Bobby Eli  

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Bobby Eli (1946 – 2023) was an American musician, arranger, composer and record producer from Philadelphia. He was a founding member and lead guitarist of Philadelphia studio band MFSB and known for writing songs such as "Sideshow" (1974).



Bobby Eli was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 2, 1946. A multi-instrumentalist, producer, songwriter and arranger, Eli's contributions can be heard on recordings by many artists, including Teddy Pendergrass, The Jacksons, Chris Brown, David Bowie, Jay-Z, Hall and Oates, Patti LaBelle, Elton John, Phyllis Hyman, B.B. King, Billy Paul, Wilson Pickett, George Clinton, The Spinners, The Temptations, The Stylistics, The Trammps, Curtis Mayfield, The Sapphires and Shaggy. He was a regular session player for Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International label in the 1970s.

His credits as a songwriter include million-selling singles, "Love Won't Let Me Wait", by Major Harris (#1 R&B, #5 pop, 1975), which he also produced and arranged; "Just Don't Want to Be Lonely" by the Main Ingredient (#8 R&B, #10 pop, 1974); and Blue Magic's "Sideshow" (#1 R&B, #8 pop, 1974), as well as "Three Ring Circus" (#5 R&B, #36 pop, 1974) for the same group. He is credited with the success of Jackie Moore's #1 disco-dance classic, "This Time Baby" and co-wrote the song by Fat Larry's Band, "Zoom", which climbed to #2 in the UK Singles Chart in 1982.

Eli also produced, arranged and performed on hit singles for Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, William "Poogie" Hart of The Delfonics, The Whispers, Regina Belle, Engelbert Humperdinck, The Dells, Isaac Hayes and Sister Sledge. He produced two albums for Atlantic Starr, and Rose Royce; and also Deniece Williams' Grammy-nominated album, Love Niecy Style in 2007.


In 1980, Eli collaborated with Len Stark of Melron Records to record a tribute to the families of the Iran hostage crisis hostages. They recorded a single "American Message To The Hostages" which was released on Melron 5040 in 1980.

In 2007, Eli helped to unite three of Philly's most successful lead singers, William Hart of The Delfonics, Ted Mills from Blue Magic, and Russell Thompkins, Jr. of the Stylistics. The project was billed as the "Legendary Tenors of Soul" and featured the three vocalists alternating leads on mostly soul standards. Eli recruited Hall & Oates to join the soul trio for an original track on the CD, All The Way From Philadelphia.

In 2006, Eli opened his own recording facility, "The Grooveyard", in the Philadelphia suburbs. He was producing his two new discoveries, a 16-year-old blue-eyed soul singer from Boston, Massachusetts, Dennis "Youngblood" Taylor and female singer, Debra Michaels.

In September 2008 he jointly co wrote (Dixon/Eli/Green), recorded at "The Grooveyard" studio and released with UK song writer/producer Carl Dixon two songs namely 'Soul Recession' by Philly harmony group Double Exposure and 'There I go falling in love again' by Chiquita Green. Chiquita also co wrote these songs with Eli and Dixon. Eli and some other original Salsoul/Philly/TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)/MFSB (Gamble and Huff) session musicians played on this session, including Earl Young, Dennis Harris, T.G. Conway, Jimmie Williams and Rikki Hicks. Jimmie Williams died in October 2016.

In 2016, Eli was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.

Other projects

Eli launched his own label, Groove City Entertainment.

Recent projects written, produced and arranged by Bobby Eli include recordings with El Debarge, Stevie Wonder and Red Hot Chili Peppers. He was producing the new CD for funkmaster George Clinton. Eli has contributed as a guitarist, arranger, and member of MFSB to the "A Soulful Tale of Two Cities" album project, which joins artists from Motown and Philadelphia International Records.

