Introduction to Evelyn “Champagne” King
Evelyn “Champagne” King is an American disco/dance and R&B singer. Discovered while working as an office cleaner (together with her mother) at Philadelphia International Records, producer Theodore Life helped her to sign a contract with his company Galaxy Productions and then to RCA Records. Her 1977 debut, Smooth Talk, included the hit songs “Shame,” “I Don’t Know If It’s Right” and “I’m In Love.” King’s 1982 album Get Loose brought her another top 20 hit “Love Come Down.” King went out of the spotlight for a while until she returned to making music in the late 2000’s, when she released her first studio album in more than a decade, Open Book. The single off that album, “The Dance,” landed at #12 on the Hot Dance/Disco charts.
Evelyn King’s early life
Evelyn King is a R&B/soul/disco songstress born in New York’s The Bronx on July 25, 1960, but was later raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by her mother. Her family and folks had showbusiness running in their blood. Her uncle was Avon Long, the Broadway actor and singer best remembered for his role as Sportin’ Life in the revival of Porgy and Bess. King’s father Erik was also a singer who mostly served as a back-up for several artists who graced the legendary Apollo Theater.
It was in Philadelphia where King got a start in her singing career, but in order to make ends meet, the teenaged King and her mother took a job as office cleaners at Philadelphia International Records office. It was where King was discovered by record producer T. Life who overheard her beautiful voice coming from the washroom, where King was found singing while doing the cleaning job along with her mother.
Rise to stardom as Evelyn “Champagne” King
King, who was by now called Evelyn “Champagne” King as her stage name, was eventually signed to a recording and production deal with RCA Records, where she released her first single “Dancin’, Dancin’, Dancin’,” which was the first single of her debut album Smooth Talk (1977). However, it was the album’s follow-up single “Shame” (written by John H. Fitch and Reuben Cross) that got King her career-launching success and fame.
“Shame” climbed up fast on the charts, eventually occupying the Top 10 positions on all pop, dance and R&B singles charts (at #9, #8 and #7 respectively) in 1978. It also went to the UK top 40 chart at #39 that same year. Along with “Shame”‘s chart success, was the million-plus records the single had sold; it was given a gold record certification.
Another Fitch-Cross composition “I Don’t Know if It’s Right” also came from Smooth Talk LP and was eventually certified gold. It went to #23 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #7 on the R&B singles charts. It also peaked at #25 on the dance chart and #67 on the British chart. The album Smooth Talk also became a resounding success, peaking at as high as #14 on the Billboard 200, and #8 on the R&B album chart; it was later certified gold (and eventually platinum over the years).
In 1979 she released her second album Music Box, which featured two minor hits “Out There” and the title track, also did pretty well on the Billboard 200 and R&B album charts (#35 and #12, respectively).
Collaboration with producer Kashif
Evelyn “Champagne” King returned to the major charts in 1981 with “I’m in Love,” the title track of her third LP. It topped both the dance and R&B singles charts, while it just barely made the Top 40 pop chart that year. It was one of King’s collaborations with her new producer Kashif (Kashif Saleem)
Kashif also wrote and produced another hit for King, “Love Come Down” from her fifth album Get Loose (1982). It peaked at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was to be King’s last Top 20 pop hit. Once more, it was a #1 hit on both dance and R&B singles charts. The album’s third single “Betcha She Don’t Love You” (also written by Kashif) went to #2 on the R&B singles chart.
Later career, and return to music in the 21st century
Her other singles made decent placings on various charts, including “Action,” “Shake Down,” (both from Face to Face LP), “Just for the Night” (from So Romantic LP), “Your Personal Touch” (from A Long Time Coming LP; last Hot 100 single at #86, #5 dance and #9 R&B), “Flirt” (from Flirt LP; #3 R&B singles chart), and “Hold On to What You’ve Got” (from Flirt; #5 dance, #8 R&B). Her last charting single in the US was 1989’s “Kisses Don’t Lie” from Flirt LP.
After recording in the 1990s, King didn’t return to the studio until 2007, when she issued her latest album to date Open Book on RNB Ent. label. Its single “The Dance” still hit the dance charts at #12. In 2011, she worked with deep house producer Miguel Migs to produce a single called “Everybody” for Migs’ album Outside the Skyline.