Once upon a time, there was a band known as the S.O.S. (Sounds of Success) Band. This R&B/electro-funk outfit rose to prominence in the early ’80s, releasing hit singles like “Take Your Time (Do It Right),” “Tell Me If You Still Care” and “Just Be Good to Me.” The last two were produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, before they became the superstar producers responsible for many of Janet Jackson’s hits.
Like many R&B bands of that era, some members came and went (or sadly, passed on) while others continued to tour and perform. However, in the case of the S.O.S. Band, these remaining members chose to split up and form their own versions of the group.
“Anytime, man, you run into bands that are this old and older, there are gonna be two of them – sometimes three,” says Gino Speight, keyboardist and male lead singer for the S.O.S. Band that will perform Sunday in Raleigh. Speight anchors this lineup along with guitarist/older brother Bruno Speight, one of the founding members of the band. (Both brothers hail from Kinston.) Another founding member, lead singer Mary Davis (whom Gino worked for as musical director when she briefly went solo) has an S.O.S. Band too. (On the band’s Facebook page, her band is titled “The Real S.O.S. Band.”)
At one point, Bruno Speight and Davis were the only original members keeping the S.O.S. Band afloat. But, according to little brother Gino, their partnership dissolved five years ago.
“Some people just don’t want to work with each other anymore,” he says. Considering that neither Bruno Speight nor Davis has sicced lawyers on one another over ownership of the S.O.S. Band name, their separation seems amicable. “Some people have fallouts, you know. But that doesn’t change the fact that the original, founding members still have the legal right to use their name to generate income for themselves,” Gino Speight says.
As far as how the fans feel about two S.O.S. Bands out and about, Gino Speight has found that as long as somebody shows up and does “The Finest,” the audience is straight.
“I think one thing that really kind of clutched all of our egos was to find out that the fans didn’t care about us as much as they cared about the music,” he says, chuckling.
So, while the Speights’ nine-piece crew, mostly based out of Nashville, perform the band’s signature tunes around the country, Davis’ S.O.S. Band, hailing from the band’s original Atlanta home base (where big bro Bruno still resides), has been slinging out new material. Earlier this year, Davis and her cohorts released a new song on the Interwebs, aptly titled “Just Get Ready.”
Not to be outdone, Speight says he and his brother have new music they recorded with their band. But, until they release it, they will continue to tour and be the S.O.S. Band that people enjoy and remember the most.
“For the people that have been fans for years, we want to take them back to that place, mentally and emotionally, where they were when this music was out on the radio,” he says. “But, now, for the new fans, the people that have never seen the S.O.S. Band, we want to plant this music in their heart, so that it can be a part of their life forever.”