We are sad to inform SoulTrackers that Rod Wayne (born Roderick Bronaugh), who was lead singer for a latter day version of Blue Magic during the 90s and 00s, has died. Wayne had the daunting task of replacing legendary lead singer Ted “Wizard” Mills in the group, but performed admirably over several international tours and major television performances for the better part of a decade.
The group Blue Magic is unfortunately often overlooked in discussions of the great Philly soul acts of the 70s, but the quintet was responsible for some of the most enjoyable smooth soul of that decade. Originally consisting of Mills, Vernon Sawyer, Wendell Sawyer, Keith 'Duke' Beaton and Richard Pratt, Blue Magic was formed in Philadelphia and began recording for Atlantic records in 1973. The group became one of the earliest acts produced by veteran Philly guitarist Norman Harris, who spent most of the decade in the shadow of Gamble & Huff but who masterminded a number of great albums for artists from the Trammps to the Temptations.
Blue Magic's debut album included a number of quality tunes, perhaps the best of which was "Look Me Up," an infectious stepper highlighted by Mills' clear falsetto, and which created early comparisons with the Stylistics. Real crossover success came in 1974 with "Sideshow," a now classic Philly forlorn ballad that topped the Soul charts and made the Pop top 10. The rather contrived follow-up, "Three Ring Circus," was musically another solid ballad that did well despite its obvious attempt to mimic "Sideshow" (even beginning with the same carnival barker). Over the next three years Blue Magic became know mostly for smooth ballads, and the group stayed high on the Soul charts with "Stop to Start" and "Chasing Rainbows" before landing a big hit with the dance tune "Magic of the Blue."
Blue Magic's fortunes faded as the 70s came to an end, and Richard Pratt left in the early 80s. However, they continued to record sporadically, landing two moderately successful comeback albums, 1983's Magic # and 1989's From Out of the Blue. The group's discography is well represented in a number of compilations, though their original albums are generally unavailable.
By around 1990, lead singer Mills had left the group for a solo career, following a near fatal car crash. Rod Wayne replaced him as lead singer and he remained in that position for over decade, continuing the legacy of smooth soul that was established by Mills. He left the group in 2004 to became an instructor at Tennessee State University and Director of the Tennessee State University Community Academy of Music and Arts. He also worked with various local churches, including the historic Clark Memorial United Methodist Church
Rod Wayne joined a legendary group during a particularly difficult time, and he served admirably, bringing the Philly sound to fans around the world. He will be missed.