Lakeside is a funk band, best known for their 1980 number one R&B hit, "Fantastic Voyage."
In early 1969, The Nomads, a singing quartet consisting of lead singer Mark Wood; Tiemeyer McCain; Tony White; and Brian Marbury, met the Montereys, a band that featured Stephen Shockley as the lead guitar player. The two groups played together in musical revues in the Tri-State (Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky) area.
When the Montereys left the Tri-State area later in 1969 to pursue opportunities in New York, Stephen Shockley and The Nomads remained behind. Mark Wood, the other Nomads, and Stephen Shockley soon added other instrumentalists; the result was The Nomads (singers) and The Young Underground (their backup band). In 1971, The Nomads and The Young Underground took on a new, singular identity: Ohio Lakeside Express.
In 1971, the group became acquainted with Eddie Thomas of Curtom, a record label owned and operated by Mr. Thomas and his partner, Curtis Mayfield. Eddie Thomas left Curtom to form his own label: "Lakeside", which he named after the south-side of Chicago. Lakeside, the label, signed Ohio Lakeside Express, the band, with the band soon dropping "Ohio," and ultimately the "Express" as well, in favor of, simply, "Lakeside." Eddie Thomas had a number of producers expressing interest in producing an album for Lakeside, but nothing materialized at this stage in their career. That would soon change, however, and how it did is an interesting story.
In the spring of 1972 Lakeside left the Tri-State area, bound for Oklahoma to play a two-week engagement. All ten band members left in a rented U-haul, along with all the equipment they owned. Unfortunately, the promoter of the show was not able to deliver the anticipated "gate" (attendance), disappointing everyone. Almost unbelievably, perhaps due, in part, to the sour mood associated with the disappointing turnout for the engagement, a dispute arose concerning a promotional 8" x 10" glossy.
As Mark Wood and the promoter's wife struggled with the glossy, each claiming ownership, Mr. Wood suddenly heard: "Let it Go!” turning to see the promoter, hand shaking, waving a pistol in his face. It shocked him. Tiemeyer McCain intervened, pulling Mark away, stating, "C'mon, man, let's go; it's just a picture."
This was a crossroads, of a sort. Thinking about what they had accomplished thus far with their career; the disappointment that they had just experienced with the engagement; the incident with the pistol; and the long drive back to the Tri-State area, it was Thomas Shelby (by then a vocalist with the group) who said: "Why don't we just go on all the way to California." Lakeside did just that, arriving in California in June 1972.
Success in California was not immediate. On many occasions, Lakeside scoured the streets, equipment in tow, looking for opportunities to play live. When a "gig" told them that they could play if they were ready by 1 am that same day, they often had to jump at the opportunity. Lakeside was good, though, and through word-of-mouth, better opportunities began to present themselves. After about six months, they were playing the best venues, "Whiskey a Go-Go", "Starwood Theatre", and "The Roxy."
At "Mavericks Flat", another of the big-time venues of the day, the group was seen by Dick Griffey, a promoter handling successful artists like Stevie Wonder. Impressed by the group, he offered his friendship and advice, and began informally managing Lakeside in early 1974. It was also in 1974 that Lakeside met Frank Wilson and signed a deal with Motown. Things seemed to be looking up at this point, but unfortunately, Motown was promoting/prioritizing other groups, and shelved what they had produced for Lakeside. When Frank Wilson left Motown in 1976, for ABC Dunhill, Lakeside went with him.
It was in 1977 that Lakeside's success really started to accelerate. That year, the group, still going by the name Lakeside Express released their self-titled debut album, which featured the single, "If I Didn't Have You." It was also around this time that the group debuted on Soul Train, performing a Beloyd Taylor and Peter Cor composition (produced by Melvin Ware), "Shine On," which helped pave the way for what was to come.
What was to come involved Dick Griffey, the producer who had befriended Lakeside back in 1974. In 1978, Mr. Griffey started Solar Records. It was also in that year that he reconnected with Lakeside, inviting them to join his new record company. Parting amicably with Frank Wilson, Lakeside became a part of the Solar family. At this point, the band dropped the "Express" from their name and released their next album, Shot of Love later in 1978. With this album, the band began to find major success on the R&B charts, when the single "It's All the Way Live" reached #4.
The band, now consisting of bassist Marvin Craig, drummer Fred Alexander, percussionist Fred Lewis, guitarist Steve Shockley, keyboardist Norman Beavers, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Otis Stokes, and three male vocalists (featuring lead singer Mark Wood) found their niche with a sound that stemmed from years of playing together. The band dressed in costumes on their album covers, including pirates, 1920's police officers, cowboys, Arabian knights, and even Robin Hood.
Despite the success of Shot of Love and "It's All the Way Live," the next album, Rough Riders, didn't fare as well. However, the following album, 1980's Fantastic Voyage, exceeded all expectations. Its eponymous single, "Fantastic Voyage" went to reach number one on the R&B charts. The tune remains the band's biggest hit, also hitting the pop charts (their only hit to date to do so), where it peaked at number 55. They followed this hit up with a remake of the Beatles' song, "I Want to Hold Your Hand," which made the R&B Top Ten again.
Subsequent to the Fantastic Voyage album, Lakeside would go on to release six more successful ones. More hits on the R&B charts kept the group going until their split in the late '80s.
Coolio took a rap version of "Fantastic Voyage" to number three on the pop charts in 1994. "Fantastic Voyage" was also performed by Cedric the Entertainer, Vanessa L. Williams, Bow Wow, and Solange Knowles in the movie Johnson Family Vacation.
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