Record biz veteran Gus Redmond seemed to have been made for the business. With his large friendly eyes and wide open face, Redmond looks like a natural candidate for the meet and greet, schmoozy field of record and concert promotion. Redmond also dabbled in the creative side of the record business by singing in Major Lance and the Love Tones and co-writing such hits as "The Sly, Slick and the Wicked" by the Lost Generation and "Mellow Mellow Right On" by Lowrell Simon. The latter was the source for numerous raps and samples, most notable Massive Attack's "Lately," Markie Dee, and Chicago rapper Common.
Redmond was born in Jackson, MS, on May 13, 1942, into the family of Roberta and Arisker "Big Buddy" Redmond. As a child, he was a stutterer, something that he eventually grew out of, but he retained a gift for gab. He shares his May 13 birthday with another music industry vet, Stevie Wonder. At an early age, Redmond and his family moved to Chicago. His father and uncle (Clement) co-owned a barber shop that was across the street from the legendary Club DeLisa nightclub. This provided Redmond with his earliest exposure to music, the music business, and to entertainers, as they would often stop in the barber shop. One encounter involved Nat "King" Cole, who had stopped in the shop for a shoe shine. He got more than that, as little Redmond accidentally brown polished the singer's shoe stitches. This was a clear signal to his dad that being a shoeshine boy was not the life for him. Getting a job at a cleaner, Redmond learned how to block, clean, and make hats. Developing into a hustler, Redmond had an exterminating business at 16 and held a Sunday morning party at his mother's apartment that attracted over 500 people. The success of the party gave Redmond an inkling of what kind of career choice would be best for him. But being born on Friday the 13th, it seemed that Redmond was destined for trouble. When the chair his father was sitting in suddenly gave way (a casualty of the Sunday party), young Redmond was kicked out into the streets. Around this time, Redmond ran with such classic Chicago street gangs as the Clovers. With nowhere to go, Redmond went to stay with Otis Leavill, whom he had met through his own sister, Roberta. Leavill got Redmond a job at the produce store where he worked. He also began singing in Major Lance and the Love Tones. Redmond also met a teenager named Eugene Record, who told him that one day he would own a record label.
It seems that almost everyone who was involved in '50s R&B music has a Don Robey story and Redmond is no different. Around 1962-1963 in an effort to get him off of the streets, Redmond's father sent him to Houston to work with Robey, owner of Duke Peacock Records. Met at the airport by veteran promoter Dave Clark and Robey's assistant Coleman, Redmond was put to work handling promotion for a Sam and Dave concert in a Texas town near the Mexican border. With a packed auditorium, Redmond received a phone call from Robey telling him to take the money and run -- it was a bogus concert. Backing away smiling, Redmond told the law enforcement officers that he was going to get Sam and Dave, whose bus had broken down on the highway. Speeding into the night, Coleman drove him down dark back roads to evade police.
Infuriated by the scam, Redmond returned to Chicago, where by now his friends Leavill and Lance were becoming recording stars. Lance, now signed to Okeh Records, broke through with "Monkey Time" (Top Ten R&B, number eight pop), a hit throughout the summer of 1963. The following year, Lance hit with "Hey "Little Girl" (Top Ten R&B, number 13 pop). Because of the success of these records, Lance was included on the Dick Clark Calvacade of Stars tour with Gene Pitney, Fabian, the Supremes, Shirley Ellis, and Brian Hyland. Redmond and Leavill came along as Lance's road managers. Leavill had started recording for Mercury first on their Limelight subsidiary, then on their Blue Rock imprint, scoring an R&B Top 40 hit with "Let Her Love Me" in late 1964. Redmond met Carl Davis, who was then executive A&R director of Okeh, a Columbia Records subsidiary, and both he and Leavill began working for Carl Davis. This was where Redmond honed his promotional skills while working with DJs, retail operators, and club owners. Around the second half of 1965, Carl Davis left Okeh to start his own independent record production company and his own label, Dakar, setting up shop at 58 East Roosevelt Road. He was still managing Lance, Gene Chandler, and Walter Jackson, and he brought along some of the musicians and arrangers he had worked with at Okeh including Gerald Sims, Billy Butler, and Sonny Sanders, as well as Redmond and Leavill in managerial and creative roles. In October 1966, Carl Davis became the A&R director for Brunswick Records. Quickly the hits started coming: The Artistics, the Young-Holt Unlimited, Johnny Williams, Barbara Acklin, and Chandler. In 1968, Carl Davis started his own Dakar label with his brother George, Willie Henderson, and Redmond as partners. Getting a distribution deal with Atlantic Records, Carl Davis released Tyrone Davis' (no relation) first big hit in late 1968, titled "Can I Change My Mind" (number one R&B for three weeks, number five pop) on Dakar. Originally, the A-side was the blues shouter "A Woman Needs to Be Loved," but when KYOK Houston DJs Wild Child and Bugaloo George began playing the "Can I Change My Mind" flip, the record took off.
In 1970, a tune Redmond co-wrote with Lowrell Simon and Larry Brownlee became a Top 40 hit. The Lost Generation's "The Sly, Slick and the Wicked" went Top Ten R&B in 1970. The record tied for trade publication Record World's 1970 Record of the Year award with the Jackson 5's "ABC." The release also generated enough money for Brunswick to buy itself out from its owner, Decca Records. Redmond left Brunswick in 1973, but he stayed active in the record business. Around 1976, he started doing promotions for Bang Records of Atlanta, where he worked with a young singer named Peabo Bryson on his solo debut LP, Peabo, which included the hits "Just Another Day," "Just a Matter of Time," "I Can Make It Better," and "Underground Music" (originally released as a single by the Michael Zager Band featuring Peabo Bryson). In 1979, Redmond co-wrote and co-executive produced a release with Lost Generation members Lowrell Simon and Larry Brownlee, Fred Simon, Jeffrey Parrish, and Finache Simon. The album, Lowrell, was released by entertainer Liberace's AVI Records and featured production by the Chi-Lites' Record. The single, "Mellow Mellow Right On" b/w "You're Playing Dirty," went to number 32 R&B in 1979.
Around this time, Redmond also began working with the Cayre Brothers' Salsoul Records out of New York. Successes during his tenure with the label include Bunny Sigler's "Let Me Party With You" (number eight R&B), the Sigler/Loleatta Holloway duet "Only You" (number 11 R&B), Instant Funk's gold single "I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get It Girl)" (number one R&B for three weeks), Aurra's "In the Mood to Groove," Inner Life, and others. Redmond also worked with Carl Davis on his Chi-Sound label projects with Chicago soul regulars the Chi-Lites, Chandler, the Impressions, the Dells, and Magnum Force. The two also worked together along with Carl Davis' nephew Darryl L. Davis on the compilation Steppin' With Chi-Sounds CD and video. The record promotions veteran also was a key contributor to the phoenix-like success of singer/songwriter/producer Jeffree Perry's 1979 MCA LP, Jeffree, in 1990. Some of his other promotional jobs include Danny Goldberg and Marlon McNichols' New Dawn Records, Lafayette Gatling's Thisit Records, Providence Records, and many others. In 1999, Redmond began working for PPI Entertainment (Peter Pan Industries), whose roster includes Jean Carne and Tito Puente Jr. Former Chi-Lites lead singer and childhood friend Eugene Record opened his Evergreen Records in 1998 and tapped Redmond for promotional duties on the label's debut release, Record's contemporary gospel album titled Let Him In.