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From the moment of his first public performance for members of the Bethlehem Baptist Church of Bogalusa (Louisiana), it was destiny for a five-year-old. He had accompanied his mother performing on the church organ.
Herschel Dwellingham started his professional career as a drummer, playing in Bogalusa with the Rhythm Aces, a group led by Henry Sims, and a group of older musicians, which included Robert Hodge, his high school bandleader, who taught him how to write and arrange music.
In the early sixties, he took 30 songs he had written with lyricist Charles Lucas, and went to Ron & Ric Records in New Orleans. Their A&R man, Joe Ruffino liked what he heard, and invited Herschel to the famous Cosmo Recording Studios where all the New Orleans hits of the 50s and 60s were recorded. It was there he met the legendary Dr. John, who gave him invaluable arranging and writing tips.
One month later, while listening to WBOK Radio, Herschel heard the first-ever release of one of his songs, "Come On and Tell Her," performed by Benny Freeman! Of the 30 songs Joe Ruffino signed, various artists eventually released ten singles.
Graduating from high school-and with inspiration provided by Quincy Jones-Herschel commenced his formal studies at Berklee School of Music, Boston, where he was afforded private studies with William Maloof, Professor of Music. A year later, he sent for Alva Jackson, and they married.
With his success at Berklee, Herschel was introduced to Hale Smith, Professor of Music at Harvard and Yale Universities, and Walter Piston, Dean of Music, Harvard University, both of whom personally furthered his education and training.
While in Boston, Herschel and Alva formed their own record label, My Records. This team consisted of Herschel producing and Alva managing their artists. Their first release, "Young Girl," sung by Frank Lynch, became a nationwide hit. And, not only did he write the song, he arranged, produced and played drums on the recording. Other artists included The Valiants and Maurice Rice. The label was distributed by radio personality Skippy White, who also owned Mass Record Distributors.
During this same period, Herschel played drums on the hit Jazz album "Sweetnighters" with Weather Report. With this performance, Herschel was credited with creating the first Hip-Hop beats, which continue to be sampled countless times. Other artists he recorded with include Mongo Santamaria, Fats Domino and Johnny Mathis.
Performing in Boston at the Sugar Shack with his band, Herschel played behind many famous artists, including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Supremes, numerous other Motown acts and Jackie Wilson, who was managed by August Sims.
Moving to New York, Herschel soon became the "first call drummer" for session contractors, chief among them was Phil Medley ("Twist and Shout," "One in a Million"). The experience was like music school all over again, working with great arrangers and producers the likes of Bert Keyes (Stephanie Mills), Paul Leka (Harry Chapin) and Bert de Coteaux (Sister Sledge, The Manhattans) and others, for 25 years of constant studio work.
When not in the studio, Herschel performed on Broadway, playing for many theatrical productions, to include The Wiz, The Lena Horne Show and Your Arm's Too Short To Box With God.
In New York, Herschel and Alva started Helva Records as a family label with their children and August Sims, Jackie Wilson's manager. Helva's first releases were for Sugar 'n Spice (distributed by 'West End Records'), Barbara Jean English (distributed by Zakia Records) and The Escorts (distributed by Audio Fidelity). Within two years, Helva elected to distribute their own artists, and produced M.J. Wade, Sandy Mercer, La Shanda Dupree and Timothy Wilson, among others.
Herschel is presently CEO of Bogalusa Music Group LLC, Magic City Records and Tik Records, and is co-owner of Black Lace Productions with Marlena Holt (Molly Holt of The Rascals), all based in Bogalusa, Louisiana.
-n's No. 1 Soul Man".
Legendary Rock drummer, Earl Palmer, gave Herschel his first set of drumsticks.
Herschel Dwellingham's drum beat on Weather Report's "125th Street Congress" has been described by Joe Zawinul (as Josef Zawinul), the song's composer, as the first "hip-hop beat".