If you’re under 30, the brand “Skyy” might only be familiar to you as a popular type of vodka. If you were jammin’ to urban radio in the Eighties, though, Skyy conjures up a completely different memory. A funk band of that name was a fixture on the R&B charts during the Eighties, scoring three #1 hits thanks to an appealing post-disco sound and the unique lead vocals of Denise Dunning. She and her background vocalist sisters Delores and Bonne gave the multi-racial band a very distinct sound. Meanwhile, the band members had chops for days, having been put together by Randy Muller, who was a member of the popular Seventies soul/dance outfits Brass Construction and B.T. Express.
Skyy’s biggest hit came in mid-winter ‘82, when the bass-heavy hit “Call Me” (from the album Skyy Line-each of their first six albums featured a title that played on the band’s name) peaked at #26 on the pop charts and shot to the top of the R&B list. What helped the song become a dance floor and radio favorite? Lyrics that spelled S-C-A-N-D-A-L. In a storyline that predated the premise of just about every “Jerry Springer” episode by several years, Denise plays the vixen who’s fixin’ to steal her friend’s man. “Here’s my number and a dime, call me anytime!” she sings. Didn’t know you could get that brazen back in the early ‘80s.
In addition to the eyebrow-raising (at least at that time) sentiment of the song, “Call Me” also boasts two things not found in most R&B music these days-a guitar solo and an interlude featuring a telephone call, ostensibly between Denise and the guy she’s got eyes for (who is apparently a graduate from the Maurice White School of Receding Hairlines). Why Denise doesn’t do anything other than sing “uh-huh” and “well” during the interlude, I’m not sure. Certainly wouldn’t turn me on.
“Call Me” stands as Skyy’s crowning achievement. Back in the days when you actually had to peak on the R&B chart before crossing over to the pop charts, it’s chart success isn’t really a good barometer of how big a hit it was-it’s certainly better remembered than the average #26 pop song. They went on to score a few minor hits through the rest of the decade before hitting the jackpot with a pair of #1s in 1989. By the mid-Nineties, Skyy had been officially grounded (womp womp), but the Dunning sisters still perform as “The Ladies of Skyy”… or at least, they *did*, this website hasn’t been updated in half a decade. At any rate, whether you’re using the a rotary phone, texting or using smoke signals, the sentiment of “Call Me” remains as prevalent as ever, which might be why the song still strikes a chord thirty years later.