The Continental Four – Escape From Planet Earth

Continental IV

Continental Four 45

With all the digging I’ve got in lately, i’ve had so many new records to choose from, I thought I’d share this one with the growing audience I’ve been finding out Flea Market Funk has. The good Doctor G. over at Funky 16 Corners , Vincent at Fufu Stew, and Scholar at Souled On have been so kind to triple my traffic and throw some good vibes my way. I hope all who are reading and listening have enjoyed the last few artists I’ve shared as much as I did. Charles Wright is an old fave of mine, while Calvin Arnold and his funky way have me hooked on that funkay ass guitar. As I research each new artist, my enthusiasm for funk and soul has grown more than ever. For the life of me I don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier, but at any rate, I’m glad I started. This mid week dose from the Flea Market is from the The Continental Four, on Jay-Walking Records.
When I picked up this record, I threw it on the portable, heard a bit of dialogue, and passed it as some spoken word. It sounded interesting enough, and I figured I could use it on a mix CD as an intro and tossed it onto my pile. When I got it home to go through the 60+ 45’s, I put this record on. Man was I wrong. When the dialogue was finished, the song kicked in, and I was glad I had grabbed this baby.

A by-product of Harrisburg, PA record label Soulville, and created by Robert Fulton (a member of the “The Emperors” and “The Soul Exotics”), Jay-Walking was started to help the many recordings from Soulville artists get some much needed radio airplay. Fulton thought if he had artists on more than one label, he’d have a better chance of radio promotion. Fulton went on to find God, become a Baptist minister, and founded Gospel Music Ministries International, which he still works with today. Along the way, came the Continental Four. The Continental Four, lead by the falsetto of Freddie Kelly, had a 1971 single “Day By Day (Every Minute of the Hour)”, which reached numer 19 on the Soul charts. Often thought to be part of the Philly Sound (see Funky 16 Corners Philly Sound Mix), these guys weren’t really noticed out side of the tri-state area, unfortunately. Perhaps they just couldn’t compete with artists such as the Delfonics or the Stylistics. Then again, Jay-Walking was no Philly International or a label of that caliber. It’s a shame, but like any regional, small outfit, be it Funk or Soul, without the major record label dollars for distribution, your record stays in your area. 1972’s “Escape from Planet Earth” is one of those records, and here some 35 years later, it has only gone as far as Central New Jersey. I’m happy it showed up.

The song itself is a fuzzed out Soul groove that is reminiscent of Blue Magic, or if Cymande had they not locked in their signature funky sound and went down a straight Soul path instead. From the beginning countdown to their final escape from earth, there is this great flange throughout, and the groove is for sure guitar driven, not too Funkadelic, but just enough to let you know they knew who they were. I have contacted the Rev. Bobby Fulton in regards to Soulville/ Jay-Walking Records, so we’ll see whether or not I’ll be able to get some cool facts and photos from the Rev. On a closing note, it seems the our fellow blogger Oliver Wang over at Soul Sides has put out another “Deep Covers”(this being numero dos) record through Zealous Records out of NYC. Check out Oliver’s appearance on NPR this past week. Go to about 40 minutes in and you’ll hear him speak on some great cover tunes; funk, soul, and reggae. Keep Diggin’!

The Continental Four Escape from Planet Earth ripped from the Jaywalking 45

***UPDATE 05.01.07 Dr. Robert Fulton contacted me in regards to this post. He had this to say:

“Thanks for your inquiry of the Continental Four and for introducing me to your blog. I was really impressed! I’m always happy to hear interesting stories concerning Soulville-Jaywalking Records and artists. How you came about the Continental Four’s “Escape From Planet Earth” was interesting to me. If I might, I’d like to say concerning the Continental Four…(and borrowing the title to their second 45 “How Can I Pretend”), the Continental Four were not pretenders. They were for real. Musically and vocally, they were exceptionally unique and one of a kind. I was with them on the road and had opportunity to hear them sing often. Whether with some of Philadelphia’s finest musicians in the recording studio, on records, on stage with our band or in the car as we traveled, Freddie Kelly, Anthony Burke and brothers Larry and Ronnie McGregor were truly for real. They were amazing acapella, with a rhythm section or full orchestra. The Continental Four sound was always evident. They appeared with the great groups that you mentioned and with others as well and they always held their own and were well received. There was never any question in my mind whether they could compete. Well-known producer-arranger-songwriter-conductor, Bobby Martin, who was a major contributor to what became the Philly Sound discovered and brought the group to Soulville. They were from the Camden, New Jersey area and Freddie and Anthony were still in high school when they recorded. While big in the Tri-State area, the group had a growing presence elsewhere as well. Other factors impacted why the career of the Continental Four was brief. I’m attaching a couple of photos of the Continental Four that you may or may not have. The one I took of the group backstage during their very first appearance at the Apollo in New York. The other is one of their publicity photos. I hope that this bit of information is useful”

Here are the photos he provided:

Continental Four at the Apollo '71

Continental Four Promo Shot

The Previous two Photos Courtesy of Dr. Robert Fulton. Many Thanks!!!

