One Hit Wonders: Terri Wells – I’ll Be Around
It‘s not common for a backing singer on a well-known soul hit to later outperform the original with her own pop version, but that’s what Philadelphia’s Terri Wells did in 1984.
Wells, a gospel singer, progressed from church choirs to cabaret spots and clubs in the 70s and became a well-regarded session vocalist for numerous Philly acts, including Lou Rawls. In 1973, she sang backing on a new Detroit Spinners song, I’ll Be Around, which got to No.3 in the US charts of 1972 but flopped in the UK.
After a decade working as a staff singer in neo-soul legend Roy Ayers’ band, Wells was given her own record deal thanks to new Philly producer Nick Martinelli’s recommendation. She then made her first solo album, Just Like Dreamin’, from which the lead single, You Make It Heaven, just missed the Top 40 in 1983, but her own version of I’ll Be Around was far more successful.
The Spinners’ original was also re-released in the same week, but Wells’ gentle, rhythmic reinterpretation won through. She got to a healthy No.17 versus the Spinners’ No.84, but three further singles flopped and the album didn’t chart. She subsequently returned to session performing and songwriting.
Matthew Rudd is the host of Forgotten 80s on Absolute 80s.