SugarHill In The '90s: Jazz, Jazz, Jazz... And A Little Group Called Destiny's Child
Ed Note: All this week, to celebrate the release of Dr. Roger Wood and Andy Bradley's new book House of Hits: The Story of Houston's Gold Star/SugarHill Recording Studios and preview this weekend's related festivities at Sig's Lagoon and the Continental Club, Rocks Off and Lonesome Onry and Mean are looking at the history of the legendary Houston recording compound, decade by decade. Monday, we did the 1940s; Tuesday, the '50s; Wednesday, the '60s; Thursday, the '70s and '80s; and today, the '90s and '00s.
Following Huey Meaux's sale of SugarHill in 1986 to Modern Music Ventures, which brought House of Hits co-author Andy Bradley to the SugarHill as chief engineer, the studio seemed to have run out of hit-making steam. In fact, the 1990s can mostly be summarized in two words: Jazz and Latino. Except in rare instances, jazz records have never sold like pop, country or rock records, but there is a Gavin chart for jazz and SugarHill artists figured in those charts frequently throughout the '90s. Justice Records had a string of Gavin charters, beginning in 1989 with Kellye Gray's Standards in Gray. The '90s Gavin charters read like a Who's Who of Houston jazz: Sebastian Whitaker, Harry Sheppard, Dave Catney, Erich Avinger, Tony Campise and Joe Locascio. Even the great Herb Ellis recorded at SugarHill, with his Roll Call reaching No. 1 on the chart in 1991.
Beginning in 1994, in-house label Discos MM scored a string of successes with Elsa Garcia and The Hometown Boys.
But the end of 1999 brought a new act to the studios who would in short order conquer the pop music world: Destiny's Child. Their album The Writing's On the Wall reached No. 5 as the decade ended, and in January 2000 they had their first No. 1 single, "Independent Woman Part 1." They quickly followed with a No. 2 single, "Survivor," and then the Survivor album went No. 1. In June 2001 they again reached No. 1 with "Bootylicious." 2001 also marked the first rap hit from SugarHill, Minot's "Playa Playa (Playing the Game Right)." Beyonce Knowles went solo in 2003 and immediately climbed to No. 1 with her Dangerously In Love album.
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