By Deardra Shuler
Sometimes the road to musical stardom is fraught with adventure, some joy, some pain, some success and many disappointments. Talent oftentimes gets kicked around by a business filled with profiteers, unsavory promoters, greedy record producers and music companies with nefarious business practices. Those who come to the business with a song in their heart eventually learn that most have their hands in your pocket and only the strong can survive.
Such is the tale of Johnny Prince Waiters, a/k/a Little Johnny, who is known these days as LJ. That point is driven home when one attends a Legendary Intruders concert, only to see ladies of a certain age, screaming LJ’s name and asking him if he wants to know their name in response to the Intruders famed song “I Wanna Know Your Name.” Other Intruder songs include “Cowboys to Girls,” “Together,” and “I Always Loved My MaMa.”
Wiry and energetic, LJ bounces across the stage as the lead singer, belting out romantic melodies to his adoring fans while handing out roses with his fellow Legendary Intruders; tenor Lee Bradley; second tenor, Jubar Jones and baritone Holland McKenzie.
It was Eugene Daughtry who brought his cousin Lee Bradley into the original Intruders but after Samuel (Little Sonny) Brown, the lead singer, died in 1994, the original Intruders consisting of Robert “Big Sonny” Edwards, Eugene “Bird” Daughtry and Phil Terry disbanded. Eugene, tagged “Fred” by the group, continued on under the Intruders name with Lee Bradley, Kenny Brooks and Gregory Fuller. Later, Daughtry formed Gypsy Gentlemen, then Little Taste of Love, with Lee Bradley eventually forming The Legendary Intruders in 2001. These days, the Legendary Intruders have experienced a musical resurgence via increased bookings and enthusiastic fans flocking to their performances.
“We are rehearsing a lot more and improving on our choreography. It has paid off,” mentioned Lee Bradley. “The group is putting the finishing touches on a new CD that has completely new material which should be completed in March, 2013. Also, we expect to put out a single prior to the CD,” continued Bradley who owns the Legendary Intruders.
LJ, who began his career as an opening act for Lloyd Price, was born in Palmetto, Florida. Music came natural to Waiters whose collective family was infused with singers and musicians, most of them residing at the time in the Barnswell and Bufford, South Carolina area. “My family consists of the Waiters, Browns, Washingtons’ and Knights. In fact, my grandfather Leroy “Skippy” Waiters was part of the Negro Baseball League. I am the 3rd cousin of James Brown, and the nephew of Bill Pinkney of the Drifters. I even learned recently I may be related to Gladys Knight,” said the singer/songwriter.
LJ was bit by the music bug early on. Whenever his mother was unable to find a baby-sitter, she took him with her to juke joints where he was exposed to various types of music. LJ began to sing so much, he woke up singing. Unable to concentrate on school work, he spent more time singing at school then learning. So by 17, when the opportunity came to leave the south and migrate to Poughkeepsie, NY, as an apple and cherry picker, LJ headed north where he met other musicians and singers and people who recognized LJ had talent.
“I can recall my first recording. It was at a studio in the old Ed Sullivan/CBS building. That was in 1969. I recorded “Baby Who’s Been Fooling You,” under the name LJ Waiters for Unity Records. On the second side, I recorded “Why Must A Man Be A Fool.” Later, I recorded “Natural Beauty” and went on to record “Since I Fell For You” in 1972,” said the natural born singer about his solo career.
“I never had much education and didn’t read a lot, so I didn’t know how the music industry worked. I admit I was naïve. I conducted business with a handshake and by word of mouth, trusting folks to do what they promised. They would encourage me to go out on tour and let them handle the business. Lots of wheeling and dealing went on behind my back. I was young, had developed an ego, so was happy for the attention, women and whatever money I was making. I was a country boy in over my head in an industry that was taking full advantage of my naivety,” said LJ.
Creating songs came easy for LJ who simply sang them into his tape recorder. He wrote songs like “Who’s Been Fooling You,” “Somebody’s Spanking My Love” a song that was released under Spector Records. In 1984, West End Records released LJ’s song, “Make It Feel Like It Felt Last Night.” It was around that time that LJ wrote “Your Love is Some Good Love.”
“Many of my songs I never got paid for and in fact in many cases, I never even signed contracts or artist releases. Yet all kinds of nefarious people within the music industry and even trusted friends ripped me off and pirated my records,” claimed LJ, who mentioned having carelessly left his tape recorder containing 13 unfinished songs at a friend’s home. “I had planned to develop those 13 songs into an album. However, I forgot the tape recorder and got busy with other engagements and was only reminded later when another friend called me alerting me that he had heard my song, “Your Love is Some Good Love,” being played under the title “Your Love is Some Deep Love.” My song was being released on an album put out by Tough City Records. It was then I realized these guys were so sure I would never find out about their theft, they never even replaced me as the artist. All they did is take my songs from my tape recorder and burn them onto CDs, putting my music out without mentioning it to me. Therefore, I never got paid, nor did I give them permission to use my songs” claimed LJ.
“A lot of my songs were pirated including “Somebody’s Spanking My Love.” What is really surprising is that I am in possession of my masters, yet these folks are still pirating my material. One of my songs, “If You Ain’t Getting Your Thing,” did so well it was among the Top 100 on Billboard. Yet, I never saw a penny for it nor signed my music over.”
Married several times and the father of 11 children, 5 of LJ’s children died, one most recently of a blood disorder. Over the years, Waiters has shared the stage with people like The Ohio Players, the Shirelles, Solomon Burke, Clarence Carter, Junior Walker and the All Stars, Freddie Scott, Millie Jackson, Full Force, The Temptations, Ray Goodman and Brown, The Delefonics, The Stylistics, Blue Magic, Peaches and Herb, Meli’sa Morgan, and Lloyd Price, et al.
Undaunted by the past and not holding grudges, LJ is looking ahead to the positive ventures he’s now experiencing as a member of the Legendary Intruders. He even secured a small part in an independent movie entitled, “I’ll Always Love My MaMa,” made by filmmaker Osiris Imhotep, which includes four sound tracks by the Legendary Intruders.
“I sometimes think about the loss of all that money. Because of it, I lost my babies because I couldn’t afford the medical insurance, so 5 of my children died, even now that hurts. But despite all of that misfortune, I keep moving. I go on and continue to follow my dream.”