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Gamble and Huff vow to rebuild fire-damaged Philly Soul headquarters

February 23, 2010 |  4:00 pm

Veteran R&B songwriters and producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff said that a fire over the weekend at the headquarters of their fabled Philadelphia International Records label destroyed about 40% of the memorabilia they’d collected from 40 years of business, but that it did not seriously damage the recording studio that is the heart of their operation.

“Our space has been violated by someone who chose to set fire to it,” the longtime musical partners said in a joint statement issued Tuesday after touring the building, which has become a popular tourist attraction over the years. “But what’s most important is that we will build it again and continue to rebuild. Nothing is going to stop us.”

Among the lost material were numerous gold and platinum record awards as well as copies of CDs by Teddy Pendergrass, Michael Jackson and the Jacksons, Patti LaBelle and Lou Rawls.  Before Gamble, Huff and fellow songwriter-producer Thom Bell took over the building for PIR in 1970 and created what became known as the Sound of Philadelphia, it had been the birthplace of such early-'60s hits as Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.” Coincidentally, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is saluting much of Gamble and Huff's music in a Black History Month exhibit running through the end of February, "Only the Strong Survive: The Sound of Philadelphia.”

“The devastation is just horrible. It’s unbelievable,” their statement said. “The No. 1 thing that went through our minds as we walked through the facility is that thankfully, no one was hurt.”

-- Randy Lewis