Kenny Hamber

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Soul singer Kenny Hamber has been around a long time. The Baltimore voice's urge for singing blossomed at Weldon Baptist Church, where he served as one of the choir's most-requested male voices. From…
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Soul singer Kenny Hamber has been around a long time. The Baltimore voice's urge for singing blossomed at Weldon Baptist Church, where he served as one of the choir's most-requested male voices. From there, he went to blending notes with the many doo wop groups vying for attention in the Baltimore/D.C. area. The small Spar label released his first single in September 1960. Hamber co-wrote "Tears in My Eyes," David Robinson wrote the B-side "Do the Hully Gully" and collaborated with Hamber on "Tears....," Robinson's combo accompanied Hamber on both sides. Spar licensed both sides to the equally tiny Zenette Records in 1961. Despite the business maneuver, the record only achieved airplay at stations the principals could personally serve. Spending money to record and press records and even more to sway the jocks, getting a distributor, and sweating bullets for a check (that often never came) put Spar, Zenette, and countless other small labels out of business often before they received their Federal Tax ID numbers.

Hamber wasn't a writer; that he's credited with a co-write on his first recording was rare. The only other known Hamber composition is "I Can Feel That You Love," on that one he shares writing honors with Jerry "Swamp Dog" Williams and Philly DJ/record entrepreneur Jimmy Bishop. Without your own material, it's difficult to get a record company to take a chance on you; there is always a better-looking, more charismatic, and electrifying entertainer they'd rather take a flyer on.

He found a one-off home in 1964 with De Jac Records, which issued "Time" b/w "Show Me Your Monkey" with females on backups; the first single featured males harmonizing behind Hamber, although the most sophisticated radar wouldn't have detected it and sales were infinitesimal. A deal with Jimmy Bishop's Arctic Records, who was charting with Barbara Mason singles, seemed a good bet. But after two singles -- both sought after now by Northern soul collectors -- it was over. Kenny Gamble (a fellow Arctic artist) wrote Hamber's Arctic debut, "Ain't Gonna Cry" (1967); his second, "Looking for a Love" b/w "These Arms of Mine" (1968), like the first, got little airplay outside of Philly.

In too deep to get out, Hamber sang where and when he could and kept his eyes open for hookups. One came with a soul group based out of Bridgeport, CT, the Hitchhikers, who cut a critically acclaimed self-titled album in 1976 for ABC/Dunhill Records. When that well dried, Hamber went into recording hibernation and didn't emerge until 1996 when MCK Records dropped his first solo album -- This Is R&B, which features a heart-shattering rendition of Charles Kipps' "Walk Away From Love," popularized by David Ruffin. A second solo album, In a Romantic Mood, has spread his reputation even further. Hamber gigs regularly from Connecticut to Baltimore with the Kenny Hamber Revue, playing spots like Arch Social Club in Baltimore and Elizabeth Rose Garden in Hartford, CT.