Well, the music that, um, that inspired me the
most as a young man was Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, the Dells, Little
Anthony and the Imperials, groups like that. And I think my greatest
inspiration came when the Motown era started to come through, with the
Temptations and the Supremes and people like that, you know.
What about you?
listening to Chuck Berry and Little Richard. The Flamingoes, the Moonglows,
a whole wide variety. Gospel music. The Soul Stirrers, the Five Blind Boys.
You want to go back to the old traditional gospel, that was going on in my
family, especially on Sundays, I was listening to all that kind of
What was the music that set you on fire when you first
The music that set me on fire?
Boy, I guess, well, one thing to think of in my mind, uh, I think the Sam
Cooke song, "You Send Me" really, that had a great impact on me. The first
time I heard it the disk jockey must have played it about 20 times in a row.
And uh, I guess that kind of song, sort of, I mean that's the first thing
that jumps into my mind when you talk about a song that, you know, Frankie
Lymon and all these guys, they had a tremendous impact on, you know, back in
And you Leon?
Well, I was listening to basically the same Gamble was
listening to. It's like, because we were basically listening to the same
radio stations like WDAS and WHAT at that time. But I was listening to like
Chuck Berry too and like Little Richard. Dion and the Belmonts and the Beach
Boys, and Elvis. I was listening to all of that. Gospel, all the old
traditional gospel groups like the Soul Stirrers and the Five Blind Boys and
the Mighty Clouds of Joy. I was going to all those gospel shows. So all that
music inspired me. Jackie Wilson, and the Motown, the surge of the Motown
What was special about Motown?
A house full of talent. That's what it was.
I just need you to say that again.
Yeah, Motown was a house full of talented people that
was just, it was on fire in that room with that creativity going
Was there any particular songwriters at
Motown that you admired?
Yeah, I admired a
lot, most off them. [both talk at once] Holland-Dozier-Holland stuck
Smokey Robinson. They stuck out. And uh, and uh ...
There was so much great music coming out of there. You know, Norman
Whitfield and, he was making some hot records.
Of course, Motown was like a, was like a role model for us here, Philly
International. Because Motown really set up a system that, um, that was kind
of new in the music business. And by it being, you know, a black company, it
gave us encouragement that we could actually do the same thing also too. So
Motown was, and Berry Gordy and that whole Motown sound it was like, um, it
was like a role model for us. And we, everybody loved Motown. And you know,
I can remember days when we used to listen to, we used to wait for the next
Supremes record or the next Four Tops or the Temptations. And not only were
they good songwriters and producers, but they had great artists, and they
were great performers. They used to perform here at the Philadelphia, at the
Uptown. So Motown was like a phenomenon.
songwriters, what was it about the way they put those songs together that
made them so great?
I think, uh, they were
creatively free. They had a free spirit going on in that, in that, in that
house. It's like we had here. Got here, still here. It was people that had a
free, they had freedom in that house to go and experiment and create
different songs, the sounds, and Berry Gordy's burning desire to make it
work. I think it was just a total freedom like me and Gamble have when we go
in that room and write songs, we are free from everything.
I think the Motown --
concentration was unbelievable.
Well, I don't
think this equates with me and Huff, I know that Philly International was
like a release. When you write songs like that, just like a release and it's
fun. And that's what hit records and hit music is all about is people being
able to release themselves. And when you have great musicians, great
songwriters, great artists, a great studio and the time is right, then you
have that kind of a musical explosion, just like Motown, just like Philly
How did you learn to really craft
your songs? You have the best opening hooks to the songs, there's an
introduction that's always identifiable. Were there any particular people. I
know you worked for a while with Lieber and Stoller, you did backup, you did
Studio work, yeah, mm-hmm. That was,
working with Lieber and Stoller was exciting time for me as a hired
musician. You know playing on big name artist records. That was a thrill for
me. You know, uh, Phil Spector, that was a thrill for me to be a musician on
some of those great records he produced. So I was pumped up as a musician.
And Gamble is, uh, a hell of a singer. So those two forces joined together
as a talent. And it just happened the first time we ever got together, it
just flew like that. You know, it wasn't nothing forced, it was just a
natural coming together of talents.
first time we got together I think we must have wrote four or five songs the
first time we sat down and wrote, and we've been writing ever since. And
it's just like, um, it's natural, that's all it is.
When the two of you sit down to write a song, how does
that, how does it happen. I mean let's use, oh let's say, "Bad Luck." I
understand that you're the rhythm man.
I just wondered if you could
just give me a little demonstration about how you might pull that
Pull a song together? Well,
sometimes Huff will just play chords, and the words will just come, the
words come. You know, we'll, we'll talk about different circumstances, you
know, that people we know, certain things that we're going through, people
we know are going through, what the world is going through. You know, you
just pull from your environment and the music sort of like dictates the
mood. Then when you put the words to it, it just flows, it just flows
together. And basically how we wrote our songs would be, we'd have a piano
and we'd put a tape recorder on top of the piano and we'd just run the tape.
And eventually we would get it, we would get the song. I mean it would take
us a while. Sometimes, sometimes we get it, we write it real quick, we write
a song real quick. But most of the time we would really stop and, you know,
start all over again and perfect the songs, and make them, you know, but
even then, even then we were writing, once we started writing, we would
write five or six songs in a day. And it's an enjoyable, very enjoyable
Well, after 400 gold and platinum
albums, I'd say it was a lot of fun.