Atlanta, GA's best-kept secret, the Naturals, stomped on the scene seeking fame and fortune in the early '70s, fashioning themselves after the Temptations and the Chi-lites. The lineup consisted of Johnny Simon (first tenor), Robert Fitzpatrick Jr. (bass), Michael Williams (second tenor), and William Thomas aka as Gilmore (baritone). Simon was a brilliant singer/showman whose falsetto sounded like the Chi-lite's Eugene Record and his natural like Marvin Gaye; Simon previously fronted the Wallace Brothers. The Naturals' first break came via Quadran Records located on Martin Luther King Blvd, near the AU Center, home to the city's many African-American universities. Four people owned Quadran: Doc Taylor, Kenneth Woods, Harold and Calvin bka Dolomite. Another Quadran artist was a soul/funk band name Hellphenia who became Brick of "Dusic" fame. "Da, Da, Da, Da, Da I Love You," written by Simon, b/w "This Loneliness" dropped in 1971 and made some local noise, increasing their gigs and encouraged future efforts. Seeking more clout, they contracted with Nate McCalla's Calla Records, a subsidiary of Morris Levy's Roulette Records. How were they to know that Levy never paid anyone and the Naturals wouldn't be any exception? The December 1971 Calla release "I Can't Share You," a Charles White composition, was backed with Simon, Fitzpatrick, and Thomas' "Young Generation"; it took off in some areas and did quite well on the R&B chart. So well, the Naturals, their manager, and songwriter White trekked to New York to meet Mr. Levy and Mr. McCalla seeking royalties. And they were rudely told that they had nothing coming; they left without getting a penny. Whipped but not beaten, they continued singing around town and landed a deal with Shout Records in 1974; the contract resulted in two releases. The first was a two-sided remake set out November 1974, a rendition of Tommy James & the Shondells' "Crystal Blue Persuasion" as the A, and the Winston's "Color Me Father" updated as the B. Their next single, "Cold Day in Hell," out August 1974 didn't chug the pockets either and they disbanded. Simon moved to California and joined forces with Kenny Stover, Barbara Thomas, and Sonia Glass and toured as Marvin Gaye's backing vocalists. Afterwards, Simon and Stover, along with Allen Few, formed Leo's Sunshine (all three guys were Leos) to record We Need Each Other for Lyons Records, the album spun a little hit call "Give Me the Sunshine." Sadly, Simon died of cancer while the album was in progress. Only four songs had been completed; it was finished and released. Losing Simon so tragically ended Leo's Sunshine. ~ Andrew Hamilton
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