Gary James' Interview With Harold "Doc" Wade Of
The Trammps are probably best known for a 1978 hit record they had called "Disco Inferno". Calling Philadelphia home, The Trammps were one of the first Disco bands. Harold "Doc" Wade talked with us about The Trammps, past and present.
Q - Mr. Wade, according to Wikipedia there are two different versions of The Trammps out on the road. Two different versions? How can that be?
A - That's because Earl Young, one of the original members, quit back in '79.
Q - So, Earl Young has one band and who has the other?
A - We got the originals we started with.
Q - So, you're the originals?
A - Right.
Q - Where does your band play?
A - We do a lot in Europe. There seems to be a market for it right now.
Q - More so than the United States?
A - Yes, I'm afraid it is.
Q - That's kind of strange, isn't it? The Trammps had such a big hit record!
A - Yeah. The thing is Disco itself. That's the hardest thing to get around.
Q - You joined The Trammps in 1971?
A - Yup.
Q - Legend has it that early in the band's career, you guys would be standing on the street corner and people would pass by and say "All you guys will ever be is tramps."
A - Yes.
Q - Who's saying that, shop owners or cops?
A - Shop owners.
Q - What were you doing on the street corner?
A - Singing. That's all. Back in the neighborhood that's all you really ever did. Most of the groups you saw were roaming around the streets. That was the craze back in those days.
Q - The Doo Wop era.
A - That was it.
Q - So, it was Earl Young who got the group a deal with Buddah Records?
A - Right.
Q - Earl Young got you into Atlantic Records as well?
A - It was a transition. There was Buddah, CBS and Atlantic. So, we had three albums at the same time.
Q - Where did The Trammps tour during the "Disco Inferno" hit in the 1970s?
A - We did a lot of South America.
Q - You did tour the rest of the world, didn't you? Including the U.S.?
A - Yup. Mostly it was in South America. We did the East Coast mainly and went out to the West Coast (of the United States), maybe four or five times. Disco wasn't well received out there.
Q - When "Disco Inferno" was part of the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack, how did life change for The Trammps?
A - It was the beginning of the end. We've been livin' off it the past thirty years or so.
Q - Who wrote "Disco Inferno"?
A - Ron Kersey and Leroy Green.
Q - Was there a time when The Trammps did not perform? I'm talking about the time period 1980 to 2005.
A - No. We did a lot in Europe.
Q - According to Irwin Stambler, author of Pop, Rock And Soul, some of your concerts outside the group's home area "tended to be uneven and ragged with attempts at comedy that detracted rather than added to the overall impact." So, you guys were telling jokes in between songs that were falling flat?
A - No. That would only be his opinion. I have no idea what he's talking about.
Q - Did anyone in the group ever tell jokes?
A - That was in the early days. We had a comedian open the show for us.
Q - But, no one in the group was telling jokes?
A - No.
Q - Mr. Stambler goes on to say "The group often presented inept live performances that suggested it's dynamic sound was more the result of recording engineers than inherent performing skills."
A - I have no idea what he's talking about.
Q - What he seems to be saying is The Trammps sounded better in the recording studio than you did onstage.
A - Well, that's a matter of opinion. It's entirely up to what he's looking for.
Q - Did anyone ever come up to you after a concert and say "Doc, I didn't like the sound of the band tonight"?
A - No. That has never happened. We've been around forty-seven years, so who's to criticize that?
Q - When you were touring in the '70s, did you go out as a support act or a headlining act?
A - A supporting act.
Q - You have a new song out now called "Chapter One" that's a number one song for you?