With over 25 gold and platinum album awards, Vincent Montana, Jr. is truly a musical success story. During the '70s and '80s, the multi-talented composer/arranger/conductor/percussionist/bandleader and renowned vibraharpist was a member of MFSB, the studio house band for Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International Records (PIR), and later founded the Salsoul Orchestra for Joe, Stan, and Ken Cayre's Salsoul Records. Montana's Salsoul Orchestra set a high musical standard by introducing the first disco orchestra and inventing a new style of dance music. The orchestra's impact spilled over into the house music of the '80s and the disco-influenced electronica of the '90s. Born and raised in South Philadelphia, Montana was playing local dance clubs by the time he was sixteen. During the early '50s, he worked in jazz clubs as a backup for such legends as Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughn, Buddy DeFranco, Stan Getz, Clifford Brown, and Red Garland. Eventually, Montana moved to Las Vegas, playing at the Freemont Hotel, the Golden Nugget, and others. After a few years, Montana returned to Philadelphia and started his own band playing the dance circuit. He also did studio work for local record labels Cameo Parkway and Chancellor Records. Montana can be heard on hits by Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, Fabian, and others. Around this time, Montana became a member of the band of the nationally syndicated TV talk show The Mike Douglas Show, which was produced in Philly. Douglas would engage in light banter with Montana, giving the musician his first real taste of national exposure. After leaving The Mike Douglas Show, Montana became active in the burgeoning Philly soul sound, contributing vibes, arrangements, percussion, and production skills to a slew of hits that originated from the City of Brotherly Love during the '60s and '70s. Among them were the Delfonics' "La La Means I Love You" (number two R&B for four weeks, number four pop, around March 1968), the Stylistics' "Betcha by Golly Wow" (number two R&B for two weeks, number three pop, spring 1972), the Spinners' "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love" (number one R&B, number four pop, late 1972), and songs and LPs by the O'Jays, Johnny Mathis, Eddie Kendricks, Billy Paul, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, the Intruders, the Trammps, Blue Magic, Lou Rawls, the Whispers, Wilson Pickett, Grace Jones, Charo, Cissie Houston (Whitney's mother), Vic Damone, Englebert Humperdink, Denise Williams, the Jacksons, Brenda and the Tabulations, and Barbara Mason. In addition, Montana can be heard on MSFB's LPs including MFSB, Love Is the Message, and Kemosabe. In 1974, Afro-Cuban pianist Joe Bataan introduced Vincent Montana, Jr. to the Cayre Brothers who owned Caytronics, a New York-based distributor of Latin music. Montana expressed to the NYC entrepreneurs his concept of a large orchestra sound that fused live strings and brass with Latin percussion and funk. The bandleader sought an orchestra capable of projecting his unique musical concepts. Merging these diverse talents was not easy, so Montana called on MFSB session mates Norman Harris (guitar), Ron Baker (bass), Earl Young (drums), and Don Renaldo (arranger). He enlisted session vocalists Jocelyn Brown (Inner Life), Ron Tyson (Love Committee, the Temptations), Philip Hurt, and Carl Helm. While searching the barrios of NYC and Philadelphia's Spanish Harlem for spicy congas, bongos, and timbales, he found percussionists Andy Gonzales, Manny Oquendo (both of Grupo Folklorico y Experiemental Nuevayorquino), Larry Washington, Peter Choki Quintero, and Roy Armando. At the same time, Montana was devising a name for this new sound. Combining the words salsa and soul, Montana came up with "Salsoul," which he thought perfectly reflected the origins of the sound and mirrored the fusion of musical backgrounds, religions, and nationalities of the orchestra members. The Cayres, then owners of a small Latin music label, were impressed and contracted Montana to produce three songs: "The Salsoul Hustle," "Nice Vibes," and "Dance a Little Closer." With the success of "The Salsoul Hustle," the Cayres gave Montana the go-ahead to cut an album, releasing it on their new label, Salsoul Records. The gold LP The Salsoul Orchestra (released November 1975) included "The Salsoul Hustle," the second single, a remake of Jimmy Dorsey's 1942 number one pop hit "Tangerine" (number 18 pop, early 1976), "You're Just the Right Size," and "Chicago Bus Stop." The second LP's title track "Nice 'N' Naasty" went to number 20 R&B in the fall of 1976. The follow-up, the Grammy-nominated "Getaway" went to number 33 R&B during the summer of 1977. The Christmas Jollies LP remains a perennial holiday favorite. Though the Salsoul Orchestra (in various incarnations) charted on the lower half of the R&B charts ("Run Away" with Loleatta Holloway, the Stan Lucas-produced "Take Some Time Out (For Love)" with Jocelyn Brown), the majority of their hits were found on the disco charts. "Magic Bird of Fire," a rearranged version of Russian composer Stravinsky's The Fire Bird Suite, sold over 500,000 copies and became a popular theme song used on TV stations in Philadelphia and elsewhere. Montana and the Salsoul Orchestra performed all over the world, from Philadelphia to the Philippines, including memorable concerts at Radio City Music Hall, Roseland, Madison Square Garden, The Billboard Disco Convention, The New York Music Awards, and Asbury Park, NJ. Of course, the huge success of the Salsoul Orchestra sparked imitators, with the most successful being Meco's platinum cover of the "Star Wars Theme" b/w "Cantina Band," number one pop for two weeks during the fall of 1977. In 1978, Montana began recording for Atlantic as Montana, releasing the LPs Dance Fantasy and I Love Music, whose title track was a cover of the O'Jays' 1975 hit. Montana's music has earned him many honors, including Billboard's Top Disco Orchestra of the Year in 1975, 1976 & 1977, number one Pop Album Instrumentalist Group of 1977, Top Arranger of the Year in 1977, a 1976 award from the Latin New York Music Awards, a 1985 award from the Black Music Association, and a Billboard Hot Dance Music Club Play Award. Most of Montana's work with MFSB is in print, and available on Sony Music's Legacy label, PIR, and U.K. label VCI. The Salsoul Orchestra's CDs are on Salsoul or Salsoul-licensed compilations, notably from EMI/The Right Stuff and U.K. label Charly. Today, Montana can be found arranging, composing, and producing artists for various record companies. He appears on many CDs including his own, Sut/L Vibes on Philly Sound Works, and Nicole Renee's 1998 Atlantic debut. When not recording, he's booked for corporate and special events by NYC firm T.C.I. Ltd. ~ Ed Hogan, Rovi