Clarence Pinckney (just 'Pinky' to his friends and fans) originated the soul/funk/R&B/jazz band Tickled Pink, a dynamic dance/show group that thrilled audiences during the 1970's in the United States and Canada.
Born in Glensville, Georgia, Pinky's introduction to music originated at the United House of Prayer for All People Church where he played in his church marching band, The Grace Silver Leaf Band, and for the shout band, The Seven Blowing Angels. Pinky attended early high school in Savannah, Georgia before moving to New York City. At age 18, Pinky was booked into his first engagement as a professional musician in 1960 at legendary Madison Square Garden, as lead trumpet player for The Ross Elliott Quartet, which opened for The Count Basie Band.
Pinky continued to develop and refine his musical skills throughout the early 1960's and enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1962. Retiring from military service after six years allowed Pinky the freedom to pursue his primary passion: creating and composing music. In 1969 Pinky formed the group The Mint Juleps, teaming with drummer and promotional whiz Gil Ray, and sensational vocalist/organist Marge Gregory in the Tacoma/Seattle area. The group drew regional notoriety when its newly-recorded single "Interstate 5 Blues" received substantial radio air play while the group was performing at the Medford Hotel in Oregon. Pinky, Gil, and Marge continued to delight audiences in the Pacific Northwest into 1970.
Bottom: The Tickled Pink
That same year Pinky originated Pinky and the Topics. As drummer and horn specialist, Pinky's captivating presence was complemented by organist Kenny Trebillcock, guitarist Mike Smith, and vocalist Vicki Teller. Soon afterward, Merlin Bell replaced Trebillcock on keyboard. By 1971 The Topics had moved in different directions and Pinky assembled a sharp and talented trio comprised of organist Billy Haddon from Cleveland, Ohio, drummer Mark Breeze from Spokane, Washington, and Pinky on alto and trumpet. This trio became the inaugural version of Tickled Pink, a name that has left a lasting legacy with several American music formats.
A year later, Pinky wrote and arranged the single "Reach Out" and recorded the song at Phil York's studio in Dallas, Texas. Little did he know at the time, Pinky had struck gold in "Reach Out", when the red hot single became a standard highlight on radio station play lists across the country. After recording "Reach Out", Pinky took his band outside the Continental U.S. to the 50th state in the union. Steady first-class bookings punctuated Tickled Pink's 1972 Alaska tour, which reached a crescendo of success after captivating audiences for weeks in the prestigious Top of the World Club at the Anchorage Westward Hotel.
In 1973 Pinky recruited a brilliant guitarist, Larry Marshall, from Coatesville, Pennsylvania, while Fred Taylor from Seattle, Washington took over on drums. To further enhance the attraction, diversity, and marketability of Tickled Pink, Pinky began his search early in 1974 for an elite female vocalist for the group. With help from the hand of fate, Pinky was in the right place at the right time when he re-discovered fellow native New Yorker and former Morris High School classmate Joyce Diamond. Whether is was sheer luck, or actual fate, or somehow just meant to be, Pinky spotted Diamond while she was performing at the Evergreen Inn in Olympia, Washington, as the featured vocalist for the Las Vegas style show band, Firelight.
Pinky pulled off the recruiting coup of that era when he signed the lovely and enchanting Diamond, a former member of the 1960's all-female vocal groups, The Chantels and The Chiffons, and sharing the front stage to create an explosive and spellbinding front line for the band. Shortly afterward, Pinky's brother Jerome joined the band as percussionist, and Audie Wong replaced Taylor as the group's lead drummer. Regardless of the change of drummers in the band, Pinky continued to take his regular turns on the drummer's stool. During this period, Pinky wrote, arranged, and produced another hot single for Tickled Pink, "Do What Ya Wanna".
Bottom: The Tickled Pink Group
In 1976 Tickled Pink shifted personnel again. With Pinky spending more time on drums and still blowing alto and trumpet, he and Joyce Diamond were now backed up by keyboard specialist Allan Monroe and veteran bassist Bob Noreen. This dynamite quartet electrified audiences in top clubs from Kansas City, Missouri to Seattle, Washington where they compiled another masterful live recording in the Tradewinds Resort at Ocean Shores in 1977.
After Tickled Pink disbanded in 1979, Pinky took a one-year hiatus from the road before packing up his instruments and taking his act to the high seas. In 1981 Pinky provided headline music and entertainment aboard the S.S. Rotterdam of the Holland America Cruise Linesdeparting from Vancouver, British Columbia.
During the 1980's, Pinky continued to incorporate more diversity into his entertainment credits with special and significant achievements.
Now, more than 35 years after Tickled Pink disbanded, Pinky still delights audiences, playing club gigs in New York on a regular basis.
*Liner Notes by Will James