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Leonard Caston, Jr.



Leonard Caston, Jr.
This multi-talented musician had a multifaceted musical career that includes singing with and producing for a hit for Chicago soul group the Radiants; writing, producing, and playing duties for Chess Records; and co-writing, co-producing, and playing piano on Eddie Kendricks' classic number one hits "Keep on Truckin'" and "Boogie Down."

After a stint in the Army, Caston sang in the choir and played organ for the Greater Harvest Church in Chicago. In 1960, he joined fellow church member Maurice McAlister in a new lineup of McAlister's vocal group, the Radiants. Recording for Chess Records, the group scored a hit with "Voice of Choice" -- written by McAlister and guitarist Gerald Sims -- which hit number 16 R&B in early 1965. Caston left the group shortly afterwards to become a staff songwriter, producer, and session pianist for Chess. He wrote and produced the Radiants' "Hold On." Caston was playing a record of James Cleveland's "I Had a Talk With God Last Night" at Chess, which was overheard by singer Mitty Collier. She got the idea of doing a secular version of the tune. Co-written by Caston and Chess staff producer Billy Davis, "I Had a Talk With Man" hit number three R&B on Cashbox Magazine's R&B chart in fall 1964. Caston produced some of Collier's later sides. In the early '70s, Caston teamed up with Motown producer Frank Wilson after playing him some of his original songs for an album Wilson was producing on former Temptations member Eddie Kendricks. One of the songs, "This Used to Be the Home of Johnnie Mae," written by Caston and Samuel Small, was the flip side of "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye" -- not to be confused with the G.C. Cameron/"Cooley High" 1975 hit -- and is included on Kendricks' 1998 greatest-hits CD The Ultimate Collection. Caston co-wrote (with Wilson and Anita Poree) "Keep on Truckin'," which held both the number one R&B/pop spot for two weeks in fall 1973. It was included on his third LP Eddie Kendricks. It was the singer's first number one hit, happening two years after he began his solo career. Caston, Wilson, and Poree repeated the magic with "Boogie Down," which held the number one R&B spot for three weeks and hit number two pop in early 1974. Motown bassist James Jamerson played on both number one singles. Other hits from the Boogie Down LP were "Son of Sagittarius" (Caston/Wilson/Poree), which hit number five R&B in spring 1974, and "Tell Her Love Has Felt the Need," which hit number eight R&B. That same year, Caston recorded a duet LP with Carolyn Majors, Caston & Majors. Kendricks had hits with the Caston/Poree songs: "Eddie's Love," "Girl You Need a Change of Mind (Part 1)," and Caston's own "One Tear," which went to number eight R&B in late 1974. Caston co-wrote several songs with Kathy Wakefield: "Happy," a radio-aired LP track from The Hit Man, and the rousing "I Can't Quit Your Love" (which was covered by the Four Tops and the Jackson 5). Caston's piano can be heard on Fontella Bass' "Rescue Me" (number one R&B, fall 1965), all of his sides with Eddie Kendricks, and throughout the Chess Records catalog. ~ Ed Hogan, Rovi

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