City Limits evolved from the Overbrook Singers, a gospel group formed by Ted Wortham and Raye Walter at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia: the first gospel group organized in Philadelphia's public school system since the abolition of bible reading. They grew to 50 stirring voices and specialized in performing original songs, which set them apart from similar groups. Members included Annette Guest, Rochelle Fleming, and Wardell Piper (aka First Choice), and they scored a big secular hit with "Armed and Extremely Dangerous" on Philly Groove Records, but continued traveling and singing with the Overbrook Singers until they graduated. In the early '70s, member Bruce Hawes joined Philadelphia International Records and greased the path for the Overbrook Singers to become the label's first gospel group. Hawes graduated from Olney High in Philadelphia but became an Overbrook Singer when they opened their membership to students and alumni of other schools.
By the time their sole album, Circle, surfaced on TSOP Records in 1976, the once robust group was a quartet and more akin to the Fifth Dimension than the dynamic God-praising choir that could stir the dead. After the big shakedown, City Limits consisted of Terri Wells, Clayton Wortham, Ronald Richardson, and Vicki Lyn Reynolds, and signed as a soul/pop group, not a gospel act. The neglected LP contains some good moments including "People We Need a Change," written by Cynthia Biggs and Hawes; after two minutes, the piano player and drummer fight for attention and change the tempo from a funk groove to a maniacal throbber. And if that's not enough, the female lead sounds like Tammi Terrell. Other nuggets including "Uncle James," also recorded on their I'm Doing Fine album. Three ex-members of the Overbrook Singers, Biggs, Hawes, and Theodore Wortham, Jr., along with non-members Joe Jefferson and Charles Simmons, wrote the eight songs for that album. Clayton is founder Ted Wortham's brother. Terri Wells toured with Dexter Wansel, Roy Ayers, and Fat Larry's Band; she cut the solo albums Watch Out, on WMOT, and 21st Century Fox, on Omni Records as Brandi Wells. The late Ronald Richardson enjoyed success as an actor and played many memorable roles on television and stage. He played a preacher on 227, the sitcom starring Marla Gibbs, and won a Tony for his part in Huck Finn on Broadway. Vicki Lyn Reynolds (Ronald's sister) acted in the same mediums as her brother, co-starring in the series Sugar and Spice, and playing a forest ranger in an episode of 227. Reynolds' other achievements include a Sprint commercial with Candice Bergan, and a starring role on Broadway in Bring In da Noise, Bring In da Funk. ~ Andrew Hamilton
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