Smoke was an American soul group from Kansas City, Mo., that released the album Risin’ on local-press J.Bridge Records in 1976.

Members: Ernest Malone, Arthur Malone, Melvin Manning, Larry Brown

Smoke coalesced when Kansas City brothers Ernest and Arthur Malone teamed with singers Larry Brown and Melvin Manning. Brown sang backing vocals on the 1975 PIR release Wake Up Everybody by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Manning hailed from the gospel family act the Ray Manning Singers, which issued the 1975 album Just Live on local one-press RMS Records.

With Smoke, they ignited J.Bridge Records and issued the 1975 single “I’m So Lonely” (b/w “Have I Really Lost You”). Both sides were written by one Elmer Overton and arranged by Benjamin Wright (The Violinaires, The Imaginations, Southside Movement, General Crook, Barbara Blake and the Uniques).

Smoke released their singular album, Risin’, in 1976 on J. Bridge. It features nine Overton originals and one track (“Make Believe”) composed by ex-Visitors vocalist Eugene Smiley. Wright arranged the tracks with a nine-piece brass section comprised of clarinet (Vince Willis), French horn (Paul Undercheck), saxophone (Donald Myrick, Jerry Wilson, Sonny Seals), trombone (John Watson, Steve Galloway), and trumpet (Burgess Gardner, Michael Davis). The backing band consisted of bassist Bernard Reed, drummer Terry Thompson, pianist Jesus Wayne, and guitarists Byron Gregory and John Bishop, plus harpist Sue Carter. 

Bishop played on 1972/73 albums by Harvey Mandel and Donny Hathaway. Galloway played on late ’60s/early ’70s albums by Count Basie, Melvin Jackson, and The Awakening. Myrick’s credits included albums by Jack McDuff and Terry Callier. Seals played on albums by Ben Sidran and Leroy Hutson (Love Oh Love). Thompson played on ’60s-era singles by The Chi-Lites, The Flairs, and Patti & The Lovelites. Willis hailed from Rasputin’s Stash. Wilson was a sideman of Leroy Hutson on all the ’70s Curtom titles of the ex-Impressions frontman.

Bishop, Davis, Reed, and Wilson all played in Syl Johnson‘s backing band Pieces of Peace. Galloway, Gardner, and Willis played on the 1973 20th Century release Love Jones by the Brighter Side of Darkness. Gregory, Reed, Thompson, and Willis played on the 1974 eponymous album by musician/producer General Crook, plus 20th Century titles by Bobby Hutton (Piece of the Action) and (with Gardner) The Imaginations.

Smoke was produced by Overton and engineered by Malcolm Chisholm (The Dells, Black Merda, Boscoe, Joe Simon) and Paul Serrano (Sonny Stitt, The Independents, Ahmad Jamal, Chicago Gangsters). The back cover has liner notes by R.J. Jenkins, Vice President in Charge of Programming at Security Broadcasting, New Orleans. Below the J. Bridge logo and label address, it sports the tagline “MIDWEST HOME OF THE STARS.”

Later Activity

Smoke would remain the only musical credit for the Malone brothers. Brown and Manning sang on the 1982 Jam Power Records release The Gift by boogie-funksters Gift of Dreams.

The backing players remained prolific in the years ahead. Bishop and Reed played on concurrent albums by Loleatta Holloway and (with Seals) Walter Jackson.

Galloway, Gardner, and Thompson played on one track, “Tryin’ Ain’t Dyin’,” on the 1976 album That Is Why You’re Overweight by Eddie Harris. Thompson then backed lounge-funk singer Shelly Torres on her 1978 album Take One.

Gregory, Reed, and Willis played on the 1976 release Ain’t Nothin’ Freaky by Geoffrey Stoner, plus multiple late ’70s titles by Jerry Butler, Ramsey Lewis, and Tyrone Davis.

Myrick played on 1976/77 albums by Ebony Rhythm Funk Campaign, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Emotions, and Deniece Williams. With Reed and Carter, he played on the 1976 Chi-Lites ‎album Happy Being Lonely.

Davis played on the 1978 debut album by Kinsman Dazz, plus 1978/79 titles by Grey and Hanks, Pockets, The Whispers, and Lenny White‘s Twennynine. With Myrick, he played on the track “I Cannot Believe It’s True” by Phil Collins from the Genesis singer’s 1982 second solo album Hello, I Must Be Going.

Seals played on late ’70s albums by Cleveland Eaton, Curtis Mayfield, and Billy Butler (Sugar Candy Lady). In the early ’80s, he played with boogie-funksters Omni.

Wayne cut three 1979–82 albums on AVI Records and played in the mid-’80s boogie trio Clockwork. With Reed and Gregory, he played on the 1982 album Oasis by Ship of the Desert.‎

In 1978, Wilson issued the two-part jazz-funk single “Sax Freak” on Giant Records.


  • Risin’ (1976)


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