Tony Carbone along with Arthur Baker and Russell Presto produced and wrote many songs including Northend: "Kind of Life," Michelle Wallace: "Happy Days," and "It's Right." Get the full story on Anthony Carbone in this exclusive DiscoMusic.com interview.
Tony Carbone interview written by Bernard F. Lopez of DiscoMusic.com
Tony Carbone is not a name you'll immediately notice, but take your copy of "It's Right" or "Happy Days" by Northend / Michelle Wallace on Emergency Records and look at the credits on the label and you'll find that Arthur Baker, Tony Carbone and Russell Presto produced it. They also appear on Tom Moulton's TJM project from 1979. We are going to focus on Tony Carbone/Anthony Carbone who was kind enough to speak with DiscoMusic.com about his involvement in the dance music industry.
Tony Carbone's Early Years
Born on Dec. 21, 1954 in Brooklyn, New York, Carbone's family soon moved to Elizabethtown in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Playing in various bands throughout his youth and being only about an hour outside of Philadelphia the Philly sound figures prominently into Carbone's musical influences. He says, "As a thirteen year old kid I was out with my organ playing the Quotations and Stylistics. Certainly the Philly influence was there. The first band that I was in when I was thirteen had ten people in it-three black singers up front, we had a three-piece horn section and I was a keyboard player. I liked Booker T., Jimmy Smith and Al Cooper and guys like that."
After graduating high school Carbone moved to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music where he currently teaches part-time. He was a performance major majoring in piano, but left after two years to go on the road. He remained a traveling musician for many years up till around 1974-75 when he decided he wanted to concentrate on writing and producing.
Meeting Arthur Baker
By 1978 Carbone was playing locally in Boston when his old friend Keith from Berklee introduced him to Arthur Baker. Keith was an arranger and working on another project with Baker. Tony Carbone and Arthur Baker started writing and things clicked well between them. They brought in Russell Presto who was a Boston DJ and Billboard reporter as well as being a very good drummer. Presto would prove instrumental in getting the trio access to many record labels.
Arthur Baker was working on an album for a Tom Moulton production called T. J. M. (TJM).Carbone's contribution was playing keyboards on many songs and co-writing "I Don't Need No Music" which appeared on the album and the "B" side of the Casablanca 12-inch single. Carbone says, "Arthur Baker made sure that album got done including taking care of the finances. He was trying to get a deal for it and hooked up with Tom Moulton and then Moulton took over the production and added some more things. The tracks are pretty much intact. Tom Moulton took off the lead singer Arthur Baker had on "I Don't Need No Music" and used Ronnie Tyson. So it's Tyson singing the high parts and Larry Woo singing the rest.
Northend - Kind of Life, Kind of Love
After the T.J.M. collaboration, Arthur Baker, Tony Carbone, and Russell Presto worked together on "Kind of Life (Kind of Love)" in late 1979 for the group Northend on West End Records. Carbone not only co-writes, but is singing lead vocals on this track. Fellow Bostonian John Luongo provided the mix for "Kind of Life."
Michelle Wallace and Emergency Records
"We moved Northend to Emergency Records. At that point I really didn't want to be the artist anymore so we produced and found an artist from Boston named Michelle Wallace. We were knocked out because Wallace had that kind of Chaka Khan thing going on." Carbone goes on to say they did three records for Emergency, "Happy Days," "It's Right" and "Jazzy Rhythms." They all achieved at least Top 5 on the Disco dance charts.
Michelle Wallace was part of a sister group known in Boston as the Wallace Sisters (Michelle, Betty and Gayle) and was compared to the Three Degrees. Wallace was from Dorchester, which is where Donna Summer was also from. Carbone and crew utilized other Boston area performers, which included Maurice Starr playing bass and his brother Michael playing some keyboards on "Happy Days."
At around the same time Tom Silverman of Dance Music Report was founding Tommy Boy Records and Arthur Baker decided to go off from the trio and work with Silverman. Carbone says that Arthur Baker saw a new trend and went with it and obviously did very well.
Post Arthur Baker Productions
Carbone on the other hand was still leaning to a more soulful sound and had his Berklee friend Keith Maynard join the production group. The three went on to produce a record by Larry Wu for Atlantic Records called "Let Me Show You." Atlantic Records never pushed the record despite the fact that it was doing great in England as a bootleg. In retrospect Carbone feels they would have had better results had they gone with an independent label who would have given the release more attention.
The Larry Wu production was followed by a project for Prelude Records by an artist named Diana Marie with "I've Waited Much Too Long." Another release was "Satisfaction" which was a Jamaican rap type single for Clockwork Records by a girl named Shayne. Carbone and crew would produce and do the rough demos in Boston and then shop the product in New York where the major dance labels were.
Later Years and Present Day
Russell Presto passed away in 1984 and Keith Maynard went back to England so the company disbanded. Carbone went on to do session work for local Boston bands and later worked on jingles and A/V industrials. For the last sixteen years Carbone has been Assistant Professor at Berklee College of Music and continues writing music. He also has had some of his music appear recently in the Stephen King movie "Dream Catcher" as well as some television shows such as "Providence."
Recently West End Records released a double CD set called "Masters At Work" with remixed updates of the Northend track. I asked Carbone how he liked the updated treatments his track received and he said, "There were parts of the vocal that we had punched out because of mistakes and they left it in. They also added extra harmonica, which is kind of neat, but you can hear where the old one stops and the new begins. They did a good job and does not deviate much from the original."
Written by Bernard F. Lopez (April 15, 2003)
Copyright © 2003 by Bernard F. Lopez
All rights reserved
Tony Carbone Recommended Listening
- Club Connection (WEA) Features Larry Wu's "Let Me Show You"
- Masters At Work presents West End Records: the 25th Anniversary Mastermix Features remix of Northend's "Kind of Life (Kind of Love)"