First published on July 30, 2020
After touring with legendary Jazz artists such as Miles Davis, both men decided to venture into song-writing and producing. They created a music production team known as James Mtume and Reggie Lucas Music Productions, which operated out of Sigma Sound Studios in New York City, where they both gained fame and critical praise. They wrote and produced hits for a number of artists, including Stephanie Mills, Phyllis Hyman, Lou Rawls, The Spinners and Roberta Flack. And, of course, they were members of the studio band that created the signature sound along with the engineers. The team included:
- Howard T. King – Drums
- Ed “Tree” Moore, Reggie Lucas- Electric bass
- Basil Fearrington – Bass
- Joe Caro – Acoustic guitar
- Harry Whittaker, Hubert Eaves – Keyboards
- Bashiri Johnson, James Mtume- Percussion
- Brenda White, Gwen Guthrie, Lani Groves, Tawatha Agee, Louise Bethune, Mary Johnson, John Simmons, James Mtume, Reggie Lucas, Howard King – Backing vocals
- Gene Bianco – Contractor for strings and horns
- Carmine Rubino, Jay Mark, Carla Bandini, Craig Michaels, Matthew Weiner and “The Doctor” Lindeman and James Potokev – Engineers.
Reggie Lucas & James Mtume
As song-writers they had tremendous success with a song they wrote for Robert Flack, featured on her gold album “Blue Lights In The Basement” (1977). The album features the gold-certified single “The Closer I Get to You”, a duet with best friend and fellow soul musician Donny Hathaway, which became the biggest hit from the album, peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart week-ending 13th May 1978 (2 weeks) and reaching number one on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles Chart week-ending 1st April 1978 (2 weeks). The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Group Pop Performance”.
Roberta Flack’s gold-certified album
As the 1970s came to a close, they developed and created a signature sound with a series of gold-certified studio albums with Stephanie Mills, starting with “What Cha’ Gonna Do With My Lovin’” (1979), “Sweet Sensation” (1980) and “Stephanie” (1981).
Lucas and Mtume won Grammy Awards for “Best R&B Song” and “Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female” in 1981 for their composition “Never Knew Love Like This Before”, which was performed by Stephanie Mills. The song became a great success on both side of the Atlantic, receiving gold certification from the RIAA in America for over one million copies sold and a silver disc in the UK for selling over 250,000 copies, according to the BPI. String and horn arrangements were conducted by Wade Marcus and Gene Blanco. Stephanie Mills also won a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
The third gold-certified album “Stephanie” (1981) produced the Top 40 hit single “Two Hearts”, performed by Stephanie and the late Teddy Pendergrass. The sound engineers on the album were James Dougherty as leading engineer and Craig Michaels as his assistant.
Nearly found gold
Lucas and Mtume also jointly produced the late Phyllis Hyman’s studio album “You Know How to Love Me” released in 1979 on Arista Records. The title track “You Know How to Love Me” was released as a single during the disco era and became one of Phyllis Hyman’s most successful releases. The album almost reached gold level sales and achieved the number ten position on the Billboard Soul and R&B Albums Chart.
Reggie and James worked together as producers until 1982. They then went their separate ways, with Lucas working mainly as a producer and Mtume forming a new band.