Place aux dames. That is, in French, "make room for the ladies.” And these three ladies are the Emotions, very talented and sophisticated group that has reached that point of ne plus ultra (perfection).
"Ladies” is a most descriptive word in depicting their singing for it has reached that point of refinement, and Sheila Hutchinson, Wanda Hutchinson, and Theresa Davis, the "ladies” in question, know how to put their musical knowledge on all the refined levels.
"Our style is mostly doing harmony. It’s more of a ‘class’ thing,” comments Wanda. "And we use more ‘variety’ in singing.” She then pauses, throwing twinkling glances at her sister, Sheila, and cousin, Theresa. "Daddy [Joseph Hutchinson] doesn’t want us to be established as a certain kind of group that sings a ‘certain’ kind of thing.”
Perhaps the name "Emotions” connotes those unique styles. "Emotions” are variable. They can be sad, happy, moody, angry, sassy, stubborn, taunting, indifferent, playful, teasing, affable, etc.
Sheila and Wanda’s father, Joseph Hutchinson (who is also a noted guitarist), is the catalyst in this two-sister-cousin act. He has continued to paramount their success by continuously giving them parental musical guidance. Joe Hutchinson is the nascence of such talent.
"It’s Daddy’s lifetime ambition that we become the best,” Sheila emphasizes.
"He wanted to get us interested in this and he did,” Wanda adds.
The Emotions aren’t just songstresses who were born with that gifted talent of singing—even though they were—simply because Joe Hutchinson saw to it that they developed their talents to their zenith by giving them a concrete knowledge in music.
"When we were kids, we had music classes every day for about one and a half hours,” Sheila explains. "We had to study music.”
And their seriousness and knowledge of music are not only shown in their voices, but also in the talents that branched from their father’s classes. All three are songwriters. Theresa wrote "Welcome Home” and Sheila (who wants to become a full-fledged writer and arranger one day) wrote "Go Away, Don’t Touch Me.” Wanda prepares leadsheets and has created her own secret system of songwriting and composing. Also, Theresa, the quietone, could well be the choreographer for the group.
"I started taking dancing lessons when I was four or five years old. My sister used to take me to classes every day. Then she got married and stopped taking me,” Theresa sighs. "I don’t think I’ll ever .forgive her for ruining my whole dancing career.” (However, she’s still a great dancer.)
"I’ve never really liked to dance,” admits Wanda.
"But she learns so fast,” Sheila compliments her sister.
"Dancing is great, though,” says Theresa. "When you’re onstage, it helps to relieve the tension.”
They are such pros in their field at such says young ages that manager Pervis Staples (one-time vocalist of the Staple Singers) says, they learn new material in a matter of 10 minutes. They’re a manager’s and producer’s dream.”
Of their manager, Sheila says, "Perv’s all fun when it’s time for fun, but he’s also all business when it’s time for business.”
And, as for business—the music business has always been "family business” with the group.
The group was originally comprised of three sisters—Sheila, Wanda, and an older sister, Jeanette. The three began singing together at the ages of three, four, and five, respectively—on the Jerry Van Dyke Children’s Gospel TV Show.
In the latter part of the 1960s (when all were in their teens), they made their way to Perv’s Music, Inc. and auditioned for Pervis Staples. And in 1969, Perv Staples brought them into the Stax family (Stax Records, Inc.) where they became "sisters” on Stax’s Volt label (David Porter, Isaac Hayes, Executive Vice President Al Bell, and President Jim Stewart now work closely with the group in writing, arranging, and producing for them).
During that time, cousin Theresa sang with "Our Ladies of Soul” who recorded the tune "Let’s Groove Together.”
However, in May of 1970, Jeanette married, and it was only natural for the Hutchinsons to keep the group a "family affair”—so father Joe replaced Jeanette with cousin Theresa.
Each of these "classy” ladies has been described as "a versatile artist on her own, they do not have to depend on each other for a certain sound or support during a number.”
Music is their repertoire. "Music ismy number one hobby,” says Theresa. "That’ll always be first with me.”
Music is one of the sources of that "family pride.” This instilled pride can be seen in their singing, their style, and in their individual mannerisms. They have it, they show it, and don’t care who knows it. It’s that kind of egotism a fan, friend, or acquaintance notices and admires. It isn’t "flashy” or "show-off-ish.” It’s just there, and it glows.
Another thing a person can appreciate about them is their striking personalities. You take a recipe of Wanda Sagittarius (December 17, 1951) and mix her with Theresa Leo-Virgo (August 22, 1950) and Sheila Capricorn (January 17, 1953). Put them all in Chicago (where they were born, reared and also attended Parker High School together), and you wi11 undoubtedly come out with their charismatic personalities.
"I always wanted to go fishing and hunting. I was a bit tomboyish,” says Wanda.
Sheila, the hard-boiledrealist, says, "I was a hard-headed child. I always wanted to do what I wanted to do. When I was a child, I wouldn’t play house unless we had ‘real’ food. No mud pies for me!”
Theresa is more of the philosophical type. "I always wanted to think that there was something more to life than worldly things. I’m still searching for things that are above that, I suppose.”
Pervis Staples pointed put to the trio that even though they were in the music business, they must still pursue their education.
"When they were taking their tests for college correspondence courses, I stayed outside the classroom until they finished,” says Pervis Staples. "And they passed them with flying colors.”
Still, they are like most women—they’re talkers (Sheila admits that Wanda beats them all at it). But it isn’t yapping. Their personalities move you into a crescendo—you become enthralled in their subject matter. You can pick any subject on any level—either all three will know something about it or two out of the three will know. There’s always a triple view or a two-sided view. You’ll never be cheated out of a good conversation.
The Emotions have traveled extensively and have appeared in such famous places as Howard Theater (Washington, DC), the Sugar Shack (Boston, Massachusetts), and Harlem’s Apollo Theater.
Twice their records have been named as "Pick of the Week” in Billboard (Soul Sauce column). And their album Untouched has received excellent reviews in leading trade magazines (Billboard, Cash Box, et al.)
They’ve scored with such songs as "The Best Part of a Love Affair,” "I Like It,” "So I Can Love You,” and "Show Me How” (produced by Isaac Hayes and David Porter).
Thank heaven for those little girls who grew up to be the Emotions.
"I’m sure the Emotions are going to graduate as a top group,” complimented Pervis Staples.
And with all the love, talent, and respect among them, there’s no doubt that they will "simply because their audiences have gotten most of this through their singing.”