What a great way to party

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Mar 2019 What a great way to party

By Jim Stewart

THE THREE DEGREES is not only one of the most successful girl groups in music history. They also hold the Guinness record as the longest working group touring and recording group since 1963 constantly.

VALERIE HOLIDAY has been ever present since 1967, which must also be a record, and the trio have no intention of taking life easy yet. Having just completed a two-month trek around the UK last Autumn, they are back this month for the ’40 Years
Of Disco 2019’ arena tour, with shows at Brighton Centre, Wembley SSE Arena, Liverpool Echo and Birmingham Genting Arenas, on four consecutive nights beginning on March 21.
Another long-serving member is Helen Scott, not an original member, although she joined in their formation year, 1963, leaving in 1966 to start a family. She was replaced by Sheila Ferguson, but the trio of Sheila, Valerie and founder member, Fayette Pinkney was present throughout the initial hit period.

Helen rejoined a decade later, in 1976, and remains a member today. With 15 ‘Degrees’ in total, Freddi Pool completed in the
current line-up in 2011 and recorded her fi rst album with the
group ‘Strategy: Our Tribute To Philadelphia’ in 2016. I caught up with Valerie at her home in Georgia shortly before Thanksgiving and the tour was our initial topic of conversation.

I asked her: You’re coming back to the UK in March for another ‘40 Years Of Disco’: what is it you like about doing those shows?

“We love doing those arena shows because we always get such a huge roar when we walk out onto the stage; nothing beats that, and we also get to meet lots of old friends and make some new ones.”

The line-up this time is just about the strangest and widest range of the term ‘Disco’ that I’ve ever seen, with you, Village People, Trammps, Imagination with Leee John, Gibson Brothers, Odyssey and The Real Thing.

“‘I know (laughing). I myself am waiting to see how it turns
out, but I think it will make for a very interesting audience.”

Have you ever worked with The Village People before?

“No, and I’m quite looking forward to it. I believe there is one
original member, the policeman I think, but there can’t be anyone alive who hasn’t at one time in their life done that crazy ‘YMCA’ dance. I’ve also heard their fans like to dress in costume for their shows, which will make every show even crazier.”

I first discovered The Three Degrees when I got a copy of ‘Gee Baby’ on the Swan label in 1969, but it wasn’t until you signed for Philadelphia International in 1972 and started working with Gamble and Huff that your career really began to take off .

“I know – to be working with such talent – they had already started to have a few hits, but little did we know we were getting on board something so amazing. Every artist was given the same attention and those records and songs, even though they were written and recorded so long ago, still sound fresh today and the lyrics are still relevant.”

You really helped put Philadelphia alongside Motown and Detroit on the music map of America.

“It was a very exciting time; you also had the Memphis sound and Stax, so it was good to be a force to be recognised among the giants in the recording industry.”

Then you left the label, Helen rejoined in place of Fayette with Ariola and Giorgio Moroder, which must have been a very different experience for you.

“Ariola allowed us to enter the disco sound with Giorgio Moroder. We were very fortunate to have a producer like Giorgio which lifted us back up again.”

How did Sheila Ferguson leaving the group affect you?

“It was devastating at the time, because she has always been
there, and it’s like asking someone to step into a moving car
because the pace we were going at was so fast, and we just
had to keep going, and that brought us to a complete stop.

“We had to fi nd someone who could not only handle the vocals,
but also the dance routines with a personality to blend in and
keep the unit going. We stumbled a couple of times, but then
Cynthia Garrison came and stayed for nearly 20 years and
the line-up of Helen, Cynthia and myself was the longest running line up of the group so far.”

That is the line-up I saw the most, and the fact that Sheila was missing didn’t seem to matter. Then Cynthia left and Freddi, who I already knew from the FLOs, joined in 2011.

“We were always a unit, equal vocals, no lead without the need
for individual focus, which made it easier for us, after Sheila left, to maintain the sound and keep the group as a unit, and Freddi is a good powerhouse, and the unit is as strong as ever.”

Do you have message for your fans ahead of the ’40 Years Of Disco’ tour?

“Just come along, we’re going to have a party every night. We’re going to enjoy every minute and we’re all going to make sure the audience do the same.”

Check the tour dates as this line up of 70s acts is unlikely to be
repeated, so get your tickets NOW!

40 YEARS OF DISCO 2019 Featuring VILLAGE PEOPLE,
THE TRAMMPS, IMAGINATION featuring Leee John, THE
GIBSON BROTHERS, THE THREE DEGREES, THE REAL THING, ODYSSEY MARCH:

Thurs 21 BRIGHTON Centre 01273 290131 www.brightoncentre.co.uk

Fri 22 LONDON – The SSE Arena, Wembley 0844 815
0815 www.ssearena.co.uk

Sat 23 LIVERPOOL Echo Arena 0844 8000 400
www.echoarena.com

Sun 24 BIRMINGHAM Genting Arena 0844 33 88222
www.gentingarena.co.uk