Quartet hoping for one big break SMUV: These local singers feels they are on the verge of major success.

July 09, 1998|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

A decade ago, Frederick Simpson and Craig Dobson sang in the halls of Annapolis High School between classes, each one trying to draw a bigger crowd as the sounds of their tenor voices reverberated off metal lockers.

Today, the Annapolis natives sing together, blending their voices with those of Ronald Ward of Severna Park and Troy Hilliard of Lanham as the group SMUV.

They began performing together in 1992 and have opened for Boys II Men, High Five, and other acts, but they keep falling just shy of their goal -- a recording contract with a major label.

Last month, the group's four-part harmony took them to the final round of the BET Soundstage Talent Showcase. In two weeks they'll compete against seven other group and solo acts for a chance to audition before record company executives and free time in a Mitchellville studio.

"They were very charming and very personable," said Simone Greggs, entertainment coordinator at BET Soundstage, the Upper Marlboro restaurant sponsoring the competition. They handed roses to women in the audience during the semifinal competition, she added.

"These guys had harmony and were very original," Greggs said. "It surprised a lot of people because you never know what kind of talent we're going to get."

The members of SMUV, which stands for Seductive Music Unique Vocals, have been singing all their lives.

"I started in the church at a real early age," said Dobson, who honed his talents at Asbury Town Neck United Methodist Church in Annapolis. "I've had other things that paid the bills, but I've always wanted to sing."

Simpson and Ward met in 1990 as students at Anne Arundel Community College. When Ward found out Simpson was interested in forming a group, he called Hilliard, a buddy from his days in Top 40 bands during and after high school. Ward brought in Dobson, his old high school buddy and two years later, SMUV was born.

"We got started entering local contests, and we kept winning," Ward said. "Then we decided to start writing and putting together demos."

A year later, they gave their demonstration recording to a friend who worked at WERQ-FMin Baltimore. Their song "We Give Good Lovin" was played during a listener request segment and was requested so often afterward that it became part of the regular song rotation.

Listeners wanted to know where to buy the single, but the group had no copies and no chance of getting any.

"What you're supposed to do is contact a record company and get signed," said G. Rico McGowan, a Baltimore lawyer who is promoting the group. McGowan said having the song on the the air gave the group leverage that they didn't take advantage of.

"We were kind of waiting for someone to say 'Who is that?' " Simpson said, but it never happened. After 18 weeks, the song dropped out of rotation, and SMUV was back to square one.

But the singers say they have learned from their mistakes and have regrouped, written new songs, learned more about the music industry and are competing in talent shows again and trying to get back on the air.

"Right now we need to do things properly, jump on every opportunity," McGowan said.

In the past few weeks, they've had two singles, a remix of "We Give Good Lovin" and "I've Settled Down" aired on WERQ-FM, WKYS-FM in Washington and WPGC-FM in Greenbelt. Cassettes with those songs and two others are available at Sam Goody Records in Marley Station Mall and Tower Records at Harbor Center in Annapolis

If a recording contract comes, they have a full-length album with 13 original songs ready to go.

SMUV will appear at 5 p.m. July 25 at Tower Records, 2566 Solomon's Island Road in Annapolis for an in-store performance and at BET Soundstage Talent Showcase finals 9 p.m. July 28 at BET Soundstage restaurant, 9640 Lottsford Court in Upper Marlboro.

Pub Date: 7/09/98

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