The Stylistics were one of the best-known Philadelphia soul groups of the 1970s. They formed in 1968, and in addition to James Dunn included lead Russell Thompkins, Jr., Herbie Murrell, Airrion Love and James Smith. All of their US hits were ballads, graced by the soaring falsetto of Russell Thompkins, Jr. and the productions of Thom Bell, which helped make the Stylistics one of the most successful soul groups of the first half of the 1970s."
During the early 1970s, the band had twelve straight U.S. R&B top ten hits, including "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)," "You Are Everything," "Betcha by Golly, Wow," "I'm Stone in Love with You," "Break Up to Make Up," and "You Make Me Feel Brand New."
The Stylistics were created from the remaining members of two defunct Philadelphia groups, The Percussions and The Monarchs. Russell Thompkins Jr., James Smith, and Airron Love came from the Monarchs, and James Dunn and Herbie Murrell came from the Percussions.
In 1970, the group recorded "You're a Big Girl Now," a song their road manager Marty Bryant co-wrote with Robert Douglas, a member of their backing band Slim and the Boys, and the single became a regional hit for Sebring Records. The larger Avco Records soon signed the Stylistics, and the single eventually climbed to number seven in early 1971.
After signing to Avco, the record label approached producer Thom Bell, who had already produced a number of hits for The Delfonics, to work with the group. Avco gave Bell complete creative control over the Stylistics, and he proceeded to focus the group's sound exclusively around Thompkins's tenor falsetto voice.
Their hits from this period included "Betcha by Golly, Wow," "I'm Stone in Love with You," "Break Up To Make Up," "You Make Me Feel Brand New," "Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart)," "You Are Everything," and "Rockin' Roll Baby." "You Make Me Feel Brand New" was the group's biggest U.S. hit, holding at #2 for two weeks in the spring of 1974, and was one of five U.S. gold singles the Stylistics collected.
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In 1980, James Dunn departed due to health problems, and James Smith left shortly thereafter. Dunn was with the group for 12 years.