Based out of Columbus, Ohio and playing a circuit of Holiday Inns and other venues throughout Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana, The Crowd Pleasers performed countless dates in Northern Michigan. The seven-man group energized crowds with their brand of R&B, funk and soul, with an extra kick from a horn section that gave the band an irresistible dance groove.
Al Carey played trumpet, trombone, and sang with the band for many years. Although hes since moved on to other projects, he still recalls the bands glory days.
The Crowd Pleasers had a grass roots fan base to match their longevity of 20-25 years on the road. The band released an album of original songs in 1979, but played mostly covers at their bar gigs.
Carey says that in the bands heyday, they performed hits by Earth, Wind and Fire along with Kool and the Gang, Prince and other hitmakers. Later, when rap got hot, wed do songs by LL Cool J, Eminem, Tupac -- you name it.
Locally, the band made regular stops at Treetops in Gaylord, Victories in Petoskey and Holiday Inns in Traverse City, Alpena and Grayling. Oh yeah, I cant forget Grayling, he says with a laugh.
I left around 2000 because I wanted to do some other stuff on my own, Carey recalls. And then I joined another house gig band before moving to New York.
These days, Carey, 60, is living in Studio City, California, pursuing a dream of winning a Grammy for a DVD entitled Tears Falling, which he produced with a rapper named Life. The DVD juggles searing images of the war in Iraq with those of the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. The soundtrack lambasts the institutionalized evil of the world in a blend of funk and hip-hop.
My DVD is like what Marvin Gaye did with Whats Goin On, he says, referring to the socially-conscious theme album from the early 70s. The subject is war and greed and the CEOs taking all the money for themselves and hurting the little guy.
The DVD is Careys attempt to stay current in the difficult world of the music business.
Ive been writing music and doing vocal work wherever I can, and filling in as a security guard at a homeless shelter, Carey says. He became a member of the Grammy organization last fall, in hopes that his new DVD will make the cut at the 49th annual awards this week.
Carey had plans to attend the Grammys, but, he said, I dont think I have a shot at it. For starters, even though hes a member, hes ineligible to vote; he hopes his break will come next year when he has more material to submit.
One member of the Crowd Pleasers who has already topped those awards is Babyface. Carey says that Kenneth Babyface Edwards was a member of the Crowd Pleasers for a short time in the late 80s. Babyface went on to write multi-platinum hits for Boyz II Men and then launched his own recording and producing career.
Carey noted in a Saginaw News article that Babyface used to retire to his room after the bands shows to write songs into the wee hours of the morning, passing up the chance to party with girls attracted to his smoky good looks and romantic style.
It was that work ethic that helped Babyface produce more than 75 top-10 R&B hits, six number one pop hits and sales of more than 15 million singles and 40 million CDs.
As for the Crowd Pleasers, the band is still cookin, but goes by the name CP2 these days. They play mostly casinos now because the bars dont have the budget to bring them in, Carey says.