The Commodores history starts in 1968 with two groups of freshman singers who were students at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute. The Jays members Lionel Richie, William King and Thomas McClary joined with Milan Williams, Andre Callahan and Michael Gilbert of The Mystics to form a group almost known as "The Commodes". Naming the new group was the first priority and King decided to use a dictionary opened to an random page then put his finger down between "commode" and "commodore". They won the annual freshman talent contest and began gigging on the weekends with a new vocalist, James Ingram (not the one you know) who got inducted into the Army and was replaced by Walter Orange. Lead vocals then alternated between Orange and Richie. Callahan left the group in 1970 with Ronald Lapread taking his place. The Commodores joined the stable of Motown artists in 1971 when they were signed to the MoWest label. Their first gig was to open for the Jackson 5 at the Madison Square Garden that same year. Toiling in the background for several years as session players and touring band, they finally got to record and released their first LP "Machine Gun" in 1974. Joining then in the studio was producer James Anthony Carmicheal, who deftly guided their funk leanings into a palatable sound. Carmichael had been working with the Jackson 5 and other Motown artists when the Commordores realized they needed some guidance in the studio and felt that he was the best choice the studio had and later added ballads to their repertoire with the bands agreement. The album was fiery funk affair that produced "Machine Gun" and "I Feel Sanctified" and was devoid of the sentimental love songs that became their forte. "Machine Gun" lit up the pop charts, peaking at #22 in the summer of 1974, but got all the way to #7 on the R&B survey. The follow up album, "Caught In The Act" contained "Slippery When Wet" which topped the R&B chart in July of 1975. A second LP issued that same year called "Movin On" had a nice balance of their signature funk along with "Sweet Love", a tender and engaging song that Americans took to heart and made it a Top 5 pop and a #2 R&B single. Next up was "Just To Be Close To You" another soft and sexy #1 R&B song, but a #7 Hot100 hit in 1976 from their "Hot On The Tracks" album. "Fancy Dancer" was the follow up and it barely made Top 40 Pop by peaking at #39, but fared better by going #7 R&B. In 1977, they released their eponymously named LP that contained "Easy" another #1 R&B and the funky "Brick House" that went Top 5 pop and R&B. Looking back on this, its easy to see that Richie had a handle on the country sound that he would use with Kenny Rogers who recorded "Lady" and took it to the top of charts for six weeks in 1980. "Easy" came about when Richie was challenged by record executives who thought that "Just To Be Close To You" was too black for pop radio. Discouraged by this claim, he sat down and wrote "Easy" in response that had elements of pop, R&B and country. The response was incredible! It easily became their most popular song ever at the time, peaking at #1 R&B, then #4 on the Hot100.