There’s a little town in south Florida called Dania Beach. It’s tucked in between the Miami and Fort Lauderdale metropolises and other than today’s artists it was best known for its jai alai palace (now a casino) and a great old-time ice cream parlor called Jaxson’s.
All of that changed in 1970 when brothers Carter and Eddie Cornelius formed a singing group with their sister Rose. Another sister, Billie Jo, joined two years later. At one time there was another member of the group, a family friend named Cleveland Barrett, but he was killed in a car accident before the group had any success.
Rose was well on her way to becoming a star on her own. She had been on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1967, and had been performing all over the world including a 1970 tour with a group called the Gospel Jazz Singers. Then Rose got a call from the Cornelius family matriarch asking her to come home to Florida and help to put the group together. Rose created most of the group’s background vocals, and brother Eddie wrote the songs.
The Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose signed to United Artists and they had success right out of the box. Their first single, “Treat Her Like a Lady,” shot to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #20 on the R&B chart in 1971. The record sold more than a million copies and was certified Gold by the RIAA.
When you have a smash like “Treat Her Like a Lady” as your debut, it’s not easy to follow up. Many artists never do, and become what we call “one-hit wonders.” The Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose had no such problems. Their second single did even better than their first. “Too Late to Turn Back Now,” like its predecessor, was written by Eddie Cornelius. It was released in 1972 and by the end of July it had reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, #5 on the R&B chart, and #1 on the Cashbox Top 100 Singles chart. It was another million-seller, and another Gold Record for the group.
The group should have been on top of the world at that point, but somehow it all began to fade after that second single. Two more singles, “Don’t Ever Be Lonely (A Poor Little Fool Like Me)” and “I’m Never Gonna Be Alone Anymore,” managed to make the Top 40, but didn’t have nearly the success of the earlier singles. In 1973 “Let Me Down Easy” and “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” hovered around #100 on the pop chart. In 1974 the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose released three more singles. None of them hit the pop chart although “Big Time Lover” and “Since I Found My Baby” saw modest success on the R&B chart.
The end of the group came in 1976 when Carter Cornelius found religion. He joined a black Hebrew sect and changed his name to Prince Gideon Israel. From that point until his death in 1991 he continued write and record music, and make videos, for the sect. Brother Eddie turned to religion as well, becoming a born-again Christian. He later became a pastor and continued to be involved in music. Rose Cornelius continues her singing career in Florida to this day.