Robert “Big Sonny” Edwards of The Intruders — the soul vocal group best known for the chart-topping R&B single “Cowboys to Girls” — has died. After suffering a sudden heart attack at his Philadelphia home, the 74-year-old Edwards died at a local hospital on Oct. 15.
The news of Edwards’ death was announced Tuesday (Oct. 18) by Philadelphia International Records co-founders Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. As one of the first acts signed to Gamble & Huff’s fledgling Gamble label, The Intruders scored a string of R&B hits from the mid-’60s through the early ’70s — and simultaneously set the stage for the writing/production duo’s pioneering Philly soul sound and the establishment of the legendary Philadelphia International label.
“The Intruders, featuring Big Sonny and the rest of the original members, helped start our musical career as a team,” said Gamble & Huff in a joint statement. “Not only was the group one of the first artists we wrote for and produced, they were also our close friends.”
Added Phil Terry, The Intruders’ sole surviving original member, “Not only was Big Sonny my longtime friend for over 59 years, he was like a brother to me. He was clearly the heartbeat of the group and had a positive impact on all of us.”
Hailing from Philadelphia, The Intruders — comprised of Edwards, Terry, Sam “Little Sonny” Brown and Eugene “Bird” Daughtry — started out as a doo-wop group. The quartet hit the R&B charts for the first time in 1966 with the top 15 single “(We’ll Be) United.” Breaking into the top 10 a year later with “Together,” The Intruders notched its first and only R&B No. 1 with 1968’s “Cowboys to Girls,” which also climbed to No. 6 on the pop chart. The group’s additional top 10 hits include “(Love Is Like a) Baseball Game,” “When We Get Married,” “I’ll Always Love My Mama” and “I Wanna Know Your Name.”
Edwards is survived by his wife Deborah Edwards, son Nijer Edwards and two grandchildren. Memorial services will be held on Oct. 29 at Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses (noon ET) in Philadelphia.