Friday, September 18, 2009

Alfred Pelham of the The Ponderosa Twins + 1 RIP

I just read on Soulful Detroit that that Alfred Pelham of the The Ponderosa Twins + 1 died unexpectedly on July 15, 2009 at the age of 51.

This five-member vocal group consisted of two sets of identical twins (Alfred and Alvin Pelham, Keith and Kirk Gardner), and the "plus one," (Ricky Spicer). They grew up and received their education on the north side of Cleveland, Ohio; all attended Patrick Henry Jr. High where they formed the group. Tony Wilson, who became their road manager, discovered the lads and brought them to the attention of Bobby Massey (at the time a member of the O'Jays). Massey was producing records for Chuck Brown's Saru label. Realizing their potential, he quickly sold Brown on them, who signed them to his Astroscope label in 1970.

Massey rushed the youngsters, all in their early teens, to the studios and cut six exciting sides. Massey shopped the sides to Sylvia Robinson, owner of All Platinum Records (later Sugar Hill). Previously, Robinson recorded with Mickey Baker as Mickey & Sylvia scoring big with "Love Is Strange"; she entered the top ten again with "Pillow Talk" on All Platinum. Robinson loved them and agreed to distribute the sides nationally. The first release, "You Send Me," would turn out to be the group's best-selling single. Its success enabled the guys to tour with the All Platinum/Stang record gang, up and down the East Coast and parts of the Midwest. The shows consisted of the Moments, the Whatnauts, Linda Jones, Lonnie Youngblood, and others. According to Ricky Spicer, the late Harry Ray (Moments, Ray, Goodman & Brown) was like a big brother to him on the tours. An album, 2 + 2 + 1 = Ponderosa Twins Plus One, was released. The six sides produced in Cleveland were augmented by six sides produced by Michael Burton, a writer and producer for All Platinum records. Their second release, "I Remember You" backed with "Bound," was a two-sided hit. Both sides did well, almost equaling their previous success. The guys' schedule consisted of traveling, recording, and rehearsing. School became secondary; they thought they would be the next Jackson 5. And with good reason: they had an exciting stage act, were mature beyond their years, and knew how to use sex to sell their songs despite their youth. "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" (the Frankie Lymon tune) became their third and shortest release; the recording, produced by longtime Parliament/Funkadelic member Calvin Simon, was barely two minutes long.

A couple more releases and the group's career was over. Dismayed by the lack of royalties and money from their live shows, the guys felt used and became totally disillusioned with the music business. And by 1975 it was all over. Life after music hasn't been smooth sailing for some of the members either. One of the Pelham twins experienced mental problems; one of the Gardner twins has been incarcerated in an Ohio penitentiary since 1980 for committing a variety of offenses; and Ricky Spicer, the smallest member, the squeaky-voiced lead, does construction work in the greater Cleveland area. P-Vine Records in Japan reissued the 2 + 2 + 1 = Ponderosa Twins Plus One compilation on vinyl. A couple of the group's cuts can be found on a compilation CD with other All Platinum/Stang record artists. As a bonus, P-Vine included the twins' third release and its flip "You Got to Take the Bitter With the Sweet" on the reissue. It can be ordered through some Internet sites. An original copy of the album sells for more than 50 dollars. ~ Andrew Hamilton, All Music Guide


  1. Anonymous5:07 PM

    i really miss alfred, he's one cool dude all girls, black and white can count on. but i read on drew hamilton's article that either he or alvin has emotional problems. i have been to hell and back just to think of who i REALLY am. i'd been there too. i really missed him like i missed my grandma,she passed on august 19th. to all the condolences for the pelham family-jesus never forsakes us. im a songwriter and community activist, i know jesus will have singing praises. thank you. n.d. hughes goldsboro,nc

    1. Anonymous3:20 AM

      I too was completely stunned upon learning of Alfred's death. I've known him since I was a teenager and he was my first real "love"...we went to the movies together, "slow dragged" to their hit "You Send Me" in the dining room of my apartment and I had dinners at his home with his family. I knew little "Demo" and Wanda...I'm sure they have children-possibly even grandchildren of their own by now. I sent condolences as soon as I found out....WAY after the fact in 2011. The family still resides in Garfield Heights, Ohio in the same lovely home. I wish I knew how he passwd away. How utterly heartbreaking and hurtful this news was for me. Like one of their songs said "I just can't forget the first day we met....I remember you".

      Humbly Submitted,

      Cathee Willis

  2. Anonymous4:56 PM

    I knew Alvin and Alfred from John W. Raper Elementary School in Cleveland Ohio. We were in the same grade, Mrs. Gregory 1st grade, Mrs. Thomas 2nd grade. We didn't know they could sing back then, we just had a lot of fun being kids. I just found out they were not with us anymore. May our Lord continue to watch and keep their families.

    Minister Michael Buckingham