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Teen Dream - Let’s Get Busy

In the mid-80s, Columbus musician and producer Chris Powell was on a promotional tour with his Motown act Koko Pop when he realized something surprising. While teenage boy bands were everywhere, there were no major teenage girl groups akin to The Supremes nationally. With this idea, Powell returned to Columbus and leveraged his local connections to form Tag Team Productions, aiming to bring this concept to life.


1987
Front cover of Teen Dream's Let's Get Busy

Tag Team Productions was a powerhouse of Columbus talent, including Chris Dawkins, Cornell Scott, Barry Mastrine, and Powell himself. Dawkins and Scott co-owned a Columbus recording studio, while Mastrine was deeply involved in the community as head of the Metropolitan Human Services Commission. Powell's musical career was already notable, starting with Columbus band The Soul Superbs before touring with Rick James and signing with Motown.


From this fertile ground, Teen Dream emerged by recording a demo for Tag Team, who immediately got them signed. The original lineup, signed to Warner Bros. in March 1986, featured talented Columbus vocalist Terri Whitlow alongside Lisa Jackson and Randi Watson. "Terri and I had sung together when we were in junior high school, about four years ago," Jackson told The Columbus Dispatch in April 1987. "We never thought we would be working together again." Not much about Watson, or even the fact that she was in the group, is known.

Back of Let's Get Busy CD insert

Recording commenced at several studios including George Duke's L.A. home studio ("Shake") and in Columbus at Bison Studio, which would later become Sisapa. The sessions involved an impressive roster of contributors. Prince’s Purple Rain-era bassist BrownMark (credited as Brown Marc) significantly contributed, writing and producing two tracks. Tag Team also introduced Valentino, an artist they'd been nurturing.


"We're breaking two acts at once," said Dawkins in the Dispatch article. "The second group will be known as Romeo Dancer featuring Valentino, and their album will be out sometime in summer."


In January 1987, Teen Dream flew to Los Angeles for a photoshoot and to film the video for “Let’s Get Busy.” Powell brought in an up-and-coming choreographer who’d just left the Laker Girls named Paula Abdul to help get the group’s dancing chops in order. When one of the trio struggled to keep up, Nikki Desirée (Cooper) was quickly brought in for the video shoot. The photoshoot was already completed, so some pre-PhotoShop cropping was done, and viola! Nikki was the newest member of Teen Dream. The music industry is a cold, brutal world.


With Abdul unavailable for the video, choreographer Otis Sallid took the reins. Sallid tipped off Whitlow about a new movie Spike Lee was putting together. She auditioned and got a role in School Daze.


Michael DeLorenzo, known from the film and TV show "Fame," appeared in the “Let’s Get Busy” video, sparking some confusion. Although DeLorenzo was shown sharing the lead vocal in the video, it was Matt Seward, Powell’s former Koko Pop bandmate credited as Valentino, who sang alongside Whitlow on the recording.


Released as the first single in April 1987, “Let’s Get Busy” quickly gained traction, with BET airing the video and major radio markets picking up the song. Ironically, Columbus radio stations were slow to catch on. Chris Dawkins shared his frustration with The Dispatch, noting how unexpected it was that their hometown would be the hardest to crack. "The two areas we thought we would have the most trouble with - New York and L.A. - turned out to be the easiest," Dawkins said. "And Columbus, which we thought would be the easiest, hasn't even played the record yet. I can't figure it out."

"Let's Get Busy" single cover art

Despite this, Columbus station WCKX eventually played the record, and Let’s Get Busy” peaked at #41 on the Billboard Black Singles chart and #34 on Cash Box. Teen Dream did promotional tours, but a permanent backing band wasn't in place yet. Whitlow juggled her time between Teen Dream duties and filming School Daze in Atlanta.


Reflecting on their rapid rise, Lisa Jackson told The Dispatch, "Everything has happened so quickly. Actually we've only been together as a group for one year. But it's truly a case of our being at the right place at the right time."


Teen Dream’s hometown debut with a full backing band came at the Ohio State Fair in August. The band featured heavy hitters like Foley (Miles Davis) on bass and Troy Jones (The Flex Crew) on drums. Powell himself played sax and keys while members of Koko Pop and Teena Marie’s band also played, including Eric O’Neal on keyboards and guitarist Keith Alexander. Trumpeter LaMorris Payne and Bar-Kays’ trombonist Frank Thompson rounded out the horn line.

"Slip-Slide" single cover art

The performance impressed critics, with John Petric of The Dispatch praising their “melodic hooks, stone-cold grooves, and sassy horns... Whitlow quickly asserted herself. A gutsy singer with no lack of stage presence, she sang a powerful duet with Valentino (Seward), another Powell find being groomed for the big time.” Vicki Saunders from The Call And Post also noted Whitlow’s “impressive, soulfully mature voice.”


