THERE’S A distinctive new sound in popular music, so refreshing and groovy you might call it fifth dimensional, and that’s exactly what the people who are making this sound have appropriately named themselves. The Fifth Dimension, which has to be one of the hottest groups in the business, just sounds like nobody else, and they’re a far cry from the Motown groove that most Negro groups are in now.
Some observers have called the Fifth Dimension a Negro Mamas and Papas, but the girls and guys in the group are quick to deny the tag.
“We’ve started something of our own,” Marilyn, a beautiful UCLA graduate, told The BEAT. “We want to get away from what the other groups are doing. We’re compared to the Mamas and Papas because our first hit ‘Go Where You Wanna Go’, was a John Philips composition. Actually, the Mamas and Papas have had very little influence on us.”
“That’s right,” said Billy, the youngest member of the group. “We’ve influenced ourselves from the start. We had a new sound in mind, and we spent a good five or six months trying to perfect it.”
The two girls and three guys got together about a year and a half ago, and were able to get on a tour with Ray Charles. Marc Gordon, Soul City general manager, was so impressed by the group he immediately signed them, and two great hits, the latest being ‘Up, Up, And Away’, have quickly followed.
The Dimension has been able to come up with a sound that is both soothing to the ear and rhythmic, and it may set a trend for the future.
“Other rhythm and blues and rock groups are beginning to follow in our footsteps,” according to Billy. “It’s probably because we have a restful, relaxing sound that still has a good beat,” said Florence, a former elementary school teacher.
“But, you know music in general is starting a new trend with songs like ‘Windy’ and ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’,” Marilyn added. Over 12 other groups, including the Association and Brazil ’66, have recorded the balloon song, and others are adding it to their repertoire.
A new single is due from the Fifth Dimension very shortly, but tune has been picked as yet. “We’re working on four to six new ideas right now,” Marilyn revealed.
But recording sessions will have to come in the spare time between an extensive tour and several tapings for national television. Plans right now call for spots on the Hollywood Palace, Away We Go, The Smothers Brothers, and the Dean Martin Show. A tour schedule will lake them to Seattle, Baltimore, Vancouver, Massachusetts and Chicago.
Steady work like this — and highly profitable work as well — is something new to the Fifth Dimension members.
Florence, for example, had worked with some local dance bands and had sung in choirs most of her life. Her musical background was in a classical vein, however, with over nine years study of the violin. Watch for her to make her solo violin debut in the Dimension’s next album coming out in September. Brenda Holloway, look out!
Marilyn, who graduated in business administration at UCLA, started singing seriously since her college days. Her interest in singing dates back to when she was 14, and her vocal stylings, she said, have been influenced by both jazz and pop music.
Said mustachioed Ron, “Opera is my field.” For three years he sang with the Lincoln Symphonic Orchestra while majoring in music at Lincoln University. He finished third in auditions for the Metropolitan Opera Company’s performances of Showboat and Annie Get Your Gun. Ron has directed and sung in several gospel groups, including the Wings Over Jordan, but he considers his greatest thrill to have sung with Dorothy Dandridge and Nat “King” Cole.
When he was 5, Billy started singing in clubs and playing guitar for dance bands in St. Louis, where he, Lamont and Ron were boyhood friends. For a while he even had his own band. “We called ourselves Billy Davis Jr., and the All Stars — that name really shook St. Louis up,” he said jokingly.
For Lamont, singing was never an ambition, but baseball was. “I was in the Dodger’s farm system and wouldn’t even think of starting to sing, although my mother was always trying to get me to. One day, Ron who’s my cousin, asked me to back him up for a recording. It took off, and we were in business. I’ve been learning more and more ever since.” In addition to baseball and singing. Lamont has been a photographer for Harper’s Bizarre, and was photographic director of Elegant Magazine.
With backgrounds as divergent as these, no wonder the Fifth Dimension are so unique. Like Billy says, “Our sound comes from a great variety of sounds.” He couldn’t be more right.
© uncredited writer, KRLA Beat, 9 September 1967