Bobby Relf: Half of the soul duo Bob & Earl

As one-hit wonders go, the horn-blaring, finger-popping floor-filler "Harlem Shuffle" by the Los Angeles soul duo Bob & Earl has proved one of the most enduring. Co-written by Bobby Relf and Earl Nelson, and featuring their friend Barry White on piano, the song was originally released in the United States in 1963.

It was subsequently introduced to London's mods by Guy Stevens, who was DJ-ing at the New Scene Club. At the time, Stevens also ran the UK division of the New York label Sue, and duly issued "Harlem Shuffle" in Britain in 1965. It failed to chart but became a firm favourite at clubs up and down the country and was covered by the mod band the Action. When it was eventually re-released with the full promotional might of Chris Blackwell's Island Records in 1969, it belatedly made the Top Ten. "Harlem Shuffle" was most famously covered by the Rolling Stones, who took it back into the charts in 1986, while House of Pain sampled the song's trumpet intro on their Nineties hit "Jump Around".

Born in Los Angeles in 1937, Robert Relf assembled a doo-wop group called the Laurels while attending Fremont High School. In 1955, the vocal quartet issued a single, "Yours Alone". The following year Relf released two solo 45s, "Our Love" and "Little Fool", before joining the local group the Upfronts, featuring Barry White on baritone vocals. Relf was briefly a member of the Hollywood Flames, a group that had previously featured Bobby Byrd, as well as Earl Nelson. Byrd had formed the original Bob & Earl with Nelson in 1957, and when he went solo in 1962, Relf proved a natural replacement on the single "Don't Ever Leave Me".

In interviews, Relf willingly admitted that "Harlem Shuffle" was based on Round Robin's "Slauson Shuffletime", about the Los Angeles avenue of the same name. "No one back East knew of Slauson but they knew Harlem. We changed Slauson to Harlem, making it a hit in LA and New York," he said. "Harlem Shuffle" crossed over from the R&B charts to the Top 50 in the US, though the duo struggled to match its success with the subsequent singles "Baby I'm Satisfied" and "Don't Ever Leave Me". In fact, after charting one last time in the US with "Baby It's Over" in 1966, they went their separate ways.

As Bobby Garrett, Relf recorded "I Can't Get Away", recently revived for a Kentucky Fried Chicken TV ad in the UK, and wrote and produced "Try a Little Bit Harder" for the Fi-Dels. In 1968, he reverted to Bobby Relf for "Blowing My Mind to Pieces".

When "Harlem Shuffle" became a hit in Britain in 1969, Relf and Nelson enjoyed a short-lived reunion. Relf subsequently worked with Barry White on releases by Love Unlimited, Gloria Scott and White Heat as well as composing "Bring Back My Yesterdays" for White's album I've Got So Much To Give in 1973.

Pierre Perrone

Robert Nelson Relf, singer, songwriter and producer: born Los Angeles 10 January 1937; married; died Bakersfield, California 21 November 2007.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz