Camden, NJ, like many industrial cities in the northeast, has fallen on hard times. Corruption has led three of the cities mayors to prison, and for seven years from 2005-2012 Camden’s police and fire departments were controlled by the state. About 40% of the city’s 77,000 people live below the poverty line.
But it wasn’t always like this in Camden. Camden has been home to the headquarters of the Campbell Soup Company for many years, and the city was also home to the New York Ship Building Company from 1899-1967. At one time it was the largest shipyard in the world. From 1901-1929 the Victor Talking Machine Company, predecessor to the RCA Victor company, was headquartered in Camden. Stars like Enrico Caruso recorded in the company’s Camden studios, where some of the earliest commercial recordings were made.
As a result of the Victor presence, Camden established its share of musical tradition. That tradition includes Pat Russell, who formed her group Patty & the Emblems in Camden in the early ’60s. The emblems were Eddie Watts, Vance Walker, and Alexander Wilde. In 1964 the group scored their only Top 40 hit with “Mixed Up, Shook Up, Girl,” which reached #37 on the Pop chart that year.
Patty & the Emblems may not be widely remembered, but the session pianist who wrote and played on “Mixed Up, Shook Up, Girl” certainly is. That musician was none other than Leon Huff. Huff was an established session musician in New York City, playing on sessions for Phil Spector and Carole King, among others. In 1965 Huff moved to Philadelphia where he played sessions for Cameo Records and Swan Records. One of those sessions was for Candy & the Kisses on a song called “The 81.” The song was written by Kenny Gamble. The rest is Philly Soul history.
As for Patty & the Emblems, they recorded more Huff songs including “Showdown,” “You Can’t Get Away,” and “The Sound of Music Makes Me Want to Dance,” but none of them found the same level of success as “Mixed Up, Shook Up, Girl.” In 1967 the group released “I’m Gonna Love You a Long, Long Time.” While not a hit at the time, the single became a staple on the Northern Soul circuit in England in the 1980’s.
Probably frustrated by the failure to find success despite the high quality of her records, Patty Russell eventually left the music business. She got married and lived in nearby Willingboro until her death in the 1990’s. Each of the Emblems continued to have careers in music. Today, Eddie Watts is the only surviving member of Patty & the Emblems. Alexander Wildes died in 1998, and Vance Walker in 2008.