28 responses to “The Continental Four – Escape From Planet Earth

  1. You are right Larry, I believe the tune was recorded at Sigma Sound. Glad you’re enjoying the posts. Consider it a small contribution back to you for all the stuff I’ve learned from Funky16 over the years. I’ve got records for days and I’m not stopping anytime soon! I haven’t even put a minor scratch into my Lps.

  2. yo prime..what it be? let me know what you think about this little ting i got going on. this record was a sleeper, i’m glad we both picked it up. the stinkie one got me some good finds. hit me up, kenny dope and miles at the rootdown NYC very soon. at any rate, i’ve got some treats coming up this week so keep your ears open.

  3. Thanks for posting this one. I’ve been interested in these guys since picking up a copy of their great “The Way I Love You”.

  4. DJ Prestige: Larry, Vincent, Scholar and Oliver aren’t the only fans digging on the cool stuff you’re doing here at Flea Market Funk. You’re on my radar too and have quickly become a regular stop to see what soulful goodies you’ve written about. Also, thanks for dropping the info about the Continental Four, I knew I knew the name but couldn’t remember what their hit song was until you mentioned it in the post. As a matter of fact, I think I may even have a disc by them in my collection (somewhere). Now I have to go digging in my own crates to see if I can find it.

  5. Howdy! Another winner indeed. All I can ever find from this group is “Running Away From Love” which is quite a good tune as far as ballads go. Any DivShare feedback yet? I just heard that the d/l time is pretty slow, so I just thought I’d pass that info along FYI.

    Peace and blessings.

  6. Thanks for the DivShare feedback. I needed to do something because my server was almost at a standstill. I’ve got some hot ones up on deck this week too. I’ve been piecing together another mix, the cut and paste intro is holding me up. The day needs to be about twice as long as it is to get everything done. lol.

  7. I’ve had “runnung Away”, but knew nothing about them. Thanks!

  8. Hello, I found your website while doing a music search for my mother-in-law. I am a big music fan and was wondering if you could tell me if the Continental Four (or any other group) did a song with these lines:
    the whole world’s a stage
    everybody plays a part
    the stage is set, the curtain goes up
    the scene is a broken heart

  9. Hey,

    Just caught up with this info and would like to give you some heads up on the
    Continental IV.

    Our firm NRP Music Group, Inc. exclusively administers worlwide the music business interests of Bobby Martin , who actually owns and controls all of the Continental IV master recordings.

    Bobby is noted for his contributions to the “Philly Sound” with Produtoion and arrangements for Billy Pul, Harold Melovin & BlueNOtes, The O’Jays, Three Degrees, Lou Rawls and on and on…

    Mr. Matin is preparing a CD release featuring The Continental IV and would like to follow up with anyone in here that may have intimate knowledge of this under appreciated Artist.

    Anyone with any interest may contact me at fbailin@goldisc.com

    We also would love to hear some of the mixes that use their recordings and musically see if they may fit including them in the CD.

    Keep inspired.
    Fred Bailin

  10. G’day Prestige,
    I’m writing from sunny Brisbane Australia & just found your blog….keep up the great work… I started working back through the archives & found this piece.
    I recently picked up a Soulville/Jaywalking comp with “The Continental 4’s” – “The Way I Love You”, which has had high rotation on the platter. Anyone out there that’s a fan of the “Soulville” sound would love it….in the dope gatefold booklet it has a great lil’ write-up on Rev. Foulton & the younger “Continental 4”, explaining that Foulton was road manager & organist, with the band being the label’s biggest sucsess!
    I imagine very few if any 45’s made it down-under, so your site keeps me inspired to keep keepin’ on! Thanks again.
    Oh, by the way the compilation is –
    The Rev. Bobby Fulton Presents..
    “Soulfull Sounds From Soulville – The Soulville Jaywalking Story”
    on “Get Hip Archive Series” GHAS-5018.
    Lenny

  11. To Pharoah Jahlon the Song you looking for is called “The Whole World is A Sage ” by The Fantastic four.

  12. I know the Continental IV very well two of them are my brothers Ronnie and Larry McGregor. They and Anthony Burke are alive and well. Unfortunately Freddie Kelly passed away. They were truly fantastic guys and great vocalist. I wrote the 1st cut they did titled “I Dont Have You” at age 16, and Bobby Martin did the music arrangement and led the guys to soulville. They had and still have the talent and were known in areas beyond the tristate area…they performed all throughout the east coast and also in Canada as well. When Gamble and Huff took interest and wanted the group Bobby Martin would not deal an they became the object of a personal battle….hence the group the Stylistics which were the property of the afore mentioned duo and new also were pushed and though they had only a fraction of the talent that the Continental IV did at the time; they got the recognition and hence the fame that the IV would have received if the deal had went down, and they became a part of the G&H family. So now you know a lot more. The entire album Dream World is great check it out. And definately check out my work it was my first published work
    and I am listed as the writer rightfully so…”I Dont Have You”, it was a song I wrote for my brother Larry who was quite the “player” back in the day. Peace

  13. Ms. McGregor Thank you for informing us about the great talent of the continental 4. I have been a fan of theirs since I first saw them at the Apollo. I can’t remember who was with them that nite but I remember I specifically went to see them sing Day BY Day which was out at the time. They were as good in person as any group I have seen and I believe I have seen 95% of them perform. I am sorry to hear that the Lead singer is no longer with us but what a beautiful legacy he left in his voiced recordings. The older I get the more I appreciate the REAL TALENT I was privileged to witness growing up. I loved the Stylistics too but I was always impressed with Freddie Kelly”s range. Russell Thomkins was good But I believe Feddie had more range Thank you for sharing. It made my day.

