B.T. Express was one of the funk/disco/soul acts who enjoyed a string of hits during the 70s music era. The Brooklyn, New York-based group, formed in the early 70s music era scored four Top 40 hits the Billboard Hot 100 during their heyday: “Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied),” “Express,” “Give It What You Got,” and “Peace Pipe,” which became huge R&B chart smashes as well and have become oldies music favorites. They went off the charts for a while until they staged a mini-comeback in the 1980s with minor R&B hits. B.T. Express recorded for different labels (Record Shack, Earthtone, and King Davis), but weren’t able to duplicate their earlier success. They disbanded in the late 1980s.
Formation and early success on the charts
The origins of B.T. Express came from King Davis House Rockers, a Brooklyn, New York dance band who became part of the “Brooklyn sound” during the early 1970s. Three of King Davis’ members — Richard Thompson (guitars), Bill Risbrook (tenor sax) and Carlos Ward (alto sax) — went on to form Madison Street Express along with Louis Risbrook (bass), Dennis Rowe (percussions), Terrell Wood (drums), and Barbara Wood (vocals).
Madison Street Express then met with producer Jeff Lane who also became a member. He helped the band sign a record deal at Roadshow Records where they recorded “Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied),” which was written by Billy Nichols. They shopped the record to several labels until they found Scepter Records, who accepted it and decided to distribute it as a single. It was also Scepter who also suggested that they change their name to B.T. Express (short for Brooklyn Transit Express). Production company Roadshow became Scepter’s subsidiary label and would release some of B.T. Express’ material.
“Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied)” became the group’s first hit, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B singles chart. It also charted high on the dance chart at #8, proving its big crossover success. It sold over a million copies and was given a gold disc. The album, also titled Do It (Til You’re Satisfied) went to the top of the R&B albums chart and #5 on the Billboard 200.
The group followed “Do It” with another single “Express,” written by the entire group themselves. It reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 both on the dance and R&B singles charts apiece. “Express” is also included on the album Do It (Til You’re Satisfied).
Other chart hits came in with “Give It What You Got” (#40 pop, #5 R&B) and “Peace Pipe” (#31 pop, #3 dance). Both of these track are included in their album Non-Stop, which went to #19 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on the R&B album chart.
After the hits, later career and disbandment
Like many other groups, B.T. Express experienced lineup changes. Leslie Ming and Michael Jones were brought in to the group as the new drummer and keyboardist respectively. Brook became an Islam convert and began using the name Jamal Rasool. However, Ming as well as songwriter Nichols soon left. Besides from the lineup change, Scepter Records was experiencing a rocky financial status. So the group had a wider distribution deal with a major label Columbia Records. It could have been their chance to go back to their former success, but since the members had their own separate projects already, they found it hard to focus on the band’s production.
Under Columbia, the group had a few more minor hits throughout the late 70s and early 80s: “Can’t Stop Groovin’,” “Energy to Burn,’ “Shout It Out,” and “Stretch,” among others. They went on to record for other labels Record Shack, Earthtone, and King Davis, but it’s clear that they weren’t able to resurrect their previous success, along with the fact that disco was experiencing a decline in popularity (not to mention a backlash). B.T. Express disbanded in 1984. After the split, Michael Jones — who had used the Muslim name Kashif which Jamal had given him — experienced success as a solo performer, producer and songwriter during the 80s.