Biography of The Emotions

In the 1950’s in Chicago, Illinois, Joe and Lillian Hutchinson began raising a family filled with love, creativity and talent. Born in this decade were three ladies considered by the rest of us as true legends and national treasures collectively known as The Emotions. Jeanette, Wanda and Sheila Hutchinson began singing at ages three, four and five under the tutelage of their father. Joe Hutchinson, Sr. had his little girls singing from sun up to sun down. This is the foundation of the intricate harmonies and solid musicianship that has given The Emotions their sound which is recognized by so many today.

In the early years, the Hutchinson girls sang gospel with their dad in churches and on radio shows all around their native Chicago. Joe, Jeanette, Wanda & Sheila even performed for the legendary Mahalia Jackson. They also appeared on a local television show, “The Jerry Van Dyke Show,” in Terre Haute, Indiana. In addition to this appearance, The Hutchinsons recorded several commercials for Al Abrams Pontiac. During this time the Hutchinson act appeared under several names including, Three Ribbons and a Bow, The Heavenly Sunbeams and The Hutchinson Sunbeams.

As the later part of the 1960’s rolled around, The Hutchinson Sunbeams evolved into what we know today as The Emotions. Jeanette, Wanda and Sheila recorded several singles for local labels giving the group more notoriety in their region of the country. Pervis Staples and The Staples Singers were very influential in the next step that was taken by the act. The group appeared in a talent contest at the Regal Theater in Chicago. That evening, The Emotions won the contest and were signed to the Stax / Volt label.

Papa Joe packed up the girls and they were off to record their first album for a major record company, Stax / Volt Records. The Emotions released the song “So I Can Love You” from the album of the same name in 1969. This was an immediate success for The Emotions. They were ecstatic to hear comments from their school friends telling them that they heard their song on the radio. “So I Can Love You” was not only a successful recording for the group, but sister, Sheila Hutchinson, wrote it.

After releasing the successful “So I Can Love You” project, The Emotions were on a hot streak and teamed up with producers Isaac Hayes and David Porter for their next big hit single at Stax / Volt, titled, “Show Me How” from the album “Untouched” released in 1971. The Emotions were running up the charts consistently with hit records. By this time, The Emotions had definitely proven themselves as an asset at Stax / Volt and began recording a third album for the label, “Songs of Innocence and Experience.” Unfortunately, Stax / Volt was beginning to experience some financial difficulties and the album was never released, however almost all of the songs recorded for that album were released as singles, many of which charted and kept The Emotions’ name out there. Also at this time, oldest sister, Jeanette took some time off to begin her family. Theresa Davis, who toured and performed with Wanda and Sheila, replaced her for a few years. Later in the 1970’s Stax released a collection of previously recorded songs by The Emotions. This released material that was recorded earlier at Stax was put together and titled “Sunshine” which was released by Stax at the height of The Emotions’ extremely successful Columbia Records release “Rejoice” in 1977.

With the financial problems at Stax / Volt, The Emotions found themselves getting lost in the shuffle. It was at this time that family friend, Ron Ellison told Joseph Hutchinson about Charles Stepney and Maurice White. Ron wanted to get the girls over to Charles Stepney because he knew that this combination was going to be explosive and spectacular. Charles heard the girls sing several songs in which they had written and he loved them. By this time, Jeanette had returned to the group to continue performing with her sisters. In 1976, Charles and Maurice signed The Emotions to Kalimba Productions and Columbia Records where they went on to record their very successful album “Flowers,” which contained three singles, “Flowers,” “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love,” and “You’ve Got The Right To Know.” The Emotions toured with Earth, Wind & Fire to promote their new project, which re-introduced the group and garnered gold certification for The Emotions.

