Song Of The Week: “Tighten Up” by Archie Bell & The Drells

Sometimes you have to make it up as you go along.

Archie Bell & The Drells formed in Houston, TX in 1966 and began gigging at clubs around the state. As it happened, they shared a manager with a group from Texas Southern University known as the TSU Toronadoes. The Toronadoes had a catchy little instrumental they played during their live shows, and their manager thought it might be a good idea to try and add vocals. So in the fall of 1967, he called up Archie Bell and brought his two clients together in the studio to make a little musical magic.

Bell had a title in mind but not much else. One thing he knew he wanted to include was the name of his hometown. He once heard somebody comment that nothing good ever came out of Texas and wanted to prove them wrong. Over the course of a marathon recording session involving dozens of takes, Bell first introduced himself, and then improvised about an imaginary dance craze while The Toronadoes laid down a mellow funk groove.

Released as a single in the spring of 1968, “Tighten Up” quickly sold a million copies and hit the top of the charts. Bell wasn’t even present to reap the immediate rewards. He’d received his draft notice from the Army and was stationed in Germany when the song reached #1. In fact, he lay recovering in a hospital bed after being hit by a truck. He spent all his time trying to convince his fellow patients that it was actually him singing “Tighten Up” on the radio.

So dance just as good as you want … with Archie Bell & The Drells (and the TSU Toronadoes).

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