Roosevelt Brodie, an original Blue Note, dies at 75

Posted: July 14, 2010

ANY MUSICAL group that dared to step out on the stage of the storied Apollo Theater in Harlem knew they were taking their lives in their hands.

One false note before the toughest crowd of music lovers in the country and they got the hook so quickly their heads revolved and they were banished forever.

Roosevelt Brodie knew what that was like. He was one of the Philly teenagers who started singing together on street corners, took a couple of different names, and eventually morphed into the Blue Notes.

That nervous trip to the Apollo turned out to be the best thing that happened to the boys. They placed first for four consecutive Wednesdays, earning a week's placement on a professional show - all before they cut their first record.

Roosevelt Brodie, who was the second tenor for the original Blue Notes, the R&B singing group that later featured the singing of Philly legend Teddy Pendergrass, died yesterday of complications of diabetes. He was 75 and lived in North Philadelphia.

The Blue Notes' early recordings were of such songs as "If You Love Me," "There Is Something in Your Eyes, Eloise," "Retribution Blues" and "Wagon Wheels."

One day the boys were startled to hear their rendition of "If You Love Me" played on Kae Williams' WDAS show over their car radios.

"I nearly fell out of the car," Brodie told Bob Bosco, local music historian and writer. "It was a great moment for me and the guys, and all of a sudden we were neighborhood heroes."

With a song on the R&B charts, the Blue Notes began to get gigs at such once-famous venues as the Uptown Theater, Club Harlem, Tippin' Inn, Loretta's Hi-Hat, the O.V. Catto Lounge and others.

There were even jaunts to Bermuda, Canada, Chicago, Baltimore and an appearance on the Mitch Thomas TV show on Channel 12 in Delaware.

Unfortunately, Brodie missed the group's only appearance on "Dick Clark's American Bandstand" because he was in the Army.

While serving his country, Brodie was replaced by Harold Melvin, whom Bernard Williams, another of the original group, knew at Simon Gratz High School.

The group was renamed Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, with Melvin as the lead singer.

Brodie returned from the Army and joined the group for such releases as "She is Mine," "My Hero," "Oh Holy Night" and "Blue Star." He took the lead on "A Good Woman."

In 1970, the group took on Teddy Pendergrass as a drummer, but he quickly became the lead singer. With him in the lead, the group recorded a number of hits with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's Philadelphia International label.

But Brodie was not there. In 1971, he decided he didn't want to tour anymore and quit the music business. He was employed in the garment industry in Philadelphia in recent years.

"He was a gentleman of the highest caliber," Bosco said.

Roosevelt Brodie was born in New York to Robert and Martha Brodie and was brought to Philadelphia at an early age. He graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School.

He is survived by his wife, Lessie; a daughter, Tiffany Brodie; a stepson, Bruce Frazier; a brother, David, and one grandson.

Services: Were being arranged.

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