Ten City Foundation Atlantic, 1989
Future Music|October 2021
After dropping his groundbreaking single, Move Your Body in 1986, Marshall Jefferson was “hotter than fish grease”. Sensing the heat, chum and vocal powerhouse, Byron Stingily, picked up the phone and got his hustle on, calling every major label, dangling the hottest name in house music in front of them.
Roy Spencer

Atlantic signed them up without even hearing a note from Byron, himself. “Imagine signing someone without hearing their voice,” says Jefferson. “And then getting Byron – jackpot!”

After that, the pair assembled a supergroup of vocalists and musicians, and would produce an album rightly celebrated as one of the most seminal in dance music history.

“For the Foundation album we had the legendary Earl Young on drums,” says Jefferson. “The Grand Staff’s horn section with Orbert Davis. My cousin Bill Dickens, who played with Ramsey Lewis. Herb Lawson on guitars. David Josias on percussion. Byron Burke, who would do musical bits. And, of course, Byron Stingily, who did lead vocals and most of the lyrics.”

This was a group of talented individuals, at the peak of their powers. There was no fumbling around in the studio. They had a job to do – make hits.

“All of us were in automatic songwriting mode,” says Jefferson. “And we got things done pretty quickly.

“Everything we wrote went on the album, too. That’s why we finished it so quickly. We didn’t have any songs that got turned down. And we finished the whole thing in two weeks.”

The LP still sounds fresh today, unusually for work from the early days of house music. Perhaps in part to Jefferson and crew’s unwillingness to rely on now-dated production gimmicks of the era.

“We were trying to be trendsetters… consciously,” he says. “Back then, everybody else was going more technical and digital, while we wanted to sound more natural. We had a different vibe to a lot of other house music. They were heavy on the digital edits – ‘Jack! Jack! Jack! Jack!’. We didn’t do that.

“And we’re still getting royalties from that stuff, so I guess somebody still likes us.”

Track by track with Marshall Jefferson

That’s The Way Love Is (Underground Mix/Edited Version)

“As soon as our drummer, the legendary Earl Young, heard it he said, ‘That’s a hit record. Let’s put some gold on the walls!’

“But I hate every single remake ever done of any of my music, right? So when I heard the remix that Merlin Bobb and Timmy Regisford did, I was so pissed off.

“It was the version with a big piano, [hums the thudding chords]. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it because I felt some elements in there were too dry. I wanted the more kind of lush production in there. I’d made a lush production, and they took off Earl Young’s drums! And Boyd Jarvis replayed the snare. I was so pissed off for that because I thought Earl jammed his ass off!

“I told them to take my name off the record, and I removed my name from the songwriting, which was a big mistake. Huge… you know? I don’t know too many people that have ever done something that fuckin’ stupid [laughs].

“I could have easily chopped up the live drums. And I could have easily had them dead solid in the pocket, like I did on Satisfaction. But I didn’t get a chance to do that.”

Where Do We Go?

“This was written and produced by Guy Vaughn. Guy was a good friend of ours. And, yeah, that was his song. He came to Chicago and produced it.

“Guy was part of my crew on the East Coast. There was a bunch of us producers, you know? It was me and Guy, Shedrick Guy, and CeCe Rogers. We would all hang out and stuff. We hung out real close, and we chased women together, and all that stuff.

“We had nicknames for each other. Like, I was ‘Sloppy’ and CeCe was ‘Hefty’. Shedrick had Jheri curls, so we called him ‘Greasy’. Guy had dreadlocks, we called him ‘Raggedy’.

“We just all hung out in the clubs together and stuff, you know? So, when Guy said he had a song for Ten City, I just said, ‘Hey. Have at it…'”

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