Major Lance was a skillful soul singer from Chicago who had a number of songs on the charts in the mid-1960's, two of which were top ten entries.
Major Lance (his real name) was born in Winterville, Mississippi in 1941 and moved to Chicago with his family as a young child. He was a boxer at Wells High School, the same school that his contemporaries Curtis Mayfield and Jerry Butler attended. His interests turned to music and he formed a group with his friend Otis Leavill. As an 18-year-old he had his first release, I Got A Girl, which had been written by Curtis Mayfield.
Lance struggled until he landed at Okeh Records in 1963, and the hits started to come. His first big one was The Monkey Time in 1963, then Hey Little Girl. In 1964 he had his most successful record ever with Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um. There were others, such as The Matador and Rhythm, and his final top forty pop record was Come See in 1965. He left Okeh and began to record for many different labels.
He recorded some songs that met with success on the soul chart, if not the pop mainstream, in his association with CBS, Dakar, Curtom, Volt, Playboy, and other labels, including Osiris which he owned with Al Jackson (who had been with Booker T and the MG's).
Lance lived in Great Britain for a while in the 70's, but returned home to Chicago. He ran into some trouble and was convicted of selling cocaine, and spent a few years in prison in the late 70's and early 80's. He worked the clubs along the Eastern Seaboard for a time but suffered a heart attack in 1987, seriously curtailing his career. He eventually died from heart failure in Decatur, Georgia in 1994.
Major Lance was a fine soul/R&B singer, and very adept at delivering a song. His two biggest hits were The Monkey Time and Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um in 1963 and 1964. Both were top ten records and like most of his big sellers, both had been written by Curtis Mayfield.
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