The follow-up single “Slip-Slide” became a club hit, peaking at #21 on Billboard’s Club Play chart and gaining international attention. The Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald called “Slip-Slide,” “the kind of note-perfect, thundering American 12 inch mix that the Americans seem to toss off with casual genius these days (show-offs).”


In November, Warner Bros. released the BrownMark-produced “Toy” as the third single. Full marks to Warner Bros. for releasing three singles (four, if you count the European release of “I Hear Talk”). Despite Warner Bros.'s support, Teen Dream’s momentum faltered, and they were dropped in 1988. The whirlwind was over as quickly as it had begun. Teen Dream would soldier on for another album on a different label and with a new lineup, but the run of this particular group of teens was essentially over.


Both Terri Whitlow and Chris Powell remained part of the Columbus music community. After raising a family, Whitlow continued her musical career with bands like Controversy and Terri Whitlow and The Show. Powell remains dedicated to nurturing young talent through his Stars Worldwide program. Recently, The Dispatch's Bob Vitale highlighted Teen Dream's role in Columbus's musical history, helping to acknowledge the group's lasting legacy in their hometown.


Tracklist

Additional Background Vocals – Darchelle WilliamsValentinoThe Mentor

Co-produced By – Dan Hargrove

All Instruments Played By – Dan HargroveDan HargroveGeorge BlackGeorge BlackThe Mentor

Mixed By – The MentorVictor Flores

Produced, Arranged By – Chris "The Mentor" Powell

Written-By – Chris PowellDan Hargrove

2 Toy

Additional Background Vocals – Brown Marc

Engineer – Chopper Black

All Instruments Played By – Brown Marc

Mixed By – Brown MarcChopper Black

Written, Arranged, Produced By – Brown Marc

Additional Background Vocals – Maureen Steele

Production Coordinator – Julie Barri

Engineers – Bobby SandstromEric Zobler

Second Engineers – Bino EspinozaMitch Gibson

Executive-Producer – Steve Barri

All Instruments Played By – Bobby Sandstrom

Mixed By – Tommy Vicari

Produced By – Bobby Sandstorm

Written-By – Bobby SandstromMichael Price

Arranged By – John Bokowski

Additional Background Vocals – Angela Teek

Bass – Cornelius Mims

Co-produced By – Barry MastrineJohn BokowskiWilliam Ivory

Engineer – Steve Sykes

Guitar – Paul Jackson, Jr.

All Keyboards – John Bokowski

Mixed By – Tony Peluso

Produced By – Chris "The Mentor" Powell

Saxophone – David Boruff

Strings – John Bokowski

Arranged By – The Mentor

Additional Background Vocals – Darchelle WilliamsLaMorris PayneRomeo DancerThe Mentor

Bass – Brown Marc

Co-produced By – LaMorris PayneWilliam Ivory

Engineer – Jim Dutt

Guitar – Tom McDermott

All Keyboards – LaMorris Payne

Produced By – Chris "The Mentor" Powell

Written By – LaMorris Payne And Chris Powell

Written-By – Chris PowellLaMorris Payne

Arranged By – John Hobbs

Horns Arranged By – Jerry Hey

Bass – Joe Chemay

Production Coordinator – Julie Barri

Drums, Drum Programming – Paul Leim

Guitar – Dann Huff

Keyboards, Synthesizers – John Hobbs

Produced By – Steve BarriTony Peluso

Saxophone – Larry Williams

Additional Synthesizers – Jim Lang

Trumpet – Gary GrantJerry Hey

Written-By – Andy HillPete Sinfield

Co-Produced By – Joe HarrisTrey StoneVictor Flores

Engineer – Jim Dutt

Produced, Arranged By – Chris "The Mentor" Powell

All Programming, Keyboards – George BlackTrey Stone

Written-By – Joe HarrisTrey Stone

Arranged By – Barry MastrineCornell Scott

Co-produced By – Barry MastrineCornell Scott

Drum Programming – Cornell Scott

Keyboards – Cornell Scott

Produced By – Chris "The Mentor" Powell

Saxophone Solo – Steve Willis

Written-By – Barry MastrineCornell Scott

Arranged By – Brown MarcKenny Price

Engineer – Chopper Black

Additional Guitar – Craig Powell

All Instruments Played By – Brown Marc

Mixed By – Brown MarcChopper Black

Produced, Written-By – Brown Marc


Companies, etc.

Credits
Billboard, November 21, 1987
Billboard, November 21, 1987

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