  14. I knew the Continental Four and when I listen to their great sound today, I shake my head at all the talent and the lack of recognition. Just want to make a correction…They were awesome! They were from Glassboro, NJ and Anthony’s last name is Burt.

  15. HELLO TO SOME OF OUR OLD FANS AND SOME OF THE NEW. THIS IS RONNIE OF CONTINENTAL FOUR.I AM ALIVE AND DOING WELL,I LIVE IN KINGSPORT,TN.AT PRESENT.I DON`T USE THE COMPUTER MUCH.I YOU LIKE OR HAVE ANY PICTURES OF THE GROUP PERFORMING,PLEASE SEND THEM TO MY P.O. BOX 2341 KINGSPORT,TN.37662 I WOULD LOVE TO HERE FROM YOU.THANK YOU SANDY MC. MY LITTLE SISTER,FOR SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT ABOUT THE GROUP.THANKS FOR I DON`T HAVE YOU. AT PRESENT I AM WORKING ON PUTTING A WEB SITE TOGETHER.I MISS THE SINGING BUT STILL ATTEND THE OLDIES SHOW WHEN I CAN. THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR FANS WHO BELIEVED IN THE CONTINENTAL FOUR THEN AND NOW. GOD BLESS YOU. RONNIE OF THE CONTINENTAL FOUR.

  16. I am looking for the rest of the original members of the Contnienatal4. I know that Freddie passed away but I am in contact with Burt Anthony. And, it will be nice if the real contnenatal4 will reunite and sing Day by Day.Any suggestion? Thank Your

  17. I have the Continental 4 album and it is one of my treasures. With my son’s help I loaded the songs on my computer. This is very moving music that soars and takes me places. I decided since I was on the computer to google the group and found this blog. I feel I’ve finally met Sandra McGregor. I always imagined that was her laid out on the back of that Lincoln with her lovely afro. I’m so grateful for this music.

    Matthew

  18. The Continental 4 were a huge favorite in Jamaica. “Day By Day” “Take A Little Time To Know Me”, “How Can I Pretend” and “Loving You, Is The Next Best Thing To Heaven” all tore up the party scene. Always wondered why the C4 never made it bigger as they were tremendous. Now I understand better. With due respect to the Stylistics, the C$ kick butt. Never forgotten, always treasured here in Jamaica. Big ups from your Caribbean fans.

  19. Like most of the respondents, I enjoyed the Continental Four(4, IV?) during my years as a teen growing up in Chester, Pa just across the river from Camden and Glassboro, NJ. Thanks for filling in the details of why the Stylistics jumped out when the C4 had much more depth (Listen to the early Stylistics song “You’re a Big Girl Now”). I too would like to know the circumstances of Mr. Kelly’s death.

  20. These guys have always been on of my favorite falsetto group of all time. Born and raised in Salem NJ, I couldn’t anymore proud to know these brothers are from Glassboro. I’ve been djing for decades and I’m forever playing their classic hits. How Can I Pretend is my personal favorite.

  21. I grew up on this group, my dad was I believe a member of this group at one point Infact I just saw a few of the members at his house a couple of weeks ago. I had the privilege of taking care of Freddie at the nursing home he resided at before he transitioned. It was a honor and pleasure, though in his mental and medical state he didn’t have the best memory he still knew how to carry a note. Not so much in his falsetto voice but more tenor, it was still great to sing with him and hear him. Great group and thanks to my dad Tyrone Smith, this group will be a favorite of mine until the end of my days.

  22. For those who say The Continental Four recorded Day By Dat at Sigma Sounds, you are wrong. The previous write up regarding the C-4 recording in Harrisburg, PA at Jay Walking records is true. Bobby took the group to The Burg to do their thing and that fact will never change Continental Four forever! Michael Jones

  23. Hey guys I am the co-writer of Day by Day(Every Minute of the Hour) with the late great Bobby Martin,Eugene Lemon
    Today is Patrick Adams birthday of Black Ivory game Don’t Turn Around who wrote loving you is the next best thing to heaven for c-4 So I wrote Love Won’t You Stay for Black Ivory in 74 I also co wrote Beautiful Love Ace Spectrum Opportunity , Family Man, you will always be apart of me For Caress My Baby’s got ESP Four Below zero Thanks for the memories, I went to Anthony Burke’s house once to ask him if he needed replacement singers and new material to record if anyone can get us together I sure would appreciate it keep doing what you’re doing,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s