Jimmy Ellis (third from left, above) started, like so many of his generation and place, singing in church. But it wasn’t long before he and friends gathered at favorite streetcorners in his hometown of Philadelphia. (The tradition of streetcorner vocal groups continues in the City of Brotherly Love.)
The cops in Philly called these boys, huddled around trash-can fires for warmth and attention, tramps. Ellis famously remarked that, if he and his singing mates were going to be tramps, they were at least going to be high-class tramps. So, they added a second “m” to their group’s name and became The Trammps, a funky-ass soul and disco group that recorded their first album in 1975. By 1977, their disco mega-hit, “Disco Inferno,” could be heard literally everywhere – in discos, of course, on radio, in cars, schools, around city streets, and on TV dance shows.
Here’s a video of The Trammps performing their biggest hit, “Disco Inferno,” which they continued to do on tour until 2010. Makes me smile every time. (By the way, be sure to notice the fine threads. Wish I had an orange suit.)
Ellis died last week, at the age of 74, while I was away. I didn’t want to let his passing go by without taking a moment to remember him. Rest in peace, Jimmy.