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Oscar Toney Jr. recorded some soulful sides for Bell Records in the late 60's that will forever etch him into soul music lovers' memories. The emotive singer born May 26, 1939 in Selma, AL was raised in Columbus, GA. He sung gospel in church and high school with a group he called the Sensational Melodies of Joy. After high school he ventured into secular music. His first recording was by the Searchers on MAC 351 - "Yvonne"/ "Little Wanda", released in November of '60 on Max Records. The radio stations ignored it and the Searchers disbanded. Three years later Oscar soloed with "Can It All Be Love," produced by John Rhys in Macon, GA, but released on Cincinnati's King Records, it too went unnoticed.

John says:While digging up info on Oscar Toney Jr. I came across your site. I noticed you have written material regarding the title "Can It All Be Love" You have Bobby Smith listed as producer. That is incorrect. I produced both "Can It All Be Love" and "You're Going To Need Me" and leased it to King in 1961. We recorded the record at King Studios in Macon, Georgia.

The rhythm section was comprised of Wayne Cochran's first band (Wayne was a garbage truck driver at the time) and the horn section was Oscar Toney's....from his band in Columbus, Georgia.

I was the Mercury Records Southern Regional Promotion Director at the time. It was while I was promoting records in Columbus, Georgia that I was invited to hear Oscar sing. I thought Oscar was equally as good as Otis Redding but could not get King to move on the record. I think only 500 units were pressed. It was a shame.


Oscar  befriended DJ/Producer Papa Don Schroeder in Pensacola, FL who produce recordings on Mighty Sam McClain, and James & Bobby Purify. He kept Toney around to fill in for either James or Bobby when one couldn't make a gig. Overwhelmed by Toney's vocal ability Papa Don signed him to a production deal with Bell Records in 1967. Not messing around, Schroeder took Toney to legendary producer Chips Morman in Memphis, TN and hit the first time out with a moving rendition of Jerry Butler & the Impressions' "For Your Precious Love"; it cracked the R&B Top Ten, settling at #4, and the Pop Top 40, nesting at #23. Its success prompted King Records to release the previously unreleased "I Found True Love." 

None of his subsequent recordings did as well. A revival of Bobby "Blue" Bland "Turn On Your Love Light," went to #37 R&B, and #65 Pop late in 1967. Bell released four singles on Toney in 1968, all flopped, except another remake, this time a Clyde McPhatter song "Without Love (There Is Nothing)" which barely made the charts. Bell dropped one more Toney single in 1969 "Down In Texas" b/w "Ain't That True Love." The association dissolved when Schroeder left the business. 

He signed with Phil Walden's Capricorn Records in 1970 which resulted in "Down On My Knees." Capricorn got it played in the South, but couldn't get the sucker aired anywhere else. Three more singles bombed and by 1973 the Capricorn deal was history. 

Toney rarely worked a full time job during his quest for musical fame & fortune. He earned his supper gigging; he visited England many times where Northern Soul fans appreciated his deep soul ballads far better than the fickle fans in the States. Contempo Records' boss John Abbey signed Toney to the label. Abbey also attempted to revitalize the careers of J. J. Barnes, and other American soul singers. Six Contempo 45's and one LP resulted in zilch sales. Before the 80's rolled in, Toney left secular music, 23 years of trying only produced one substantial hit, and the wailing, soul singer returned to his first love, gospel music.

The year 2001 saw the welcome return of Oscar with a brand new album.