As children, they called themselves the Heavenly Sunbeams, and no name could have been more appropriate to their sound. Their smash hit, “Best Of My Love,” which topped the Billboard pop chart on this day in 1977, was one of the biggest, most spine-tingling hits of the disco era, and it came from a group whose core values couldn’t have been more different from the hedonism that era has since come to symbolize.
The Emotions were a family act in the truest sense. Under the musical guidance of their father, Joseph, sisters Sheila, Wanda and Jeanette Hutchinson began performing publicly while still in grade school. From their earliest performances at the Mt. Sinai Baptist Church on the South Side of their native Chicago in the late 1950s, they worked their way up and onto the national gospel circuit in the late 1960s, when they met and impressed the Staple Singers, the famous gospel group that had recently made the crossover to secular soul and R&B. The former Heavenly Sunbeams became the Emotions when they made a similar move in 1968, signing with Memphis-based Stax Records, the same label that was home to the Staple Singers. With the help of producer/songwriter Isaac Hayes, the Emotions scored several moderate R&B hits over the next seven years, including one, "So I Can Love You,” that reached the pop top 40 and another, “Blind Alley,” that would later be sampled as the basis of Mariah Carey’s massive 1993 hit, “Dreamlover.”
During these years, the group featured a rotating cast of Hutchinson sisters, always with Sheila, Wanda and Jeanette as the core, but with sister Pamela or close family Theresa Davis filling in whenever one of the others was out on maternity leave. When Stax Records folded in 1975, the Hutchinson sisters began working with Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire, and it was this collaboration that would lead them to their greatest commercial success, not only with the #1 song that topped the charts on this day in 1977, but also with the top-10 smash "Boogie Wonderland,” a 1979 duet between the Emotions and Earth Wind & Fire.