Linking in at time of death

1-2-3 (Len Barry song), 360 Degrees of Billy Paul, A Special Part of Me, After the Lovin' (album), Aiming at Your Heart (song), Alan White (DJ), Alive & Kicking (Delfonics album), Anthony Jackson (musician), Any Love (album), Arabian Nights (album), Armed and Extremely Dangerous, Atlantic Starr (album), Back Stabbers (album), Be Thankful for What You Got (album), Better Together: The Duet Album, Bingo (The Whispers album), Bless a Brand New Angel, Blue Magic (album), Blue Magic (band), Bob Babbitt, Boogie Down U.S.A., Brass Construction II, Breakaway (First Choice album), Cashmere (Cashmere album), Chapter 3: The Flesh, Check Out the Groove, Debbie Deb, Dee Dee Bridgewater (1980 album), Delusions (First Choice album), Deniece Williams, Dennis Harris (musician), Disco Inferno (album), Disco Inferno, Don't Quit Your Day Job!, Double Exposure (band), Earl Young (drummer), Engelbert Humperdinck (singer), Euphrates River (album), Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky, Five Questions: The New Journey, Fourplay (Double Exposure album), Friends (B.B. King album), Gary Barnacle discography, Gloria Gaynor's Park Avenue Sound, Goin' Up in Smoke, Got My Head on Straight, Happiness Is Being with the Spinners, He's a Friend, Hold Your Horses (First Choice album), Hood Billionaire, I Hear a Symphony (Hank Crawford album), I Miss You (album), Identify Yourself, International (The Three Degrees album), JiveBop TV Dance Party, Joseph Cayre, Just Don't Want to Be Lonely, Keith Barrow, Killer Joe (Benny Golson album), K-Jee, Len Stark, Life Is Music, List of songs recorded by Regine Velasquez, Live! Coast to Coast, Locker Room (album), Loleatta (1977 album), Love Attack (album), Love Is the Message (MFSB album), Love Town, Love Won't Let Me Wait, Mathis Is..., McFadden & Whitehead (album), MFSB (album), MFSB, MFSB: The Gamble & Huff Orchestra, Mi Estrella, Mixin' It Up, Moment to Moment (Houston Person album), Murrell Dobbins Career and Technical Education High School, My Melody (Deniece Williams album), My Way (Major Harris album), New and Improved (The Spinners album), Niecy, Norman Harris (musician), One for the Money (album), Our Kind of Soul, Philadelphia Freedom (album), Philadelphia Slick, Philly Groove Records, Pick of the Litter (The Spinners album), Pillow Talk (Miki Howard album), Portfolio (Grace Jones album), Reflections (Paul Young album), Reggie Lucas, Retro (Regine Velasquez album), Ron Kersey, Ronnie Baker (musician), Salsoul Orchestra, Sideshow (song), So Amazing: An All-Star Tribute to Luther Vandross, So Full of Love, So Let Us Entertain You, Soul 2, Soul in Love, Spinners (album), Straight to the Point (Atlantic Starr album), Summertime (MFSB album), T. J. Tindall, Teddy (album), Ten Percent, That's How Much I Love You, That's What Friends Are For (Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams album), The Best of Luther Vandross... The Best of Love, The Delfonics, The Funk Brothers, The Horse, The Magic of the Blue, The Music of Johnny Mathis: A Personal Collection, The Player (First Choice album), The Rubberband Man, The Sapphires (American band), The Soul Sessions Vol. 2, The Temptations (1981 album), The Trammps III, The Whole World's Dancing, There's No Me Without You, Thirteen Blue Magic Lane, This Time Baby, Thom Bell, Tim Marshall (radio host), Timeless (Chuck Brown album), To Know You Is to Love You (album), Track of the Cat (album), TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia), Überjam Deux, Universal Love, Vincent Montana Jr., War of the Gods (album), We Come in Peace with a Message of Love, When Love Is New, Where the Happy People Go, William DeVaughn, Wilson Pickett in Philadelphia, Zoom (Fat Larry's Band song)


Bobby Eli died in Philadelphia on August 17, 2023, at the age of 77.


Eli played electric guitar on three tracks on Benny Golson's album, Killer Joe (Columbia, 1977)

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