Though soul/pop Peaches & Herb was billed as a duo, their group member rotation is more similar to a group’s. The original Peaches, Francine Hurd Barker, a Washington, D.C., native, earned the childhood nickname “Peaches” because of her genteel manner. She sang in neighborhood groups and in her teens she became the lead singer for a group named the Keynotes. Starting her own group, the Darlettes, they auditioned for and were signed to D.C.-area label Date Records, where their name was changed to the Sweet Things.
Herb Fame, born Herbert Feemster on October 1, 1942, in Washington, D.C., began singing in church at seven and continued singing through the years in neighborhood groups. After high school graduation, Herb began working at a record store. His friend, Howard University student Freddie Perren, worked at another record store, Sabin’s, right around the corner. One day in January 1965, producer Van McCoy came into the store Herb worked in to ask about doing in-store promotion for a group he was working with called the Sweet Things. He and Herb began having conversations that lead to Herb auditioning for and signing with Date Records as a solo artist.
While in New York recording the two acts, the Sweet Things and Herb Fame, separately, McCoy decided to use some leftover recording time to record Herb and Francine as a duo. The original A-side, “We’re in This Thing Together,” failed to generate much interest. Then a disc jockey at St. Louis, Missouri, radio station KATZ flipped the single over and began playing the B-side, “Let’s Fall in Love.” It became Peaches & Herb’s first hit single; it was a remake of a number one pop hit for Eddy Duchin from 1934 that went to Number Eleven R&B in December 1966. The follow-up, “Close Your Eyes” written by Chuck Willis, hit number four R&B, Number Eight pop in April 1967.
As the hits continued, the duo earned the nickname the “Sweethearts of Soul”. Next came “For Your Love” (Number Ten R&B, July 1967), “Love is Strange” (a remake of Mickey & Sylvia’s 1956 hit), and “Two Little Kids,” written by Chicago soul stalwarts Barbara Acklin, Eugene Record, and Carl Davis. The duo released two hit albums in 1967 Let’s Fall in Love and For Your Love. This same year, Francine “Peaches” Barker tired of the rigors of touring and she was replaced with a succession of “Peacheses”, including Marlene Mack, thus initiating a practice that goes on to this day.
Voted one of the top soul duos of the day by Cashbox Magazine, Peaches & Herb continued to have hits: “The Ten Commandments of Love”; Gamble & Huff wrote and produced “United,” a 1966 R&B hit for the Intruders; and “When He Touches Me (Nothing Else Matters),” a number ten R&B hit from spring 1969. The single “It’s Just a Game, Love” (from the Jim Brown movie The Split), which stalled at Number 50 R&B in summer 1970, was Peaches & Herb’s last charting single on Date.
Despondent over the act’s failing chart success, Herb abruptly quit Peaches & Herb and got a job with the Washington, D.C. Police Department in July 1970. Then in 1976, Herb decided to re-enter the music business. He found his “new” Peaches in fellow D.C. resident and former model Linda Greene through a mutual introduction by Van McCoy.
The duo charted again in June 1977 with “We’re Still Together” on MCA Records from a self-titled album produced by Van McCoy. The following year, they signed with Herb’s old friend, songwriter/producer Freddie Perren’s production company MVP Productions. Perren had produced and co-written million-selling hits by the Jackson 5, the Miracles, and the Sylvers, among others. Through him, the duo inked a deal with Polydor Records. Their first Polydor single, “Shake Your Groove Thing,” went Gold, peaking at Number Four R&B and Number Five Pop in late 1978. The creamy ballad “Reunited” seemed an unlikely follow-up to the disco-oriented “Shake.” The naysayers watched in shock as “Reunited” earned Platinum status, holding on to the Number One spot for four weeks on both the R&B and pop charts during spring 1979. Both are on the Platinum album 2 Hot (released October 1978). The majority of their Polydor hits were written by Perren, Dino Fekaris, Kenny St. Lewis, and Melvin Ragin. Though there were other hits on Polydor, none came close to the success of their early- to mid-’60s Date singles.
Peaches & Herb return with a new album, new sound, and a new member. The duo, that consists of Herb Fame and Meritxell Negre, released their album Colors of Love (2009) via Imagen Records.
The eleven-song album brings forth a new and fresh sound for the group that is known for such hits like “Reunited” and “Shake Your Groove Thing”.
After 20+ years since their last release, there are sure to be fans looking to get an ear full of good music. Herb is equally excited describing the album as a strong album that will let fans know that Peaches & Herb are back on the scene.