Simply put, the members of Midnight Star love being musicians.
“We love what we do and we love the feedback from the audience,” said keyboardist background vocalist, and original band member Bill Simmons.
That passion is what brings any wallflower on to the dance floor.
|MIDNIGHT STAR —Members of the group Midnight Star performing one of their many hits. (Photo by Gail L. Manker)
The group, which still has all six original members, recently performed at the Homewood Coliseum during one of promoter Godfrey’s $20 cabarets.
“I chose Midnight Star because of their infectious dance beats and coming off the Zapp concert (Godfrey brought funk group Zapp to the coliseum earlier this year) people wanted another live group they could dance to,” Godfrey said.
And Midnight Star did not disappoint.
“We hit the stage with the high energy performance that we are known for, remembering all the things that were so special about the group. Letting everybody’s light shine,” said lead singer, Belinda Lipscomb.
Midnight Star was formed at Kentucky State University in 1976.
“We were all music majors at Kentucky State and we either played in bands or either sang in choirs,” Simmons recalled.
Started as a campus party band reminiscent of P-Funk and Earth Wind and Fire, the group was signed to Solar Records two years later after being noticed at a New York City showcase by Dick Griffey.
“We were the best musicians on campus in our opinions and we knew what we wanted to do. After a few rehearsals, we knew we had something special and that we wouldn’t remain just a campus band,” Simmons said.
After early albums like “Standing Together,” “The Beginning” and “Victory” allowed Midnight Star to cut their teeth in the professional music world, the members’ intuition about the group’s fame was right.
Enter the certified double platinum album, “No Parking On the Dance Floor.”
The album spawned the hits “Freak-A-Zoid,” “Wet My Whistle,” the title track and “Slow Jam,” which was co-written by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds.
In 1985 the planetary invasion continued as Midnight Star racked up the hits with “Operator,” and “Curious.” Other hits throughout the 80’s included “Midas Touch,” “Don’t Rock the Boat,” and “Snake in the Grass.”
“In the early ’80s we took a lot of techno and popular hip-hop and blended it with our R & B background. It was coined as techno-funk,” Simmons said. “We wanted to be the feel good party band. We had a lot of fun.”
In the 90’s the group scored top hit from its “Work It Out,” effort with “Do It (One More Time).
Soon after, the group took a long hiatus from recording, only re-releasing their older, more classic jams internationally.
“Very few people in our era were making music and things turned to hip-hop and the New Jack Swing. Traditional R& B groups were not getting airplay,” Simmons said.
At that time, members of Midnight Star went off to pursue other interests.
Vocalist and guitarist Melvin “McArthur” Gentry worked on production projects for Toni Braxton, Shanice Wilson and others, vocalist and keyboardist Boaz Watson co wrote songs with Babyface, which produced hits for Braxton and After 7. Lipscomb has earned lead roles in musical comedies and gospel musicals. She has also sung on several radio and television commercials including a series of commercials for Sandals Resort. Simmons writes background music for video games.
All the while, the group knew they wanted to get back together to record.
“Deep down inside, everyone had the intentions of getting back together again,” said Gentry.
In 2000, Midnight Star reunited and released the “15th Avenue” record independently on its Reel Star label in 2002.
Although the album failed to chart in the United States, Simmons feels it has never ending appeal and stays true to the Midnight Star sound.
“‘5th Avenue’ faired well over the years. You can put it on now and it’s timeless,” Simmons said. “Now we continue to write music as much as we can. We want to stay away from day jobs.”
When Midnight Star first began, they wanted to be a “guiding light to people. We wanted them to come from the darkness and into the light.”
The funky party band has made its wish a reality.