Without slowing momentum, The Emotions were back in the studio in early 1977 to begin recording “Rejoice.” This time, Wanda and Sheila were joined by baby sister Pamela, who stepped in while oldest sister, Jeanette took some time off for maternity leave. This project took The Emotions over the top with the release of their first single, the million-plus selling single, “Best Of My Love.” The Emotions had now become superstars, everyone was singing their songs all around the world. The “Rejoice” album was certified platinum and bore two singles. The second single, “Don’t Ask My Neighbors” completely solidified the group as Pop / R&B divas. The Emotions had come a long way and now they were getting the recognition that they deserved. Although “Rejoice” only released two singles, most of the album tracks received airplay. The Emotions went on an extensive tour (including little brother Joe on guitar) with The Commodores. They not only toured the United States, but Europe and Japan as well. Many honors and awards were presented to the group in several countries including America’s prestigious Grammy Award and the American Music Award.

Again without slowing down, The Emotions continued working and in August 1978, they released the first single for their third Maurice White production on Columbia Records. The single was “Smile” from the album, “Sunbeam.” This song went to No. 6 on the R&B charts and again put The Emotions back on top. This was a historical album of sorts for The Emotions as it depicted their growth from children, “The Hutchinson Sunbeams” to the ladies that they had become. Jeanette also returned on this project to continue where she left off after having a beautiful baby girl. Pamela returned to her studies in college but remained active in the group. Two additional singles were released from this album, “Walking The Line” and “Whole Lot Of Shakin’.” The strength of these songs helped fuel this recording to gold certification. At the same time, The Emotions geared up a tour with The Brothers Johnson. The Emotions exciting and “emotional” performance along with the elaborate set-design of a flowered themed background and movable flowers in which each member sat during certain numbers captivated audiences everywhere.

Not long after The Emotions completed their “Sunbeam” tour, they were right back in the studio teaming up with Earth, Wind & Fire to work on what would become one of 1979’s biggest hits, “Boogie Wonderland!” This song was released on Maurice White’s newly formed label, ARC (American Recording Company), which was part of the Columbia family of labels. The success of this tune catapulted The Emotions to new heights. So much so that the newest project that the ladies were working on was their most expensive record to date.

In the late fall of 1979, The Emotions released the highly acclaimed album, “Come Into Our World.” This recording contained a host of prominent writers, arrangers and producers including The Emotions themselves. The inner sleeve featured the lyrics to the songs on one side and a picture of younger sister Pamela and brother Joe on the other side indicating that, as always, Pamela and Joe were still a part of the group. The first release from this album was an up-tempo dance number called “What’s The Name Of Your Love?” As with previous albums, many of the other tracks on the record received airplay. The second single from the album was the heart-wrenching ballad, “Where Is Your Love?,” featuring the soft and breathy allure of Sheila’s lead vocal. The group toured to promote this album in the USA and Europe. Sheila took a brief leave of absence during this tour as Jeanette, Wanda and Pamela brought the house down, continuing the long-standing tradition of outstanding performances that The Emotions had become known for. Although this record did not achieve all of the high accolades that its predecessors did, it still cannot go un-noticed.

The group continued on preparing for their next release, which was “New Affair,” also on Maurice White’s Columbia / ARC label. This album was released in August of 1981. Although Jeanette, Wanda and Sheila didn’t tour with this project, it still stands as a tribute to The Emotions, one of our nations most underrated treasures. “Turn It Out” was the first single from this record and that is exactly what they did --- they turned the joint out. As always, Wanda sang the lead vocal with such conviction that you knew she meant what she said. “Now That I Know,” the group’s second single from “New Affair”, followed this tune. Unfortunately, this album was not really given the proper edge to survive in an ever-competitive market. This was The Emotions’ last album recorded for the Columbia / ARC label.

During a brief hiatus from the business, The Emotions remained active with other projects on an individual level. Wanda and Jeanette worked on the Jennifer Holiday project “Feel My Soul” and Sheila became involved with commercials back in Chicago. Pamela also remained busy working with Wanda and Earth, Wind & Fire on several projects. Wanda also collaborated extensively with husband Wayne and Maurice White on many Earth, Wind & Fire tunes including the hits: “Let’s Groove,” “Fall In Love With Me,” “Side By Side,” and “Thinking Of You” to name a few.

