Bay Area African American Women in Music: Pebbles Turned to Religion After R&B Success

0
659

By Lee Hildebrand

“I’ve always been pretty determined,” San Francisco-born singer and songwriter Perri Arnette McKissick, known professionally as “Pebbles,” told England’s Blues & Soul magazine in 1988.

Her debut single, “Girlfriend,” written and produced by L.A. Reid and Babyface, had just topped Billboard magazine’s Hot R&B Singles chart. Her follow-up, “Mercedes Boy,” written by Pebbles herself and produced by Charlie Wilson, would soon do the same.

Both songs appeared on “Pebbles,” her first MCA album that sold more than one million copies.

The singer’s sudden rise was financed by her then-husband, George Smith, owner of the Bank of Oakland building on 14th Street and close ally of Lionel Wilson, Willie Brown, Maxine Waters and other politicians. Smith also gave his young wife, then 23, an entire 1,200-square-foot floor of his building for her to manage her business affairs and those of former New Edition vocalist Bobby Brown, just as his solo career was taking off.

“George is a one-in-a-million guy,” she told this writer in February 1988. “He’s done so much for me in such a short period of time. This man came to me and helped me steer my dreams in the right direction. We made a plan, went after it and got everything the way we wanted it.”

“MCA offered us money to go in and cut,” added Pebbles, who had previously recorded background vocals for Bill Summers and Summers Heat, Con Funk Shun and Sister Sledge. “I said, ‘No, we’ll pay for it ourselves.’ I wanted to maintain control of what I wanted to do with the masters.”

Within a year and a half of that interview, Pebbles had divorced Smith and married ultra-hot Atlanta-based producer Reid. He too helped her launch a management company, Pebbitone Inc., which signed the R&B/hip-hop trio TLC in 1991.

The three women filed for bankruptcy four years later, charging that Pebbitone had mismanaged their money. Pebbles and Reid divorced in 1995.

Pebbles walked away from the R&B world in 1997 – after twice again hitting the top of the R&B chart in 1990 with the songs “Giving You the Benefit” and “Love Makes Things Happen.” She changed her name to Sister Perri and launched an Atlanta-based ministry called Women of God Changing Lives.

“Although I was successful, along with success came a hell that only Jesus Christ could bring me out of,” the now 50-year-old singer proclaims on her website.

The website, www.wogcl.perriareid.com, further states: “In spite of having no formal training or biblical instruction, Sister Perri moved forward in reliance upon the power and aid of the Holy Spirit. As a result of her faith, extended periods of prayer, fasting and diligent study, she is a woman walking by the power of God in a changed life and seeks to help others do the same.”

By Lee Hildebrand

“I’ve always been pretty determined,” San Francisco-born singer and songwriter Perri Arnette McKissick, known professionally as “Pebbles,” told England’s Blues & Soul magazine in 1988.

Her debut single, “Girlfriend,” written and produced by L.A. Reid and Babyface, had just topped Billboard magazine’s Hot R&B Singles chart. Her follow-up, “Mercedes Boy,” written by Pebbles herself and produced by Charlie Wilson, would soon do the same.

Both songs appeared on “Pebbles,” her first MCA album that sold more than one million copies.

The singer’s sudden rise was financed by her then-husband, George Smith, owner of the Bank of Oakland building on 14th Street and close ally of Lionel Wilson, Willie Brown, Maxine Waters and other politicians. Smith also gave his young wife, then 23, an entire 1,200-square-foot floor of his building for her to manage her business affairs and those of former New Edition vocalist Bobby Brown, just as his solo career was taking off.

“George is a one-in-a-million guy,” she told this writer in February 1988. “He’s done so much for me in such a short period of time. This man came to me and helped me steer my dreams in the right direction. We made a plan, went after it and got everything the way we wanted it.”

“MCA offered us money to go in and cut,” added Pebbles, who had previously recorded background vocals for Bill Summers and Summers Heat, Con Funk Shun and Sister Sledge. “I said, ‘No, we’ll pay for it ourselves.’ I wanted to maintain control of what I wanted to do with the masters.”

Within a year and a half of that interview, Pebbles had divorced Smith and married ultra-hot Atlanta-based producer Reid. He too helped her launch a management company, Pebbitone Inc., which signed the R&B/hip-hop trio TLC in 1991.

The three women filed for bankruptcy four years later, charging that Pebbitone had mismanaged their money. Pebbles and Reid divorced in 1995.

Pebbles walked away from the R&B world in 1997 – after twice again hitting the top of the R&B chart in 1990 with the songs “Giving You the Benefit” and “Love Makes Things Happen.” She changed her name to Sister Perri and launched an Atlanta-based ministry called Women of God Changing Lives.

“Although I was successful, along with success came a hell that only Jesus Christ could bring me out of,” the now 50-year-old singer proclaims on her website.

The website, www.wogcl.perriareid.com, further states: “In spite of having no formal training or biblical instruction, Sister Perri moved forward in reliance upon the power and aid of the Holy Spirit. As a result of her faith, extended periods of prayer, fasting and diligent study, she is a woman walking by the power of God in a changed life and seeks to help others do the same.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here