Do you think boy bands began with groups like NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys? Think again. There were boy bands decades ago. The Jackson 5 was just one example. The 5 Stairsteps were another. In addition to being boy bands, both of those groups were also family bands. Around the same time and from the same city as the Stairsteps was a group called Brighter Side of Darkness. They are only remembered for one single, but what a single it was.
Brighter Side coalesced while the members were attending Calumet High School in Chicago. The original lineup included Ralph Eskridge, Randolph Murph, and Larry Washington. The group’s lead singer was 12-year-old Darryl Lamont. Their career as a group lasted less than three years but left behind that one indelible single.
It was 1971 when Brighter Side got together on the South Side of Chicago. They had a manager by the name of Anna Preston who was serving as a mentor for the young Lamont. When she added him to the Brighter Side lineup, that’s when the magic began to unfold. At the end of 1972, they released the single “Love Jones” which was co-written by Murph, Eskridge, and Clarence Johnson who also produced the record. That’s Murph who is building the drama by talking through the song’s verses. But where the song really explodes is on the choruses that find Lamont wailing. The end result is a record that brings to mind the symphonic soul of groups like the Delfonics and the Dramatics but also adds a touch of psychedelia to the mix.
“Love Jones” was released on 20th Century Records and made it to #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the Hot Soul Singles chart. It was a million-seller and earned Brighter Side of Darkness a gold record from the RIAA. But apparently, something happened when the group was on their way to a Soul Train appearance. The dispute led 20th Century to fire everyone except Lamont from the group.
The single was also included on an album by the same name. Unfortunately, the follow up single, “I Owe You Love,” and two other singles failed to find any success and 20th Century dropped the group.
Inevitably the case ended up in court where Johnson and the record company took on the original members of the group and prevailed. Johnson hired three new members; Jesse Harvey, Nate Pringle, and Arthur Scales to sing behind Lamont. They recorded one single for Johnson’s Starve label but it went nowhere. Soon, Lamont was gone too and Tyrone Stewart joined the three Johnson-hires and 20th Century re-signed the group but changed their name to the Imaginations. They made two albums and several singles for the label but had no chart success.
By the end of the ’70s, even the owners of the name Brighter Side of Darkness didn’t care and there was no fuss when Lamont and Murph reformed the group. They made one last single in 1978 for the Magic Touch label called “He Made You Mine” but it failed to chart.
Perhaps imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but what do we make of parody? In 1973, Cheech & Chong released a single called “Basketball Jones” that was clearly a parody of the Brighter Side of Darkness hit. Their single featured luminaries Carole King and George Harrison and it reached #15 on the pop chart, one spot higher than the record that inspired it.