Melvin Riley Jr. sang lead on hits by Ready for the World ("Oh Sheila," "Love You Down") and had his own solo sides as well as writing and producing a Top Ten R&B hit for 4 By Four ("Come Over," number ten R&B, summer 1987). Besides bandleader/singer/guitarist/principal songwriter Riley, the Flint, MI, band that started in 1982 included his schoolmates, drummer Gerald Valentine, keyboardist Gregory Potts, bassist John Eaton, percussionist Willie Triplett, and lead guitarist Gordon Strozier.
Recording at Bernard Terry's Silver Sun studio, the band sent their demos out to the major labels and received back rejection notices. Co-produced with Terry, the band's first single, the languid ballad "Tonight," was released on their own Blue Lake Records label in the Flint area. The band got the single to WJLB radio DJ The Electrifying Mojo who began playing it. "Tonight" became a local then regional hit spreading to Detroit and Chicago. MCA Records who initially took a pass on the band picked up "Tonight" which went to number six R&B in late 1984. Its follow-up, the similarly toned "Deep Inside Your Love," reached number six R&B in spring 1985.
The third single brought astounding success to the young band. The band's self-produced "Oh Sheila" was very much steeped in influences of another Midwest-based artist, Prince, parked at number one R&B for two weeks, and peaked at number one pop on Billboard's charts in summer 1985. The success afforded Riley, who was attending college to be a teacher (as his "fall back" occupation in case music didn't work out), the opportunity to buy his parents a house and himself a Porsche. On their first major release, Riley and his bandmates found themselves sitting in the audience of the American Music Awards with such stars as Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie, and Huey Lewis.
Their debut LP, Ready for the World, issued June 1985, went platinum reaching number three R&B that summer. The LP had an enticing mix of funk, rock, clever arrangements, and effects all wrapped up in a great mix by Louis Silas Jr. It should also be pointed out that Ready for the World was one of the last R&B/funk bands to have such huge success. The band tradition was starting to fade from R&B music due to government cutbacks in arts and music programs in urban areas, the emergence of MIDI music technology, and rap music. Going into the 21st century, the only R&B/funk band to have a major label contract was Mint Condition. Other singles on Ready for the World were the slick number four hit "Digital Display" and the charting singles "Slide Over" and the rock funky "Ceramic Girl."
The second number one single, "Love You Down" (co-produced by the band and Gary Spaniola), held the number one R&B position for two weeks and hit number nine pop in fall 1986. Their Ruff 'N' Ready LP yielded the number six R&B hit "My Girly" and "Gently."
The title track from their 1991 LP Straight Down To Business hit number 15 R&B in spring 1991. The ballad "Can He Do It (Like This, Can He Do It Like That)" broke through to number nine R&B in fall 1991. Melvin Riley became a MCA solo artist charting with "Whose Is It" in summer 1994 and "What Makes a Man (Wanna Cheat on His Woman)" in late 1994 from his Ghetto Love CD. Riley's Bedroom Stories on Bogard was released April 4, 2000. ~ Ed Hogan