Out of Brooklyn, New York comes a group consisting of four guys whom you
may have heard before! The Invitations invite you to listen to and enjoy
their honest, hot urban sounds. While they are a strong group, each of
the members can stand alone and carry mellow lead. Both Robert "Bob"
Blanding and Herman "Co" Cofield carry first and second tenor,
while O'neil "Duke" Johnson and Wilson "Gary" Gant
deliver a second tenor and baritone.
"Over the years we've become more than friends," says Gary. During
their friendship and partnership, the quartet wrote a tune that they thought
would be a hit for them, which eventually got them signed with Silver Blue
Records (distributed by Polydor Incorporated). That song was "They
Say the Girl is Crazy", which resulted in their first smash record
for the Silver Blue label. In addition to zooming to #1 on the airwaves
in parts of the United States, it established The Invitations on every
R&B station in the country.
"The Invitations are a very hard working group," says Duke. "We try to sing ourselves into the hearts and memories of everyone that we've performed for." They have toured Bermuda, The Princess South Hampton, England, North and South Germany, Spain, Sweden and Amsterdam. Among their television appearances, Ebony Affair brings back many fond memories for Cofield, while Bob remembers record breaking performances with The Temptations at The Howard in Washington, D.C., and with The Dells at The Scope in Norfolk, VA. "We would like to think that [our years of] association with other artists and behind-the-scenes representatives of the music industry , [has given us] a great knowledge of the business, while obtaining an even greater love for the knowledge [of] the international language" says Gary.
The present group members now consist of Richie Pitts, Alvin Ham, Robert
Blanding and Gary Gant.
Wilson Gants early aspirations was to become an entertainer period. So
he started out in Jr. high and high school performing in the choir, marching
band and orchestras. While in the U.S. Navy he Formed a group named after
the ship he serve on called The Champlains. As good fortunes would have
it we signed with United Artist.
When leaving the military he moved to Brooklyn, NY. It was only a matter
of a few months before he started performing with a dance team called the
Magnificent Three. He then help to form a singing group at a local but
well known venue in Brooklyn, NY. called the Five Twenty One Club. All
of the local groups and lots of well known acts performed there.
They sang every wakeing minute of the day and night in hallways, street
corners, rehearsals at anyone's home. It was during this era that he was
so blessed to meet Richie Pitts, Robert Blanding and Alvin Ham. But they
were all in differant groups.In the later part of 1963 Gary as his friends
called him was ask to fill in at a baritone slot for a group called the
TipToppers they had just returned from Sweden and was about to return but
had lost a member. The group worked well together with Roy Jolly as Lead
singer, Billy Morris, Robert Rivers and Gary Gant sharing most of the background
duties. Their big break came when they Changed their Name to the Invitations
and signed a contract with Dyno-Voice Records. Their hits were What's Wrong
With Me Baby, Skiing In The Snow and Hallelujah this was Bob Crewe Productions.
It was also the home of The Four Seasons and The Toys. Their sister group
at the time. Then there was a one recorded Deal with MGM.
In the early 70's they produced a recording session with Lew Kirton and
recorded "They Say The Girls Crazy" written by Gary Gant and
O'neil Johnson to make a long story short it was follow by Look On The
Good Side and Let's Love on Sliver Blue Records.
Robert Blanding first performed while still in high school with a group
known as The Rainbows. As the story goesfor their very first engagement
they had no uniforms but every one was to wear a jacket. They all came
with jackets of a different color so they called themselves the Rainbows.
They toured the south and appeared at Colleges such as Morris College and
venues in the Columbia and Sumter, SC. area. Upon arriving in Brooklyn,
Robert formed his first band called The Road Runners and later the band
(TIC) Together In Confidence. Robert Like lots of great Singers, Band Leaders
and performers had a chance to work with some of the best artist around
in those days. Opening for a show with Kool And The Gang. performing with
the Manhattans and the Mad Lads. From the late 60's Robert Blanding and
Gary Gant formed a relationship where he would visit the Invitations in
concert when they performed in the New York area and the Invitations did
like wise with (TIC).
However in 1973 the bonds grew even closer when (TIC) and Gary Gant of
the Invitations work together on a local promoted show where Gary Gant
was filling in for another artist in a group that was missing a baritone
singer. From that point on they kept in touch. The Invitations had their
release on Silver Blue Records "They Say The Girls Crazy" at
that time recalls Robert. Better known to his Co-Artist as Bob. However
in the late 70's lead singer Lew Kirton went solo.
Alvin Ham sang with various groups in the 50's, during these years Al as
he is known to his friends became one of the premier tenors. he was compared
to the tenors of groups such as The Moonglows, The Dells etc; singing first
tenor was his passion. But you could count on him to also carry a mellow
lead. In the 50's Alvin recorded with his childhood friend Richie Pitts
for Baton records as the Newtones and the Strangers on Warner Bros. one
release was a song called Night Winds. Al has also recorded on the labels
MGM and Paramount records. It was these years that allow him to reunite
with long time friends Herman Cofield and Gary Gant.
From the 60's well into the late 90's Al collaborated with the Invitations
on several recording projects as well as the promotion and production of
quite a few shows in New York and the surrounding area.
The Invitations could always count on Alvin whenever they needed a stand in for gigs or another rich tenor voice at one of there many recording sessions. His expertise in the music field were enhanced by working with some of the top producers and A&R men in the business such as Richard Barett, Buzzy Willis and Bert Keyes.
Richie Pitts known through out the UK and other parts of the world such
as Japan, Portugaal etc; Has been dubed as Mr. Fantastic and that he is.
In the 50's Richie sang with such groups as the Newtons and the Strangers
out of Brooklyn NY. In these groups were childhood and life long friends
Alvin Ham and Herman Cofield. during these early years all the group singers
knew each other and would not hesitate together in a club or on a street
corner just to sing harmony. Along came the 60's and Richie was well known
in the music circles for not only his performing, but also for his contributions
at recording sessions as a background vocalist. Often at these sessions
he would work with Gary Gant "a member of The Invitations" writing
and Co-Producing together. Richie eventually joined the Velours and in
the late 60's coming from a rehearsal ran into the Invitations. Who had
just returned from the UK.
Hallelujah /Written On The Wall
Why Did My Baby Turn Bad /
What's Wrong With Me Baby
Why Did My Baby Turn Bad /
Skiing In The Snow
Girl I'm Leaving You / The Skate
Watch Out Little Girl / You're Like A Mystery
Got To Have It Now / Swingin' On A Love Vine
A Wednesday In Your Garden /
For Your Precious Love /
They Say The Girl's Crazy
Let's Love / Love Has To Grow
Living Together Is keeping Us Apart /
I Didn't Know