The Magictones

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The Magictones formed in the mid-'60s with Virginia McDonald, Tyrone Douglas (the Peppermints and the Barons), Tyrone Berkeley, and Calvin Stephenson. They shared an affinity with the early, pre-Funkadelic…
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The Magictones formed in the mid-'60s with Virginia McDonald, Tyrone Douglas (the Peppermints and the Barons), Tyrone Berkeley, and Calvin Stephenson. They shared an affinity with the early, pre-Funkadelic Parliament group more so than any of the established Detroit groups -- and even that's a stretch. Their sound was unique with eerie, windy vocals and hard-to-finger leads (as in play a Magictones' record that was never heard and you'll never guess it was them). They debuted on Wheelsville Records with two singles: "Me and My Baby" b/w "Got to Get a Little Closer" and "How Can I Forget You" b/w "Me and My Baby" in 1966. Both fell on deaf ears despite the assistance of William Garrett as co-writer (he wrote "Please Mr. Postman"). A recording on Chrysler Records, "Can't Erase My Old Love's Face," was credited as Debra Healy & the Magictones, but it didn't matter who it was attributed to, it went unnoticed.

They recorded three singles for Mah's Records in 1968 -- "Together We Shall Overcome," "It's Better to Love," and "There Is Nothing Better Than Love" -- that didn't surface anywhere. A deal with Westbound Records was thought to be a step up, but proved to be more of the same. It was believed Westbound's recordings reached a bigger market, such as the Ohio Players and Funkadelic, but those were exceptions -- most of Westbound's artists were strangers to people outside of Wayne County.

After four Westbound singles -- "Happy Days," "I'll Make It Up to You," "Til You Decide to Come Home," and "I've Changed" -- depression set in, but the group forged on despite the fact that their records weren't selling. Besides, "I'll Make It Up to You," possibly their best record, did get significant play on radio station CKLW out of Windsor, Canada; its flip was a remake of the Parliament's "Good Old Music." The Westbound recordings featured a lead singer with a falsetto similar to Ty Hunter's and a guy who reminds you of the Undisputed Truth's Joe Harris.

Two more singles appeared, one on Ram-Brock Records in 1972, "Great Day" and "(Do the) See Saw" on Shur-Hit Records, written by William Garrett, both clunked. The light at the end of the tunnel arrived in 1974 when Norman Whitfield's pet project, the Undisputed Truth, lost Billie Rae Calvin and Brenda Joyce Evans, the two females that enveloped Joe Harris' lead. Whitfield, surely with input from Harris, grabbed the dormant Magictones and formed a new Undisputed Truth with a totally different sound. The new aggregation put out some funky albums, but never scored anything like the original group's groundbreaking "Smiling Faces Sometimes." Whitfield fell into a dispute with Motown, activities halted, and in the end Douglas and McDonald defected to 8th Day on Invictus.