Born: September 1, 1944 Hometown: Houston, TX
Archie Bell was born in Henderson, Texas, and grew up
in Houston, Texas, with his family. He
began singing at the age of five in a Baptist
Church in Houston's Fifth Ward. While attending E.O.
Smith Junior High School, Bell formed the group, The
Drells (later Archie Bell & the Drells). The Drells - a
vocal quartet consisting of Billy Butler, Joe Cross,
James Wise and Bell got their start playing talent
shows and neighborhood sock hops. Picked up by
Skipper Frazier, the group recorded their first single,
"She's My Woman, She's My Girl" (1960) in San
Antonio, Texas. The following year, Bell received his
draft notice, and the future for the group looked bleak.
Feeling a bit down one day, Bell was cheered up by
Butler, who did a little dance for him he called "The
Tighten-Up." Bell turned Butler's slang into an
irresistible groove song he called "Tighten Up." Bell
maintains the spoken intro to the song was in response
to hearing a deejay say, after President Kennedy's
assassination, that nothing good came out of Texas. Bell
wanted "people to know that Archie Bell & the Drells
were from Texas and that we were good."
The song was released in 1967 and became a big hit in
Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, and eventually was
picked up by Atlantic Records for national distribution
all while Bell was stationed in Germany. "Tighten
Up" debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on March 30,
1968 and reached No. 1 on May 18 that same year.
When Bell returned from the service in April 1969, the
group toured and released follow-up hits "I Can't Stop
Dancing" and "(There's Gonna Be A) Showdown."
The enticing charm of "Tighten Up" can still be attested
to - the song was ranked No. 5 in 2004 on Texas
Monthly's list of "The 100 Best Texas Songs," and
it is ranked #265 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of
the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is one of the
earliest funk hits in music history.