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The Trammps’ Jimmy Ellis Passes – “Classic Guido Tuneage” Loses A Gem

Getty Images - Jimmy Ellis (third from left)

What would “Where Do We Go From Here” been without the gravely voice of Jimmy Ellis?

Or, for that matter, “Love Epidemic”, “Stop and Think”, “Hold Back the Night”, “Zing Went the Strings”, “Trusting Heart”; and, of course, the immortal “Disco Inferno” which was so much a part of the 70′s as Huckapoo shirts and Sergio Valente Jeans.

So it’s with some sadness to learn about the passing of lead singer of The Trammps, Jimmy
Ellis, at the age of 74 of Alzheimer’s Disease.

According to the Herald of Rock Hill, South Carolina:

“Doesn’t matter where you go, who they are,” said Johnny Ellis, Jimmy’s younger brother, “everybody knows when they hear the words, ‘Burn that mother down!’ and ‘burn, baby, burn’ that the song is ‘Disco Inferno.’

“And the man with that voice who sang that song was Jimmy Ellis.”

“Disco Inferno” turned The Trammps – the band Jimmy Ellis fronted – and its silver-voiced singer from entertainers into American cultural icons. Jimmy Ellis, with “Disco Inferno,” became immortal.

Voices like Rochelle Fleming of “First Choice”, Teddy Pendergrass of Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, Gloria Gaynor, Barbara Roy of “Ecstasy, Passion, and Pain” would blare out of the car that “cuzhines” would be driving….Firebirds, Camaros…you name it!

That was all part of the “soundtrack of the streets” in North Jersey, South Philly, 86th Street in Brooklyn, all tuned to the same R and B stations of the day…WDAS in Philly, WBLS and WWRL in New York; and WNJR in Newark.

Jimmy identified with those streets.

According to the Herald, he landed in New Jersey in the late 50′s, where he worked for a family doing maintenance, gardening, chauffeuring – whatever – singing at night and on weekends. He won talent shows in Atlantic City, sang on the pier, and was “discovered.”….first with a band called The Exceptions, then The Trammps in the late 1960s – both based in Philadelphia.

Anybody who went clubbing in the early 70′s remembers the first time they heard “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart.”

You knew that was “your music”….just like “doo wop” was to the 50′s generation.

Any conneseieur of the genre knows that The Trammps recorded and released “Disco Inferno” in 1976, but once it was featured in “Saturday Night Fever” – America found out what you already knew.

As a single, “Disco Inferno” reached the top of the U.S. dance music charts in 1978. It won a Grammy and was a gold record – selling more than 500,000 copies.

Despite the fact that Jimmy was suffering from Alzheimer’s, he still was able to sing one last time in Atlantic City in 2010, and live outside the “Today” show on NBC.

Memorial services will be held in Charlotte on March 16 and in Philadelphia.

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