Foster Sylvers had a Top Ten R&B/Top 25 pop hit first time out with "Misdemeanor." He can also be heard exclaiming "We kept it going strong" on the Sylvers' million-selling single "Boogie Fever" and sang lead on its follow-up, "Cotton Candy." He also co-wrote and produced Janet Jackson's funk rock single "Come Give Your Love to Me" which went to number 17 R&B in early 1983.
Born February 25, 1962, in Memphis, TN, Foster Sylvers' older siblings, the Sylvers, were well established in the entertainment world by the time he joined the group. Starting as the child group the Little Angels under the direction of their mom, Shirley Sylvers, they had appeared on TV shows with Groucho Marx, Dinah Shore, Mike Douglas, Spike Jones, and Danny Thomas and had toured with Johnny Mathis and Ray Charles. After moving to New York and then to Los Angeles, the group now known as the Sylvers were signed to MGM Records subsidiary Pride Records. Their first hits were produced by Jerry Butler: "Fool's Paradise" (number 14 R&B, fall 1972) and "Wish That I Could Talk to You" (number ten R&B, late 1972). They were included on the LP The Sylvers issued June 1972.
Foster Sylvers' first single, "Misdemeanor," written by his brother Leon Sylvers III, was produced by Jerry Peters. "Misdemeanor" b/w the Sylvers' "Close to You" — not the Carpenters hit — from The Sylvers went silver (at one point there was an RIAA silver certification meaning over 250,000 copies sold) and make it to number seven R&B on Billboard's charts in summer 1973. "Misdemeanor"'s follow-up was a cover of Dee Clark's 1959 hit "Hey Little Girl." Arranged by King Errisson with a tropical, steel drum-flavored syncopated groove, it charted at number 63 R&B in fall 1973. The popularity of the records led to Foster Sylvers' appearances on such TV shows as American Bandstand and Soul Train, with his sisters, Pat and Angie, lip-syncing background vocals. Foster, who was perfect pinup material, joined his older brothers and sisters in issues of Right On! and Ebony Magazine's sister publication Black Stars.
Besides "Misdemeanor" and "Hey Little Girl," the Foster Sylvers LP, issued June 1973, included more Leon Sylvers tunes: the funky James Brown-ish "I'll Get You in the End" that was the flip side of "Misdemeanor," the jubilant "Big Things Come in Small Packages", and the exotic, sparse ballad "Only My Love Is True." There are some interesting covers: a flute-laced slowed version of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' 1967 hit "More Love"; a jazzy, sax-sprinkled version of "Put on a Happy Face"; a thick churchy toe-tapper cover of Inez and Charles Foxx's "Mockingbird"; and a medley of "Brahams Lullaby" and Paul McCartney's "Uncle Albert" that includes one of the earliest uses of keyboard bass. Drummer Harvey Mason appears on the album. Just like on the solo spin-offs of their contemporaries the Jackson 5, the Sylvers can be heard doing background vocals on Foster's solo releases. His second LP, Foster Sylvers Featuring Pat & Angie, issued summer 1974, listed the single, a cover of the McCoys' "Hang on Sloopy" b/w "Na Na Goodbye."
Larkin Arnold, vice president of Capitol Records, suggested that Freddie Perren work with new signees the Sylvers. Perren, formerly of the Motown songwriting/arranging/producing collective The Corporation, had hits with the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," "ABC," and "The Love You Save," and he was familiar with the group through their hits on Pride. He produced the two gold singles "Boogie Fever" (number one R&B/pop) and "Hot Line" (number three R&B, number five pop, late 1976), as well as "High School Dance" (number six R&B). While with Capitol, Foster recorded another Foster Sylvers LP, issued in early 1978 and co-produced by the Sylvers and their managers Al Ross and Bob Cullen, thus joining the ranks of recording artists (Ronnie McNeir, Loleatta Holloway) who have more than one self-titled LP in their catalogs. On the album were the first single, a ballad cover of Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel," a cover of Frankie Lyman's "Goody, Goody," and the single, "I'll See You in My Dreams."
Foster branched out into songwriting/production/bass playing just like his big brother Leon and the two collaborated on sides by Dynasty ("Your Piece of the Rock," "When You Feel Like Giving Love," "Satisfied") and Evelyn "Champagne" King ("Shake Down," number 12 R&B,spring 1984). He also co-wrote the Sylvers' first post-Capitol single, "Don't Stop Get Off" (number 15 R&B, fall 1978) from their Casablanca Records LP Forever Yours. Foster recorded two albums as Foster Sylvers & Hy-Tech, 1987's Plain & Simple for EMI America and 1990's Prime Time for A&M.
"Misdemeanor" has been sampled by various hip-hip and rap acts with one, the D.O.C.'s "It's Funky Enough," being found on Beats & Rhymes: Hip-Hop of the '90s, Part 1.
Smiling young Foster Sylvers is pictured on the cover of Rhino's Soul Hits of the 70s: Didn't It Blow Your Mind, Vol. 16, which includes "Misdemeanor." ~ Ed Hogan