Philadelphia International Records, Philadelphia’s answer to Motown Records, has been responsible for some of R&B’s most-loved hits over the years, and has given a platform to a bevy of iconic R&B and soul artists.
On Wednesday, the iconic Sound Of Philadelphia building that housed Philadelphia International Records and Gamble-Huff Music is preparing for demolition with the removal of the iconic neon sign outside of the studios. The building, owned by pioneering songwriting trio Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Thom Bell, has served as the corporate offices for the legendary label.
Within the structure, the studios have produced major hits for acts such as Teddy Pendergrass, Phyllis Hyman, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Billy Paul, The O’Jays, McFadden & Whitehead, Lou Rawls and others. Other acts have used the space for recording such as Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle and Chubby Checker, among others.
Aside from the hits created for the groups mentioned, the label’s signature song is MFSB’s “TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia),” which was later adopted as the theme song for Soul Train. In 2010, an arsonist torched the building, reportedly after a drinking binge, leaving it severely damaged. The building never recovered although the labels continued to thrive despite the absence of a corporate office.
The building was sold, making way for a new hotel and condominium project in its place. In his later years, Kenny Gamble, a Philadelphia native, has used much of his fortune to buy a swath of South Philadelphia real estate to provide affordable housing and a school for the neighborhood.
Chuck Gamble, executive vice president for both labels, says that artifacts and other memorabilia will be collected from the building and placed in storage for later consideration for museum placements.
Today’s two-hour sign removal is open to the public, taking place at 9:00 a.m. at 309 S. Broad St./Gamble Huff Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19107.