STORY WRITTEN BY FERN BRODKIN
For Digital First Media
T.J. Tindall, the legendary Philadelphia International Records guitarist, will be remembered in a concert that will feature David Uosikkinen’s In the Pocket and members of Duke Williams and the Extremes, Edison Electric, MFSB and other former bandmates and friends of the guitarist who passed away suddenly in January.
Early in his career Tindall was a member of Edison Electric and later Duke Williams and the Extremes. But he rose to prominence as a member of MFSB, the collection of studio musicians who worked at Sigma Sound as the house band for Philadelphia International Records. In his career Tindall amassed 38 gold and platinum records for the legendary “Sound of Philadelphia” producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
Among the artists with whom Tindall recorded are The Trammps, The O’Jays, the Delfonics, Lou Rawls, Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, the Stylistics, the Spinners, Wilson Pickett and Billy Paul. He also performed and recorded with the Chambers Brothers, Robert Palmer and the Temptations.
“We both started (around) the same time on guitars,” said Duke Williams, who befriended Tindall when they were 8 and 9 years old. The two spent their teenage years in different bands.
“T.J. had moved to Philadelphia and joined Edison Electric. At that point we both had our first albums — his was with Edison Electric and mine was with Alexander Rabbit. So we were very excited.”
Edison Electric went on to become Bonnie Raitt’s band.
“After time passed and both the bands broke up I started a band called the Duke Williams Revue,” recalled Williams. “T.J. got with me on that and at the time he was doing sessions in Philadelphia. So he wanted to bring me down and get me involved… at Sigma Sound.”
Tindall invited Williams to audition for a band that the Rolling Stones were producing. They auditioned for Mick Jagger and Marshall Chess, son of Chess Records’ Leonard Chess and founding president of Rolling Stones Records.
“(Tindall and I) were the only ones in the band that they liked. We went in to Sigma with MFSB and cut ‘Chinese Chicken’ and ‘I’ve Been Lovin’ You Too Long’ and [music mogul and cofounder of Electric Factory] Larry Magid, who was a friend of T.J.’s at the time, got the masters and sent them down to Phil Walden in Macon, Ga. — he was head of Capricorn Records, the Allman Brothers’ label. We didn’t think too much of it. But… Phil really liked (the recordings) and he signed us for a lot of money and that was the beginning of Duke Williams and the Extremes. Our first (concert) was at the Spectrum with the Allman Brothers.”
Williams added: “We had telepathy. We had this certain chemistry that was really magical. And obviously Larry saw it and Phil Walden saw it and that’s why we got signed.”
Tindall was also a long-time friend with his bandmate in the Extremes, Earl Scooter.
“He was 15 when I met him and I was 20,” recalled Scooter. “I was going to the high school to see all the bands play and he was in a band. We befriended each other and we really clicked as buddies.”
Scooter is appreciative of Tindall, who always got him involved in any musical projects that came his way.
“Musically he was always good to me,” said Scooter. “He never let me out of his sight. I’m very grateful to him. He was my brother and we were friends till the end.”
Tindall retired from the music business in his late forties, said his widow Anita Wise.
“I was mystified that he could have so much talent and not want to express it,” said Wise. “He wanted to leave (the music business) at the level that he was and not just become a has-been.”
When Tindall left the music business he began working for his parents’ lighting company, The Light Gallery, in Hopewell, NJ. That led to him and Wise expanding into importing high-end Italian lighting for the hospitality industry, and Tindall earned the reputation of being a top notch lighting designer.
Several years ago Tindall found out that there was a benefit to help his long-time friend and former bandmate Danny DeGennaro, prior to DeGennaro’s untimely death. Tindall was inspired to take his guitar out of the closet and start practicing to perform at the benefit. David Uosikkinen also performed at the benefit, which reunited him with Tindall after many years.
“My very first (experience) with T.J. was at the Spectrum,” recalled Uosikkinen. “He was in Duke Williams and the Extremes and they were opening for Bad Company.
“Around that time I got into a band with John Kuzma and Danny DeGennaro and we called ourselves The Torpedoes. We were at a bar and T.J. came to see us play. Of course we invited him up to play and at that time T.J. never refused an opportunity to play his guitar.
“Later on I found out he loved our band… so he would always come to sit in with us. And then he invited me to sit in with some bands that he had. He basically trained me. He taught me the art of playing the song. He was a mentor. (He was) very much a guiding force in my career.”
At the time of DeGennaro’s benefit Uosikkinen was formulating his idea for In the Pocket (ITP) and he knew that he wanted Tindall to be a part of it.
Tindall first recorded The Hooters’ song “Soon You’ll Be Gone” with In the Pocket, which included the Soul Survivors’ Charlie and Richie Ingui on vocals. He made his second appearance on ITP’s remake of The Trammps’ “Disco Inferno.”
“It was awesome having him (on the session) because he was the original bandleader on the Trammps’ version,” said Uosikkinen. “But just to have him dig it as much as he did… he loved the version that we did and it meant the world to me.”
Wise said that before the session “he was practicing (the song) a lot. It was funny because he said ‘I did it but I have to learn it again.’”
Tindall was to record his third song with ITP, “Back Stabbers,” which is ITP’s latest recording. Sadly he died just a week before the recording. Tindall was replaced on the session by Bobby Eli, his former bandmate in MFSB. Wise brought Tindall’s guitar for Eli to play on the session.
“When I brought his guitar to the ‘Back Stabbers’ session the other musicians had a reverential feeling toward the guitar,” said Wise. “It had an aura for them that apparently it had for T.J. as well.”
She added: “Bobby Eli did a great job. The Soul Survivors tore it up. It’s very good.”
Williams, Scooter, ITP, Mark Jordan and Freebo from Edison Electric, members of MFSB and many others will gather at Underground Arts to honor the memory of Tindall.
“We had a service for just people in our family and very close friends so I’m really happy that there’s going to be an event for people to get together and remember him and express what they feel about him,” said Wise.
She added: “I’m overwhelmed. I knew that people liked and respected T.J. a lot. But I’ve been really overwhelmed by the degree and I just wish he (could see) that. He would’ve been blown away.”
Proceeds from the event will benefit Wise, who is dealing with this unexpected loss and is also caring for Tindall’s aging mother. Donations can be made at www.crowdrise.com/tj-tindall-memorial-and-benefit.