The Los Angeles-based group originally comprised Henry Garner (drums), Terral “Terry” Santiel (congas), Lequeint “Duke” Jobe (bass), Michael Moore (saxophone), Kenny Copeland (trumpet, lead vocals), Kenji Brown (guitar, lead vocals), Freddie Dunn (trumpet), and Victor Nix (keyboards). The group began in the early 1970s, when members of several backup bands from the Watts and Inglewood areas of Los Angeles united under the name Total Concept Unlimited. In 1973, this collective toured England and Japan behind Motown soul star Edwin Starr. Starr introduced them to Norman Whitfield, Motown’s ‘psychedelic shaman’ who was responsible for bringing a progressive funk-rock slant to the company, via such productions as Starr’s “War”, The Undisputed Truth’s “Smiling Faces Sometimes” and The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”.
Whitfield, after a decade at Motown, wanted to start a company of his own. He took the T.C.U. octet under his wing and signed them to his label. The group, now called Magic Wand, began working with Yvonne Fair and became the studio and concert band for The Undisputed Truth. During a tour stop in Miami, Undisputed Truth leader Joe Harris stumbled upon a singer named Gwen Dickey, then a member of a local group called The Jewels. Harris informed Whitfield of his discovery and Dickey was flown to Los Angeles to audition. In Dickey, Whitfield found the ingredient he felt was missing in Magic Wand: a charismatic female singer. He gave her the stage name Rose Norwalt. The original band lineup, now complete, prepared their debut album.
During this time Whitfield was contacted by film director Michael Schultz, fresh from the success of his first feature, Cooley High. Schultz offered Whitfield the opportunity to score his next picture, Car Wash. Whitfield would utilize the film to launch his new group, and began composing music based on script outlines. He and the band visited the film set, soaking up the atmosphere. This was one of the rare instances in Hollywood in which the music was composed concurrently with the picture instead of after the fact. In the spirit of the soundtrack, the band’s name was changed one final time to ‘Rose Royce’. The name not only referenced the movie’s automotive theme, but it also placed Gwen “Rose” Dickey front and center. Further, it hinted at a touch of class the band strove to bring to 1970s soul-funk.