To paraphrase Shakespeare, that which we call a peach by any other name would taste as sweet. But would it sound as catchy? This was the question that faced Herbert Feemster as he contemplated his future in the music business in the mid-1970s. The answer he came up with led directly to the highlight of his musical career, when Peaches & Herb reached #1 on the Billboard pop chart on May 5, 1979 with “Reunited.”
As an aspiring singer back in 1965, Herbert parlayed his job in a Washington, D.C., record store into an audition with local record producer Van McCoy (later of “The Hustle” fame). From that audition came a recording contract and a McCoy-brokered pairing with one Francine Barker, whose childhood nickname was “Peaches.” From that nickname came “Peaches & Herb,” the supremely catchy name under which the duo recorded a string of moderately successful R&B singles in the late-1960s, including “Let’s Fall In Love” and “Close Your Eyes.” By 1970, however, Francine had quit the duo, and Herb had quit the business altogether, taking a job with the D.C. Police Department.
Then, in 1976, the showbiz bug bit Herb again. Understanding his own limitations as a performer, Herb knew that he needed a new partner as he sought to engineer his reemergence. But he also knew the value of a name. And so Mr. Feemster quietly installed one Linda Greene as his new partner, foregoing a new name like “Feemster and Greene” (see, it doesn’t really work) in favor of the one with proven appeal. It was this reincarnated Peaches & Herb that achieved superstar status, albeit briefly, behind the 1978 album, 2Hot, and its irresistible smash-hit singles “Shake Your Groove Thang,” which reached the top 10, and “Reunited,” which went all the way to #1.
And Herbert Feemster’s audacious Peaches-replacement scheme did not end there. Following the decline of disco and another attempted retirement back to his civil-service job in D.C., Herb Feemster once again resurrected the Peaches & Herb brand in 1990, anointing Ms. Patrice Hawthorne as the new “Peaches” and launching another comeback attempt. Unfortunately for Feemster, that attempt fell short of the one that reached its pinnacle on this day in 1979.
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