A fire that officials are calling “suspicious” laid waste to a significant portion of the headquarters of legendary songwriting and production team Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff early Sunday morning.
The duo described the state of their “Sound of Philadelphia” offices as “total devastation” at a press conference held earlier today and estimated that approximately 40 percent of the priceless memorabilia stored on the premises has been lost.
“Our space has been violated by someone who chose to set fire to it,” Gamble and Huff said in a joint statement. “But what’s most important is that we will build it again and continue to rebuild. Nothing is going to stop us.”
Items damaged or destroyed at the third floor home of Philadelphia International Records and recording studios include gold and platinum records by PIR artists like The O’Jays, Billy Paul, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and The Jacksons, as well as the company’s personal inventory of CDs by Teddy Pendergrass, Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Lou Rawls and others.
“Some of the things we lost in the fire are irreplaceable,” the duo explained. “We will know better in the days ahead what our total losses will be.”
Gamble and Huff, along with songwriter and producer Thom Bell, took over the building at 309 S. Broad St. in 1970. It had previously housed the Cameo-Parkway record label, home to hits like Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” and Dee Dee Sharp’s “The Mashed Potato.” More recently, the building and the PIL offices have become a major tourist attraction for music fans visiting Philadelphia.
Although the PIR recording studio sustained the least amount of damage, it will be up to fire officials and the studio’s technicians to determine whether or not the facilities are still useable.
While both men are determined to “get to the bottom” of the “suspicious” fire in a place that has been their “home for the last 40 years and also has been a refuge for so many other artists and singers,” they admit they’re grateful things aren’t worse.
“The No. 1 thing that went through our minds as we walked through the facility is that thankfully, no one was hurt. After all the years our building has been there, we’ve never had any problems that come close to this. The devastation is just horrible. Unbelievable.”