Happy birthday to Pooch Tavares

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    Happy birthday to longtime SoulTracks favorite Arthur "Pooch" Tavares, born November 12, 1949. Pooch's deep baritone anchored a decade of hits for the family group Tavares and made their brotherly harmonies so special.

    Longtime SoulTrackers know that Tavares was the first act we ever profiled on SoulTracks, in large part because of my personal affection for the group. And I've had the chance to speak with Pooch several times, including when I interviewed him for the liner notes of the reissue of the group's second album, Hard Core Poetry. More casual fans will recognize Pooch for his leads on a few Tavares songs, such as "Penny For Your Thoughts," "Right Back In Your Arms," and "Never Say Never Again."

    Happy birthday to longtime SoulTracks favorite Arthur "Pooch" Tavares, born November 12, 1949. Pooch's deep baritone anchored a decade of hits for the family group Tavares and made their brotherly harmonies so special.

    Longtime SoulTrackers know that Tavares was the first act we ever profiled on SoulTracks, in large part because of my personal affection for the group. And I've had the chance to speak with Pooch several times, including when I interviewed him for the liner notes of the reissue of the group's second album, Hard Core Poetry. More casual fans will recognize Pooch for his leads on a few Tavares songs, such as "Penny For Your Thoughts," "Right Back In Your Arms," and "Never Say Never Again."

    In my interactions with Pooch, he has always been both kind and humble about his accomplishments. And those accomplishments are many. The five brothers from New Bedford, Massachusetts - Ralph, Tiny, Chubby, Butch and Pooch - arguably created the most consistently high quality soul music of the 70s and early 80s.

    Originally called "Chubby and the Turnpikes," the Tavares brothers spent the late '60s and early '70s in their native New England covering tunes of R&B greats at various clubs, while trying to land a record deal. They finally scored a contract with Capitol Records' then-new black music division and released their first single, "Check It Out," in 1973. It soared to the top 10 on the R&B charts and became the group's first top 40 pop hit. It also became the centerpiece for the their Johnny Bristol-produced debut album, an excellent example of early '70s Soul that also featured the hit "The Sound That Lonely Makes." The Check It Out LP gave the first glimpse of tight brotherly harmonies and alternating lead vocals that would become the Tavares trademark sound.

    Capitol teamed the group next with Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, hot producers/writers who were coming off the hugely successful Keeper of the Castle album for the Four Tops. They led Tavares through two successful LPs, Hard Core Poetry and In The City, the group's first #1 R&B hit (a cover of Hall & Oates' "She's Gone") and first top 10 pop hit ("It Only Takes A Minute"). And if their first three albums set the Tavares brothers up for success, the fourth, Sky High, (produced by Motown veteran writer/producer Freddie Perren) and its international hits, "Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel" and "Don't Take Away the Music," led the group to the "A" list of popular black artists. Perren moved the group to a hotter beat-heavy sound not hinted at in Tavares' earlier releases and the timing couldn't have been better, as the disco boom was about to explode. The group teamed with Perren again for their Love Storm and Future Bound LPs in 1977 and 1978. It was at this point that Tavares hit an unexpected pivotal moment: it's cover of the Bee Gees' "More Than A Woman" was included on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, giving the group its greatest exposure ever (as well as its only Grammy award) but bringing with it a label that Tavares would spend years trying to shake - that of "Disco Group."

    Interestingly, it was at disco's peak in 1979 that the brothers took a counter-industry turn, releasing the ballad-drenched Madam Butterfly LP. Produced by Philly veteran Bobby Martin, this disc highlighted the group's Soul foundation, especially on the hit "Never Had A Love Like This Before" and three Sam Dees' ballads (including the incredible "Let Me Heal The Bruises"). Tavares then teamed with pop producers Bobby Colomby and David Foster for Supercharged, a solid but underappreciated disc that spawned a minor hit with "Bad Times."

    Unfortunately, as 1980 arrived, the music industry focused its efforts on self-contained funk bands, and traditional "producer's" soul groups such as the Spinners, the Stylistics and the Temptations were having trouble getting promotion and airplay. This industry tide change led Capitol Records to lessen its promotional focus on Tavares. The timing of this decision was ironic, as the Tavares brothers arguably found their sound as writers and arrangers in 1980 with Love Uprising, a wonderful, airy album that was perhaps their most pleasing and personal disc, but which fell flat on the charts. Their next LP, Loveline (featuring the songs of a promising young writer named Kashif), met a similar fate.

    Faced with Capitol's neglect, the brothers went in search of a new label, and in 1982 found a temporary home in RCA's young black music division. They released two albums for RCA, New Directions and Words and Music, which featured the Grammy-nominated "Penny For Your Thoughts" and their final R&B hit, "Deeper In Love," but the albums were overall an artistic step down from the group's highest moments.

    Ralph retired from the group in 1983, leaving the remaining four brothers (and sometimes three) to tour and sporadically record. That continued until Pooch suffered a stroke in 2014, which led to his retirement. Ralph rejoined the group, and continued in that role until his unexpected death in 2022.

    Since then, Pooch and his wife Ginny have enjoyed their retirement life. More recently he has struggled with health issues, but he has continued his passion as a master of intricate puzzle work. Happy birthday, Pooch!

    By Chris Rizik