Teddy Pendergrass

Teddy Pendergrass (March 26, 1950 — Jan. 13, 2010) was an American soul singer from Philadelphia who rose to fame during the first half of the 1970s as the lead singer of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. Between 1977 and 1983, he released seven albums and a live disc on PIR, followed by a round of titles on Asylum and Elektra during the subsequent 10-year period.

He was born Theodore DeReese Pendergrass on Sunday, March 26, 1950 in Philadelphia, the only child of Ida Geraldine (née Epps) and Jesse Pendergrass. When Theodore was young, Jesse abandoned the family and was murdered in 1962.

As a child, Pendergrass sung in his church choir. At age 10, he was ordained a minister. He attended Thomas Edison High School for Boys, where he sang with the Edison Mastersingers. In 1967, he recorded “Angel with Muddy Feet,” a jumpy Motown-tinged tune released on soul-press Up Look. He subsequently drummed for several bands in the Philly area.

In 1970, Pendergrass started drumming for reformed ’50s doo-wopsters The Cadillacs. He was soon spotted by Blue Notes singer Harold Melvin, who enlisted the 20-year-old for his group. During rehearsals, Pendergrass sung along to the set and his rich baritone was quickly noticed by Melvin. He made Pendergrass the lead vocalist and they signed to Philadelphia International Records as Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.

Between 1972 and 1975, Pendergrass recorded four albums with the Blue Notes, scoring hits with “I Miss You,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “The Love I Lost,” “Wake Up Everybody,” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” the last of those a disco-crossover hit for Motown singer Thelma Houston.

Despite his breakout star status, Pendergrass had no control of the group, which Melvin formed in 1954. Pendergrass felt his name should be affixed to the Blue Notes nameplate since, as the lead vocalist, audiences confused him for Melvin. In early 1976, Pendergrass left the group but retained their writer/producer team, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, for a solo career on PIR.


  • Teddy Pendergrass (1977)
  • Life Is a Song Worth Singing (1978)
  • Teddy (1979)
  • Live! Coast to Coast (1979)
  • TP (1980)
  • It’s Time for Love (1981)
  • This One’s for You (1982)
  • Heaven Only Knows (1983)
  • Love Language (1984)
  • Workin’ It Back (1985)
  • Joy (1988)


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