The Music of the “Philly Soul” Group, Blue Magic

Introduction to Blue Magic

Blue Magic is the name of one of the best-known Philly soul groups during the 70s music era. Founded and led by Ted Mills, they generated a handful of Billboard pop and R&B chart smashes such as “Look Me Up,” “Stop to Start,” “Three Ring Circus” and their biggest one “Sideshow,” which became a pop and R&B top ten hit. By the mid-1970s though, they began to suffer a decline in their career. However, they returned to the music scene during the late 80s with several R&B hits. More on Blue Magic in this article!

Formation and early years

The origins of Blue Magic hark back in 1972 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when singer-songwriter Ted “Wizard” Mills and ex-Delfonics member Randy Cain held an audition to form a new band. A group named Shades of Love turned up at the audition; they consisted of Keith Beaton, Richard Pratt, brothers Vernon and Wendall Sawyer, who would later join Mills. Together they formed Blue Magic. They later signed to Atco Records.

Early successes

Blue Magic scored their first-ever charting single with “Spell,” which went to #30 on the Billboard R&B singles chart in 1973. The record was produced by Norman Harris, a recording veteran who was also the founding member of the legendary MFSB studio session band.

The following months the group scored other hits such as “Look Me Up” (#36 R&B, #51 on the British chart), and “Stop to Start,” their first Billboard Hot 100 (pop chart) placer at #74 (it also went to #14 on the R&B singles chart)

In 1974 the group experienced their biggest success when their next single “Sideshow” went to #8 on the Hot 100. It also topped the R&B singles chart and #35 on the adult contemporary singles chart also during the same year. It sold over one million copies, going gold in the process. The single’s album, the group’s eponymous debut LP, was also successful as it peaked at #45 on the Billboard 200. Their following two LPs The Magic of the Blue (1974) and Thirteen Blue Magic Lane (1975) also became pop and R&B album chart hits.

Blue Magic experienced other hits, although not in the same magnitude as “Sideshow.” They include “Three Ring Circus” (#36 pop, #36 adult contemporary, #1 R&B), and mostly R&B hits such as “Love Has Found Its Way,” “Chasing Rainbows,” “What’s Come Over Me,” “Grateful,” “Freak-N-Stein,” “Teach Me (It’s Something About Love)” and “Summer Snow.”

Career decline, break-up and reunion

By the mid-1970s Blue Magic’s chart performance and popularity began to ebb, and in the 1980s they managed to have a smattering of R&B minor hits including “Land of Make-Believe,” and “Magic #.” The group also experienced lineup changes, with the two remaining original members Mills and Beaton recruiting two new singers from Los Angeles after the Sawyer brothers left.

In 1988 the original members reunited for a time and recorded another album From out of the Blue, which registered at #48 on the Billboard R&B albums chart. In 1990 Mills nearly died in a car accident; because of the unfortunate event his fellow members were having different lead singers for a time.

Mills recovered in 1996 and tried to resurrect his career by going solo. But he has since reunited with Wendell Sawyer and Keith Beaton and together they have continued to perform as Blue Magic with newer members. They are still active performing up to now, mostly for the oldies music circuit.