The Gap Band, centered around brothers Charlie, Ronnie, and Robert Wilson, toiled in obscurity for several years prior to becoming one of the most popular funk groups of the late '70s and 1980s. The Tulsa, Oklahoma natives produced 15 Top Ten R&B singles ranging from ferocious funk anthems to gorgeous slow jams. Many of their hits, such as "Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)" and "You Dropped a Bomb on Me," featured instantly memorable, rippling synthesizer basslines. All of them featured Charlie's deep, invigorating lead vocals. While casual R&B fans and most critics associate the Gap Band with the early '80s, the Wilsons' run of hits spanned nearly 20 years, from 1977 through 1995.
Born and raised in Tulsa, the Wilson brothers began singing and playing in their father's Pentecostal church; at home, music lessons were mandatory. They learned various instruments, primarily the piano. As much as they despised the lessons at the time, they proved to be invaluable. Ronnie, the oldest sibling, established his own band by the age of 14. Charlie, a few years younger, joined a rival group a couple years later. One night, the two bands were performing across the street from one another. Ronnie stopped by to check out Charlie grooving on the organ. While there, Ronnie asked Charlie to join his band for 50 dollars over what he was making. Though Charlie's bandmates doubled that offer, he joined his brother's band. Ronnie gave him no choice.
At a gig not too long after the two had joined forces, the bass player quit and Ronnie and Charlie summoned their younger brother Robert, barely 14, to take the spot. For a short while, the group performed without a name, but they eventually settled on the Greenwood, Archer & Pine Street Band. As advertising such a name on posters was cumbersome, the Wilsons shortened the name to the G.A.P. Street Band. Due to a typographical error, they were advertised as the Gap Band, and it stuck.
The band performed at venues around the Tulsa area, including country & western joints, tennis clubs, and rock clubs. However, by the middle of the 1970s, Charlie left Tulsa to explore his possibilities in Los Angeles. A short time later, he convinced his brothers to join him. The bandmembers floundered until they met entertainment businessman Lonnie Simmons through their friend, singer/songwriter/musician D.J. Rogers. Simmons owned a recording studio and nightclub, both of which were dubbed Total Experience (also the name that would appear on Gap Band releases during the '80s), and signed the Wilsons along with their nine bandmates.
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