In 1984, The Emotions returned in a big way with their album “Sincerely” on Red Label Records. This collection brought the group back to the forefront with the first single, “You’re The One.” This song crashed into the top 20 on the R&B charts. Once again, fans were happy to see Wanda, Sheila & Pamela back doing what they do best! Lee Young, Sr. who served as the Executive Producer headed this record. Wanda and husband, Wayne also produced several of the albums tracks along with several other well-known producers including Billy Osborne and Zane Giles. The second single from this project was “You’re The Best,” which was released as a 7” single version and a 12” re-mixed eight minute dance version that strongly forced its way up the Billboard Dance / Club charts. “Sincerely” produced one more single, “Are You Through With My Heart,” a lovely and emotional ballad that was undeniably a trademark of The Emotions.

At this time, The Emotions were again on a roll. They were disappointed with the way Red Label handled their album and sought attention elsewhere. The group signed with Motown and released “If I Only Knew” in 1985, which featured the first single “Miss Your Love.” This song was a funk / rock mix of soul and was a side of The Emotions that we hadn’t seen before. This tune was exciting for Emotions’ fans everywhere, yet it received very little airplay. “Miss Your Love” was followed up by “If I Only Knew (Then, What I Know Now),” which was a beautiful ballad. Although this record didn’t receive the attention that it deserved, several of the tracks on the record including “Supernatural” and “Good Times” were played in many markets.

In 1985 a very traumatic event occurred in the lives of The Emotions. Their father and mentor, Joseph Hutchinson, Sr. lost his battle with cancer. Joe Hutchinson, Sr. was a wiz; not only did he manage The Emotions, but he also maintained and recorded a diary of the entire career of his girls. He truly was and is an inspiration, not only to his children, but to the rest of us as well. From him you can learn true endurance, dedication and commitment, all of which shines through in all of his children.

The Emotions by this time have become drained and needed a well deserved break. Each of the ladies worked on several individual projects including raising their families, recording, teaching, consulting, theater, commercials, etc.

By the time 1990 rolled around, The Emotions were becoming restless and needed to get back out there and begin performing again. In 1992, The Emotions recorded “I Want To Thank You For Your Love” for the motion picture soundtrack to “BeBe’s Kids.” Before you knew it, our girls were back, performing at different venues around the country. They continued this for several years until Jeanette came up with an idea while attending an acting class. She felt that the group should write a story about their lives. The product of this brainstorm was the critically acclaimed and hit musical, “Bigger Than Bubblegum.” The musical was originally performed in 1995, but garnered so much praise and attention that a full-on production was staged and went on to play for over two consecutive months in 1997 at the famous and historic Pasadena Playhouse. “Bigger Than Bubblegum,” regularly played to sell-out houses. During 1996 between the original production of “Bigger Than Bubblegum” and the full production of the musical, The Emotions released “The Emotions Live,” which is a must for any collector. This cd was pure and contained live versions of the songs we have come to know and love. “The Emotions Live” was released on Sunbeam Records, the group’s very own label. Also included on this recording are 4 new studio tracks and the song, “I Want To Thank You For Your Love” from the motion picture soundtrack to “BeBe’s Kids.”

In the late 1990’s, the group continued to perform and was in demand for many Ol’ Skool Shows. The Emotions made their presence known and continue to do so up until today. Not only have The Emotions been appearing, but also their songs are being picked up and placed on many motion picture soundtracks such as “Summer Of Sam” and “Boogie Nights.”

In March 2001, The Emotions were honored by Prestige Entertainment / The Make a Wish Foundation with the 2001 Prestige Award.

Presently, The Emotions are recording for their new release due out in the fall of 2001 and they are making appearances at various cities and venues around the nation.

Get ready to dance, be happy and love ‘cause Wanda, Sheila and Pamela are back!!!

Written by: Wally Hall of SE Entertainment Inc. (Copyright 2001)


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