Blues Music Now! feature

Woods sets out to master music world

by Amelia Feathers

Photo of Byron Woods

CHICAGO — The phrase "jack of all trades" fits Byron Woods but don't add "master of none" because he is mastering the music world with both creativity and business savvy.

Woods has had a flight plan mapped out to achieve success in the music business since he began singing in high school.

"I grew up listening and enjoying music, especially the Motown sound," Woods said. In high school he was a member of The Vandells, an all-male group molded into the Motown vocal tradition. "We thought we were like the Temptations," Woods said. "One of the first songs we tried to make our own was The Younghearts' song, "I Got Love For My Baby." The ladies would go crazy for us and I've often wondered what would have happened had we stuck it out."

He later vocalized with Brandi, a Fifth Dimension-type music group. Woods did some vocal arrangements, songwriting and production work while a member of Brandi.

He became the lead vocalist for the band Onstage. The band released three singles "Lady of the Night," "Who You Really Are," "I'll Give My Best" and "Alibi." They also did some backup work for The Staples Singers and Gene Chandler.

Because Onstage wasn't receiving the proper promotion Woods joined with Karl M. Perteet, and singer/actor Bernard Mixson to establish Omnibus Records in 1987, an independent label in Chicago.

"One of the reasons why we started Omnibus Records is because Onstage was signed to a couple of independent labels without getting the right promotion," Woods said.

The group disbanded in 1988. Woods signed with Ardent/Zing, an UK label in 1990. He had hits overseas with "I've Been In Love," and "Look To Me For Love."

Later in his singing career as a member of the Bradley Young Orchestra, he did some background work with Ben E. King. He performed with Malachai Thompson, Ron Haynes, and The Bill O'Connell Big Band. He has done background vocals in concert with Phil Perry and Vesta.

Omnibus Records shut down in 1993 and regrouped and reopened in 1998. The company's debut releases were for Sherry Scott, a former Earth Wind and Fire member and Woods' "Work of Art." Scott's release was "Steppin/Hi Steppin."

The current artists with the record company include Mike Logan, VocalPoynt, Deep Thawts, Tony Dubois and Mixson, who appeared in the movie Soul Food. Woods stretches his creative wings across many projects including overseeing his own and other musical artists as vice president of operations with Omnibus Records. He is also a member of the singing group VocalPoynt. VocalPoynt is a quartet blending the voices of Woods, Diane Madison, Mae Koen and Dan Porter. Photo of Vocalpoynt

As a soloist Woods received much acclaim in England for his dance recordings. Woods is also songwriter and co-produces music for Omnibus' artists along with Mike Logan, the Thom Bell of the record company. Koen and Madison have performed together and as soloists doing background work with Vesta, Mikki Howard, Phil Perry and Aretha Franklin.

Woods said a lot of hard work goes into the vocal tight harmonies the group has. Woods says VocalPoynt's harmony is similar to Manhattan Transfer. Woods many musical career hats he wears doesn't get in the way of his goals.

"My main thing is to get my record company in the spotlight and establish my singing career as a soloist and with VocalPoynt, Woods said. "I won't say it's not difficult doing all that I'm doing but I get help from my peers by networking ideas.

Woods know financial issues can be a strain because Omnibus is an independent record label.

"We step out in faith and focus on the right things," he said. "One good thing about being independent is we have a free rein as opposed to being with a major company dictating to us what to do."

He also realizes independent labels' recordings get fewer chances to be played on the radio. "Though payola exists under the table there are some good people that do give our artists some play," Woods said. "We did receive airplay in the U.K. Right now both the U.K. and here at home is giving Mike Logan's new CD "Nice And Slow" a lot of attention. The feedback has been positive. Chicago listeners love Mike's sound and we're really happy about it. We have a good product. Also we've received help from the Internet, especially the Soul Patrol website and the owner Bob Davis. That site has opened a lot of avenues for Omnibus Records."

Woods can juggle the business and creative parts of the music business without missing a beat. He compares juggling the different aspects of music and business to wearing two extra shoes and walking on all fours to get to his destination, success.

"I enjoy the business side of music," he said. "I will do all the things I need to help Omnibus Records. I didn't feel bad when my record didn't move. I am recording a full CD and will release a single very soon." His solo effort is scheduled for release in summer 2001. Woods says he is expecting great things.

Also in the works for Omnibus is a full CD release for VocalPoynt in 2001. The group has already recorded a Christmas CD. This past Christmas, the CD was getting a lot of play on radio in Chicago, Houston and Pittsburgh airwaves.

Woods said he would like to stretch his creativity even more. He would like to work with singer Eric Benet.

"Eric and his sister had a group that sounded a lot like VocalPoynt that had a lot of vocal harmonies," Woods said. "Right now I am happy to have a record company and music career. I'm happy doing the solo thing and singing with the group. And I'm happy doing the behind the scenes business work. I like throwing my hat in every way aspect of the music."

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