Soul Serenade: The Flaming Ember, “Westbound #9”

Written by Ken Shane's Soul Serenade, Music

The Flaming Ember scored three hits for Holland-Dozier-Holland label Hot Wax

The Flaming Ember

As you can see, Popdose has a new look. Over the years, Editor-in-Chief Jeff Giles has always made sure that things never got stale around here. The fresh new look means that I’ll have to say goodbye to the Soul Serenade banner that graced this column for the last six years or so. It was designed by Dw. Dunphy in loving tribute to the Gordy Records label on which so many Motown-era hits were released. I’ll always be grateful to Dw. for creating such an appropriate image for me.

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As long as we’re on the subject of Motown, it’s appropriate that this week the featured record is a product of that great music city. The Flaming Embers, as they were originally known, got together in Detroit in 1964. The band’s original members included guitarist Joe Sladich, keyboard player Bill Ellis, Mike Jackson on bass (replaced by Jim Bugnel in 1966), and drummer/lead singer Jerry Plunk.

The Flaming Ember

The blue-eyed soul band recorded for several small local labels, beginning with Fortune Records in 1965, and finally landed on Ric Tic in 1967. They released five singles for the label, including “Let’s Have a Love-In,” but none of them scored. Ric Tic owner Ed Wingate decided to sell his label to Berry Gordy, Jr. in 1968, and the Flaming Embers were released from their contract.

When the legendary songwriting and production team of Eddie and Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier decided to leave Motown over a contract dispute with Gordy, they formed Hot Wax Records. It was there that the group now known as the Flaming Ember found themselves in 1969. They had their first hit for the label with “Mind, Body and Soul, which reached #26 on the Billboard pop singles chart.

At the end of 1969 the Flaming Ember released the single for which would be best remembered. “Westbound #9” was a #24 hit on the Pop chart, and made it all the way to #15 on the Billboard R&B chart. They followed that up with what would be their final hit. “I’m Not My Brother’s Keeper” made it to #34 on the Pop chart, and #12 on the R&B chart in 1970.

Although the continued to record, singles like “Stop the World and Let Me Off,” released in 1971, never found the same level of success as their earlier hits. In an apparent effort to identify themselves with one of those hits, the band changed their name to Mind, Body and Soul. They spent the rest of the 1970’s playing bars in the Detroit area.