The Flaming Ember was one of the few white soul bands to figure on the R&B singles chart during the early 1970s. Formed in Detroit, Michigan in 1964, the group consisted of lead vocalist/drummer Jerry Plunk, guitarist Joe Sladich (he was replaced by Mark McCoy in 1972), keyboardist Bill Ellis, and bassist Mike Jackson (to be replaced by Jim Bugnel in 1966). They were known then as the Flaming Embers and signed to Hot Wax Records, a newly-established label by the famed songwriting/production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. The Flaming Ember (now without the “s”) achieved their first hit with “Mind, Body and Soul” in 1969. “Westbound #9” became the band’s biggest charting single at #24 on the Hot 100 in 1970; “I’m Not My Brother’s Keeper” also became a sizable hit also in that same year. The band renamed themselves after their first hit single – Mind, Body and Soul. But the new name didn’t click with the band, whose follow-up singles (such as “Stop the World and Let Me Off”) failed to chart. Dennis Mills joined the band (as Mind, Body and Soul now) as bassist; Lenny Gregg played as a part-time drummer. The Flaming Ember (inductees to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 1993), reunited in 2004 after a long hiatus.
Who was the Flaming Ember?
Originating in Detroit, Michigan, The Flaming Ember was a blue-eyed soul band formed in 1964. But they only started to gain more significant attention during the 70s music era. Formerly named as the Flaming Embers, they consisted of drummer and guitarist Jerry Plunk, guitarist Joe Sladich (replaced by Mark McCoy in 1972), keyboardist Bill Ellis, and bassist Jim Bugnel (replaced by Mike Jackson in 1966).
The Flaming Ember’s recordings
In 1965, The Flaming Ember started their recording career for some small-time Detroit-based labels. Two years later they released a record on Ric Tic imprint which was owned by Ed Wingate. But they soon left Ric Tic when the label was bought by Motown Records’ owner Berry Gordy.
Signing to the newly-built label Hot Wax Records in 1969, the band decided to take the “s” out from their band name. Shortly thereafter, they released their debut single “Mind, Body and Soul” that would become their first hit Top 40, peaking at #26 on the national chart later that year. A bigger success came with their second single “Westbound 9” which reached its peak position both on the pop and R&B singles charts at #24 and #15 respectively. It also became The Flaming Ember’s signature song as well. After their third single “Shades of Green” became a minor pop hit, its follow-up “I’m Not My Brother’s Keeper” made Billboard Hot 100’s Top 40 at #34 spot it peaked at #12 on the R&B chart. All of these singles registered on the Billboard chart in the early and mid 1970’s.
The Flaming Ember continued to release singles in the early 1970’s, (“Stop the World and Let Me Off” and “Sunshine”) but they were not as successful like their first releases. They later changed The Flying Ember to Mind, Body and Soul, named after their first hit single. With their new name, they became active performing in their hometown throughout the 1970’s. However, with their new name they weren’t able to enjoy the same level of success like they did when they were The Flaming Ember.
The Flaming Ember’s reunion and awards
In 1999, The Flaming Ember was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In 2004, they once again performed together in one stage at the Rockabilly Festival in Tennessee and it was released on a CD. Their part-time drummer Larry Gregg died in April 2010.