1970–78: ORIGINS AND EARLY SINGERS
Chic at Guilfest 2012
Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards met during 1970, as fellow session musicians working in the New York City area. They formed a rock band named ‘The Boys’ and later ‘The Big Apple Band,’ playing numerous gigs around New York City. Despite interest in their demos, they never got a record contract. They were in the band New York City which had a hit record in 1973 with ‘”I’m Doing Fine Now” which charted in the UK. The original demo tapes were made by DJ/studio engineer Robert Drake, who first played lacquer records while DJing at a New York after hours club, Night Owl. The title of the first song recorded as Chic was “Everybody Dance,” which was on their first album.
During 1977, Edwards and Rodgers recruited drummer Tony Thompson, formerly with LaBelle and Ecstasy, Passion, & Pain, to join the band; they performed as a trio doing cover versions at various gigs. Thompson recommended keyboardist Raymond Jones, 19, to join the band, as he had worked with him in the hit group Ecstasy, Passion & Pain. Needing a singer to become a full band, they engaged Norma Jean Wright by an agreement permitting her to have a solo career in addition to her work for the band. Using a young recording engineer Bob Clearmountain, they created the track “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)”. As a result, Chicbecame a support act.
Under contract with Atlantic Records company, during 1977 they released the self-titled debut album Chic, which was an extension of the demonstration tape. But Edwards and Rodgers were convinced that to produce the band’s recording studio sound when performing live with sound and visuals, they needed to add another female singer. Wright suggested her friend Luci Martin, who became a member during late winter/early spring of 1978.
Soon after the sessions ended for the debut album, the band members began to work on Wright’s self-titled debut solo album Norma Jean, released during 1978. This album included the successful nightclub song “Saturday.” To facilitate Wright’s solo career, the band had agreed to contract her with a separate record company.
The legal details of this contract eventually forced Wright to end her relationship with the band during mid-1978, but she participated in the sessions for Chic-produced Sister Sledge album, We Are Family. She was replaced as a singer by Alfa Anderson, who had done back-up vocals on the band’s debut album. For the Sister Sledge project, Edwards and Rodgers wrote and produced “He’s the Greatest Dancer” (originally intended to be a Chic song), in exchange for “I Want Your Love” (intended originally to be performed by Sister Sledge).