Jonah Ellis

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Producer Jonah Ellis co-wrote the million-selling single "Don't Stop the Music" and "Don't Waste Your Time," both number one R&B hits by Yarbrough and Peoples. The Wilson, NC, native journeyed to Los…
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Producer Jonah Ellis co-wrote the million-selling single "Don't Stop the Music" and "Don't Waste Your Time," both number one R&B hits by Yarbrough and Peoples. The Wilson, NC, native journeyed to Los Angeles to try to get a record deal as a singer on Lonnie Simmons' Total Experience Records. Instead he began writing and producing hit songs and crucial LP tracks for the label's artists which included the Gap Band. Singer Penny Ford (Gap Band's "I Found My Baby," number eight R&B) who recorded with Ellis remembers him as a "snappy dresser." A listen to the CDs The Best of Yarbrough and Peoples and The Best of the Gap Band, both from PGD/Polygram Pop/Jazz will bear out the fact that the '80s new jack sound owes a lot to the artists of Total Experience. One of the sound's best artists, Keith Sweat bared witness and tribute to the label's influence on "Spend a Little Time," which featured Gap Band lead singer Charlie Wilson. After being introduced by Simmons to the Texas-based singing duo Calvin Yarbrough and Alisa Peoples, he began to try to come up with material for their Total Experience recording debut. Using the Yamaha CR 78, a small drum machine and an acoustic guitar, Ellis came up with the song idea of a guy who meets a girl at a dance and wants to take her home afterwards. The song became "Don't Stop the Music," co-written by Peoples and producers Jonah Ellis and Lonnie Simmons. The song was recorded using both the CR 78 and drummer Jonathan Moffett to lay the rhythm track. Ironically, the Gap Band's "Burn Rubber on Me" kept "Don't Stop the Music" (issued on Mercury) out of the number one R&B spot until "Burn Rubber" dropped to number two, and "Don't Stop the Music" took over the top spot on Billboard's R&B charts on February 28, 1981, holding it for five weeks. Both "...Music" and its follow-up, "The Third Degree," which peaked at number 74 R&B, summer 1981, were on the gold LP The Two of Us. The next LP, Heartbeat, was issued on Total Experience through Polygram in spring 1982. Two singles were released with strong "Don't Stop the Music" leanings: "Heartbeats" (number ten R&B) and "Feels So Good." Their next album, Be a Winner, produced by Yarbrough, Ellis, and Oliver Scott, was released in spring 1984 and yielded another number one R&B single. Mixed by Nick Martinelli (Loose Ends) and club DJ turned remixer David Todd (Evelyn "Champagne" King's "Shame" and "I Don't Know If It's Right," co-mixed with Al Garrison), Ellis' Don't Waste Your Time clocked in at number one R&B in spring 1984. The LP's title track climbed to number 20 R&B in summer 1984. Guilty was the name of Yarbrough and Peoples' best album issued in late 1985. The title track "Guilty" -- not to be confused with the Alexander O'Neal hit -- went to number two R&B around the time of the LP's release. The third single was Ellis' gentle ballad "Wrapped Around Your Finger." In the late '80s, Total Experience folded. Other Total Experience artists Ellis worked with are the Gap Band (a cover of the Friends of Distinction's gold 1969 hit "Going in Circles," "Desire," "I Want a Real Love," "Oo What a Feeling"), Penny Ford ("I Feel the Music," "Dangerous," the engaging "Uh Oh I Made a Mistake"), Billy Paul ("Fire in Her Love," "Get Down to Lovin," a sensual cover of the Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes for You," "Let Me In," "Sexual Therapy"), Will King ("I'm Sorry" and the steppers favorite "Wonderful World," a cover of Sam Cooke's 1960 smash), Klique ("Be Ready for Love" -- not the Motown standard -- and "Love Talk"), Prime Time ("I Owe It to Myself") featuring TE staff producers Jimmy Hamilton and Maurice Hayes, and Ellis' own turn as a recording artist on "Christmas Won't Be Christmas Without My Baby" on the 1984 multi-artist LP A Total Experience Christmas on Total Experience/RCA and tracks on former Light of the World member Gee Bello's self-titled 1985 Capitol LP.