VIA: Philadelphia Inquirer
Waterlogged gold records – Teddy Pendergrass’ Heaven Only Knows, Lou Rawls’ Unmistakably Lou – lay amid rubble in the offices of Philadelphia International Records yesterday while McFadden and Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” played on a boom box.
Fire officials ruled yesterday that the Sunday morning blaze, which started in a stockroom, had been set but declined to release any other information. The fire severely damaged the brick building on South Broad Street where the Sound of Philadelphia was born.
“We feel violated that someone would go into such a sacred place and create such havoc,” said Kenny Gamble, who owns the building on S. Broad St. along with his partner, Leon Huff, and songwriter and producer Thom Bell.
Gamble said yesterday that detectives from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives had shown him and Huff pictures of a person taken from the scene by authorities.
“We kind of know who did it,” he said, adding that it was not someone he or Huff recognized. “The bottom-line question is: Why?”
No one has been charged in connection with the fire.
The main casualties of the fire were memorabilia and merchandise to be sold in the PIR retail store on the ground floor of the building where Chubby Checker recorded “The Twist,” when it housed the Cameo Parkway record label. That was before Gamble, Huff, and Bell bought the building in 1970. The building suffered structural and water damage, and about 40 gold records were harmed, as were irreplaceable photos, said Gamble’s nephew Chuck Gamble, PIR’s executive vice president, who estimated the damage “in the millions.”
The recording studio where Candy & the Kisses cut “The 81” – Gamble and Huff’s first songwriting collaboration, in 1964 – and where Gamble’s ex-wife Dee Dee Sharp recorded “Mashed Potato Time” in 1962 went unharmed. No damage was done to any master tapes, Chuck Gamble said. Those are housed in an underground vault outside the city.
“The Almighty wrapped his arms around the studio,” said Huff, of the storied third-floor recording facility where he has been working on his first solo album in three decades on a Yamaha grand piano that was unscathed by the blaze.
“It hurts,” Kenny Gamble said. “There’s so much water damage and smoke and fire damage that the whole place will be have to gutted. But we’ll be back. Stronger than ever.
“Maybe we’ll write a song about it. ‘The Day They Burnt Philly International Down.’ ”
Read more here.
In the interview below, Gamble and Huff discuss their legacy and influence on hip-hop: