by Barbara Sherf
What do fishing and song writing have in common? According to William “Poogie” Hart, lead singer and songwriter for the Delfonics, who fishes regularly in Erdenheim, sometimes you can catch a fish or think of an inspiration for a song in 15 minutes, and sometimes you can wait all day and “come up with zero.”
Hart, founder, lead singer and songwriter for the Grammy-award winning Delfonics, was jumping with joy after catching a 24-inch trout from the pond at Cisco Park last week within minutes of putting his line in the water.
At the age of 66 and selling millions of records, Hart never has to go fishing for compliments, but he does travel five miles each way from his Wyncote home several times a week to fish in the stocked pond, to reflect, think about songwriting and to “keep peace” in his marriage.
“Forty years, and this is how I keep the peace … give my wife some space,” said Hart, in his sexy crooner voice. Hart and the Delfonics are known by music buffs for recording such hits as “La-La (Means I Love You)” “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind, This Time)” (both selling over a million copies) “Show me the Love,” “Ready or Not” and “Hey Love,” among others.
The West Philly native grew up in a family of four boys and four girls and attended Overbrook High School. His mother was a traditional housewife, and his father was a handyman.
During his high school days, Hart worked in a barbershop cutting hair, and he brought his guitar along to practice his music when business was slow. On one such occasion, an entrepreneur by the name of Stan Watson came in, and Watson was so impressed with the music, he introduced Hart to songwriter and producer Thom Bell, who worked at Cameo Parkway Records.
According to Wikipedia, “Their hit songs were all written by Bell and lead vocalist and founder, William Hart. In 1973, Bell had moved on to produce The Stylistics and later, The Spinners, all artists in the mold of the Delfonics. From that point on, Hart wrote most of The Delfonics’ songs.”
Hart noted that the family had a reel-to-reel tape machine with the trade name Orphonic. “We liked the sound of that, but needed to change it slightly. At first we were the Delphonics, and then we changed the ‘ph’ to an ‘f’ just to stand apart a little. That’s how the Delfonics name came about.”
Hart recently released a new double CD album through his record company, La La Records, titled “The Hart of the Delfonics.” It was produced as a tribute to his lasting legacy. “Others have come and gone, but I’ve been at it all these years …since 1967,” he said, while casting his line in the pond again.
At one point in his career, Hart was approached to sing first tenor for the Temptations. “But I was already nationally known so I hung onto what I had,” he said.
The CD of new original songs, along with the CD, “Delfonics All Platinum,” can be purchased on Cdbaby.com, Amazon.com and Itunes. “That’s where the business is at now. People from London and all over the world now have access to this music. It’s really amazing,” he said while getting a bucket of water for the trout he had just caught.
The Harts reportedly fried half of the fish and baked the other half that evening.
“He would have fried the whole thing, but we are trying to eat healthy meals,” said William’s wife, Pamela, in a phone conversation.
Hart credits disc jockey Jerry Blavat, former WDAS deejay and program director Joe ‘Butterball’ Tamburro, and the late Hy Lit for giving him his start. The Uptown Theater on Broad Street was a regular gig, as was The Wagner Ballroom, where Blavat hosted “The Discophonic Scene,” a nationally televised show broadcast from Wagner’s Ballroom.
Pamela remembers those days well. “We went to Germany, France, you name it. We traveled abroad and throughout the US,” she said, noting that for the most part, she let William do much of the traveling while she taught in the Philadelphia public school system and then remained in Wyncote with their three sons.
The couple met while he was performing at a Joey Bishop Telethon in Philadelphia, and she, a Bell Telephone operator during the week, was answering phones for the telethon that weekend. “I asked him for his autograph, and he asked me for my phone number,” she said, laughing at the exchange that took place so many years ago.
“My mother wanted me to finish school so I would have something to fall back on just in case. Two days after graduation, we got married,” she reminisced. The inspiration for “La-La Means I Love You” came from his first-born son, Hadi, now 39. “Hadi would say, ‘La, la, la, la,’ and to me, the translation was ‘I love you.’” The couple has two other sons, Yusuf, 36, and Khalid, 34. Khalid is the music producer for La La Records.
Poogie said he watches movies and reality TV shows to hear what issues people are struggling with, and he then tries to write songs to lift them up. “Nobody can say anything I have written is offensive. I like that part about my career. It’s all been good.”
His father gave the nickname, Poogie, to William. “I guess I was kind of chunky, and he would call me Poogie. That was a term they used in the south for fat or chunky, and it stuck,” said the now-muscular and fit Hart. “I try to keep in shape now.”
Poogie’s career has included teaching the Jackson 5 harmonies and making Billboard’s Top 100 Songs list 18 years in a row. His songs have been covered by Aretha Franklin, The Jackson 5, Patti LaBelle, New Kids on the Block, Todd Rundgren, Prince, Swing Out Sister and The Manhattan Transfer. Hart noted that another nationally recognized singer is a neighbor. “Sister Sledge lives right over in Elkins Park about a block away from us,” he pointed out.
The Delfonics’ songs have also been used extensively in film soundtracks, the most notable being Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 movie, “Jackie Brown,” in which “La-La (Means I Love You)’ and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” underscore the relationship between Pam Grier and Robert Forster. The film helped create a new following for the songs and The Delfonics.
“I thought they did a nice job in the film. I was pleasantly surprised,” said Hart, who still tours the country and periodically performs on the “70s Soul Jam Tour.” The group will appear locally at The Dell Music Center (formerly the Robin Hood Dell) on Thursday, July 21. Tickets for the show are $25 and $40. For ticket information, visit www.mydelleast.com.
“I want to see everyone out there,” said Poogie. “Tell everyone William Hart says ‘hi’ to all.”
Barbara Sherf can be reached at 215-233-8022 or Barb@CommunicationsPro.com.