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January 25, 2021

Philadelphia International Records highlight iconic 'Philly sound' in 50th anniversary releases

Music pioneers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff are releasing numerous box sets and debuting a new Sonos radio station

Music Anniversaries
PIR 50th anniversary Stephanie Aaronson/SIPA USA

Philadelphia International Records producers Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell, shown left to right, in Philadelphia in 2013. The label is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021.

The record label known for creating the famous "Philly soul" sound is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021 with a year's worth of releases.

Philadelphia International Records, founded in 1971 by musical duo Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, plans to issue an exclusive vinyl box set and several eight-CD sets. It also will debut a Sonos radio station, called "The Sound of Philadelphia," on Feb. 24. Gamble will host it. 

The anniversary campaign aims to "highlight the extraordinary musical output of this storied label and spotlight milestone musical moments," a news release said

The "Philly Soul" sound featured a mix of doo-wop, gospel, R&B and soul known for its orchestral sounds. It also was influenced by the preeminent "international disco" genre of the 1970's.

The label's biggest hits included "Love Train" by The O'Jays and "If You Don't Know By Now," by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. 

Other celebrated artists known for "Philly soul" included Patti LaBelle, McFadden and Whitehead, Teddy Pendergrass and Lou Rawls.


"It’s a blessing to celebrate all of the writers, musicians, engineers, disc jockeys, and all the people that were on our team," said Gamble, a Philadelphia native. "When I listen to this music now, I can close my eyes and the music brings us all back together again." 

"Long live the music of Gamble and Huff!" added Huff, who grew up in Camden, New Jersey. 

Gamble and Huff helped engineer a unique sound that prompted some of music's biggest names to record at their former recording studio at 309 S. Broad StreetThe duo even wrote the MFSB hit "TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)." 

To kick off the anniversary, Philadelphia International Records released a new remix of McFadden and Whitehead's "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now," a song with enduring popularity. 

The first CD set, "Get on the Soul Train," due in April, will feature remastered albums from The O'Jays, Bill Paul and The Intruders, among others. Three additional limited edition sets also will be released in 2021. They each will include a giant poster and a 48-page hardcover book.

The vinyl set, "Anthology: The Story of Philadelphia International," includes eight remastered albums paired with liner notes and an exclusive podcast interview series. 

The anniversary campaign is being conducted in collaboration with Sony Music, Warner Chappell Music, and Legacy Recordings.

Gamble's nephew, Chuck, a Warner Chappell Music executive, said the 50th anniversary promotion is meant to remind listeners of Gamble and Huff's legacy and hard work.

"Gamble and Huff were behind the music," Chuck Gamble told the Inquirer. "That’s number one. And then to show people the sound that specifically came out of Philadelphia, and how it was created.

"We want to show how it was a struggle for African American men to get where they got to," he added.

Philadelphia International Records also released a Spotify playlist featuring more of Philadelphia International Record's famous hits, including "Wake Up Everybody" and "Back Stabbers."


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