Team, Mr. T made his recording debut with Mr. T's Commandments, a rap record tailor-made for kids. Born May 21, 1952, in Chicago, IL, Laurence Tureaud (later changed to Laurence Tero then to Mr. T) was the second youngest of 12 children. His father left the family when he was around five-years-old and his mother raised the family on an $87-a-month welfare check in a three-room apartment. During high school, he was a football star, a student of the martial arts, a voracious reader, and a three-time city wrestling champion. After college, Mr. T served in the Army as a military policeman, played briefly for the Green Bay Packers, and also spent time working as a bodyguard -- for Michael Jackson, Steve McQueen, Muhammad Ali, Leon Spinks, LeVar Burton, and Diana Ross. In between bodyguard gigs, Mr. T worked as a bouncer for downtown Chicago club Dingbat's. While reading an issue of National Geographic magazine, he saw the hairstyle of a Mandinka warrior. Feeling a strong sense of kinship, Mr. T adopted the hairstyle as his own. In the mid-'70s, he began working as a gym teacher in the Chicago public school system. In 1982, he appeared on the NBC-TV show Games People Play, participating in "The World's Toughest Bouncer" contest. Sylvester Stallone saw him on the show and cast him in the critically acclaimed role of Clubber Lang in the movie Rocky III. Mr. T was then cast in the role of Sgt. BA ("Bad Attitude") Baracus in the NBC-TV hit series The A-Team. His gruff demeanor, imposing physical presence, and cache of gold jewelry (about $300,000 worth) made him an instant hit with viewers, especially kids. Unlike a lot of celebrities, Mr. T was quite conscious of being a positive role model for the millions of children who admired him and he never drank, smoked, or took drugs of any kind. He turned down acting roles that cast him as the villain or as overtly sexy. With that in mind, Mr. T recorded a 1984 album for Columbia Records: Mr. T's Commandments. Produced by Patrick Henderson (the Doobie Brothers, Carl Anderson) and sporting a multicultural cover, it's one of the safest LPs a parent could buy for their child. The first single, "Mr. T's Commandment," not only extolls the virtues of obeying your parents, but also extolls the virtues of mutually respect between parents and their kids. Mr. T also starred in later movies like DC Cab, appeared in the live-action segments of his own cartoon, and guested on the NBC-TV sitcoms Silver Spoons and Diff'rent Strokes. ~ Ed Hogan

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