"The Band That Upset New Birth ..."
98.6 formed in 1971, initially known as The Forces of Unity, first playing at high school talent shows and gymnasium dances, as well as churches. In August of 1972, bass player Kenny Jones and drummer "Ronnie T" Thomas joined the group. Then in summer of 1973, as "Unity", was a featured band in Washington DC's "Showmobile", outdoor stage-concerts, mostly in parks, recreation centers and school playgrounds.
Later, in January of 1974, guitarist George Porter joined the band, and during the summer of that year, the music ensemble was hired by a duo of promoters, to be the opening act on several weekend concerts of well known, superstar artists. These shows took place primarily in Virginia, and The Carolina's.
The first of these big shows was during June of 1974, in Richmond Virginia , opening a concert headlined by The Ohio Players. The next weekend, Unity opened a concert for another popular and talented group named New Birth. As an opening act, Unity surprised the audience during their set, with their well-arranged, tight, sharply accented music and crisp, perfect-pitch vocals, receiving a loud-cheering, standing ovation from a packed arena in Fayetteville North Carolina, following a good performance the previous night in Wilmington NC.
Later, during August of that year, while in-route to be the opening act for another very popular, highly-successful headliner-act, The Chilites, members of the band heard the show announced on their rented van's radio. The promo/commercial went similar to "Tonight, performing at The Raleigh Coliseum, The fabulous Chilites, The Soul Children, The Hues Corporation, Leon Hayward and the group that upset "The New Birth Show" Unity.
Being the first time members of the band had heard their name mentioned on a radio station by a DJ promoting a concert, the entire group spontaneously and simultaneously erupted in excitement, cheering and repeating what the announcer had stated, while high fiving each-other, and having a difficult task keeping the van in one lane on the highway heading south through North Carolina, approaching Raleigh.
Whereas about half the folks at The New Birth Show, were still just arriving during the middle of the opening act's -- Unity -- set, at this particular -- Chilites -- show, they were forewarned "better not be late!" So, even before Unity took the stage to start the concert, there was practically a packed house awaiting their performance.
In a basement dressing room at The Raleigh Coliseum, the group planned a "Shock and Awe" entrance, having been supplied a map/diagram of the arena's layout. While playing percussion instruments and chanting a vocal hook, with the group's name inserted, the fellas navigated through basement corridors, and as the band was being announced to take the stage, was about to emerge through a passageway on a side, in the middle of the Coliseum.
The announcer had already stated something like:
"Now coming to the stage, the exciting and talented band from Washington, DC that upset the New Birth Show, Unity!"
As the musicians started to step into visibility, they heard someone ask, "Where are they?" Then another person answered, "There they go!" Unity proceeded to the center aisle, then made their way to the stage, playing percussion and singing while approaching the stage. The guys took their positions upon the stage, grabbed instruments and cranked-up the funk, playing a tight, energetic set of popular songs, linked together with well-rehearsed transitions.
By the time their set was completed, -- about 45 minutes later -- the crowd was wildly and loudly applauding. The group was heading back down to their basement dressing room, when they could hear the crowd -- sounding louder each time -- yell, "We want Unity, we want Unity!"
The promoter -- running behind the band -- stated, "Y'all better get on back out there and play another song!".
Band members debated what to play, having not prepared for an encore, quickly decided a song, then rushed back on stage to continue to wow the audience! After the show, many of the young ladies in attendance, hung around near the stage, wishing to chat with band members, like we (Unity) were celebrities.
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