This Is The HOUSE Where Love Died…or was it the beginning?
Club Chi’ll Records got to speak to Rochelle Fleming, whose voice is one of the most familiar in house music. Rochelle tells us about her relationship with house and how her career evolved after the debut release from First Choice ‘This Is The House Where Loved Died’, which was way before she left her suitcase by the door…
What does house music mean to you nowadays?
What house music has become is unbelievable to me. To think what my songs have done for the music is simply amazing. I still love the beat of house music all these years later.
Where does your story with music begin?
I grew up in Philadelphia listening to R&B, because being the youngest of seven children, and that was what they listened to. They’d bring those records into the home and play them, and I would sing along to them. I loved listening to Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight, and all those Soul and Jazz artists from the 1950s and 1960s. I remember being five-years old and my mother used to hang out her laundry on the clothes line. My job was to carry the clothes pins, and every time I’d go to hand her one, I’d start singing into it like it was a microphone.
What about First Choice?
I was sixteen when I gathered First Choice together. I first met Annette Guest when I was in the ninth grade. I knew Wardell Piper since the seventh grade. We were called The Debonettes before First Choice. When I asked the girls to be part of my group, I recall Wardell saying ‘you don’t need a group, you can sing all by yourself’. But I didn’t want to be a solo artist, I wanted to be in a girl group.
What was it like in Philadelphia in the 1970s?
Philadelphia was awesome at the time First Choice got going because we had all the acts like The O’Jays, and The Stylistics. First Choice was the youngest of the girl groups in Philadelphia, we were the babies really. We also got to record at Sigma Sound Studios and that was simply awesome! It was in those studios that I met Stevie Wonder for the first time. I met Stevie several more times. One of the other times was when Smarty Pants and Armed And Extremely Dangerous were out and huge hits. We were performing it at the Copacabana in New York City and I noticed him singing it. I cut the band up and turned to Stevie and said ‘Stevie, this is our show’, and we all laughed.
Tell us about Let No Man Put Asunder?
We went from Warner Records to Salsoul Records. The Cayre brothers were wonderful to us, and were always really nice. It was Ken who we worked with the most, and he’d often come down to Philadelphia and, sit in on our recording sessions. Salsoul had some of the biggest acts at the time, like Loleatta Holloway and Double Exposure.
We recorded Let No Man Put Asunder when we were with Salsoul. My vocal on that has been used and sampled so many times by people like Todd Terry, and the Jungle Brothers, and there have been remixes, like the ones Ron Hardy and Frankie Knuckles did.
Back in the day First Choice performed Let No Man Put Asunder at all the best clubs, like the Paradise Garage. We actually played in that club before it was the garage. It was called the Outlaws Barn. It even had hay all over the floor. Then Larry Levane, who I loved and miss very much took it over as the Paradise Garage. Larry was so caring, so funny. He used to say ‘can I sing back up with you tonight? And I’d laugh and tell him no. Larry was an unbelievable guy, and what he did with the Paradise Garage will always be remembered.
The Paradise Garage became the biggest club and there’s been talk about a reunion that wants us to perform at it, something I would very much like to do. I remember there was a time when First Choice was booked at the Paradise Garage and Luther Vandross was doing a show in Manhattan. We wanted to see his show and he wanted to see our show. We came to an arrangement where we went to see Luther perform and he came to see us at the Paradise Garage.
I’m known as a pioneer for house music, and I get a lot of respect. I’m in awe and very humble about what people tell me. I have never taken it for granted.