Born Cheryl Lynn Smith, on March 11, 1957, in Los Angeles, California. Cheryl, like so many great singers, began singing in the church. Her mother Opal Smith was musical director of the local Church Of The Living God, Cheryl sang in the choir. Friend and manager Delbert Langston heard Cheryl and believed in her voice. “Delbert knew me from the choir. He had started a group and he wanted me to be a part of it, so he called me one day and asked me to audition. At the time, I kind of looked at it as just something to pass my time. He would get upset with me because he was so serious about the group and I wasn’t. I didn’t have time for talent shows and stuff like that. I was into books and studying real hard” said Cheryl.”It wasn’t until my last year of college, 1976, that I decided well, maybe he’s right. Delbert had been pushing me since high school to put 100% into my music. My major in college was speech therapy and I was going to get my Bachelor’s Degree. But to do what I wanted I would have to go on and get my Master’s Degree. I figured I needed a change of pace.”
After quitting school in 1976, Cheryl accompanied a girlfriend on an audition for “The Wiz.” Naturally, with her voice, she landed a job with the national touring company. Starting as a background singer, one of the orchestral voices, she worked her way on stage by being in the company. She went from singer to understudy for the Wicked Witch Of The West, to the role of the Witch herself.
During that same time, Delbert read in the Hollywood Reporter about a new show called “The Gong Show.” He set up an audition, unbeknownst to Cheryl. “I was upset with Delbert because there he was going again and pushing me out in front, without asking me. We would usually perform together, but he said this one was all mine. I was nervous, I was afraid, but I went out there and auditioned and they liked me. They asked me to come back and tape the show. Delbert brought me back and told me if I didn’t get the 30 points that he wasn’t going to speak to me, that I wasn’t the singer he thought I was. I guess he was using psychology” stated Cheryl.
Needless to say, Cheryl got all 30 points and news of her appearance on the show spread like wildfire throughout the industry. Her appearance prompted the show’s creator/host Chuck Barris to write an article for the Los Angeles Examiner which stated, “of the 4,000 acts I’ve seen, Cheryl Lynn was the all-time great.” Lynn was suddenly besieged with phone calls from producers, arrangers, musicians, and record company executives. Among them was Bob Johnston. Johnston’s credits included albums with Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Simon & Garfunkel amongst others. Johnston was a biggie and he helped win her over to Columbia Records. He also acted as executive producer for her first album and was instrumental in arranging her vocal appearance on Toto’s “Georgy Porgy” 12″ single. By the time of her first album, the 1978 self-titled “Cheryl Lynn,” Cheryl had acquired new management (Eric Kornfield) and been assigned to Toto members David and Marty Paich for producing. Her album set the pace for a disco onslaught, two promotional 12″ singles firmly entrenched her in the “disco scene”. “Got To Be Real” and “Star Love” both went to number one in the clubs and the former hit number twelve on the Top Forty. Luckily both promos were coupled together for commercial release.
By 1979’s “In Love” release, Cheryl had toured extensively in support of her first album. The critics and dance floor fans readily welcomed the 12″ single of “Keep It Hot.” By this time Delbert Langston took executive production credit as well as providing background vocals. The album had several other exciting dance cuts but no further singles.
A year off and it was back to business with the 1981 release “In The Night.” Besides the title track 12″ single, the biggie was “Shake It Up Tonight.” A funky, harder-edged sound thankfully produced by Ray Parker Jr.
By 1982 Luther Vandross had established himself as a solo artist and one of the perks that came with that was the freedom to work with other artists. One of his first projects was to produce Cheryl’s latest album, “Instant Love.” The duet ballad performed by Cheryl and Luther became an R&B classic. I’m not sure who benefited more from “If This World Were Mine,” Luther or Cheryl? The 12″ single of “Instant Love” paled in comparison to her previous dance floor tracks, and seems weak compared to the duet. Still the album enjoyed considerable success.
Newcomers Jam & Lewis aided Cheryl on her 1983 release by producing the 12″ single of “Encore.” For this, her fifth Columbia Records release Cheryl decided (who knows why?) to produce it herself. Not the wisest career move, as a matter of fact, my copy of it remains unopened in my collection! Anyways “Preppie” did have several 12″ single releases, besides the title track and the aforementioned Jam/Lewis production there was a 12″ single of “Change The Channel.” Unfortunately, that’s what music buyers did when it came to this release.
By the time of her final 1985 album for Columbia Records public interest in Cheryl seems to have waned. “It’s Gonna Be Right” was a fitting conclusion to a tenure that had some chart hits but never gelled the way everyone felt it would (or should). Lynn got two more good numbers from the final effort, including the Jam/Lewis 12″ single “Fidelity,” but again, there weren’t enough songs to make the album a big success, nor did it have a unified concept or strategy. Perhaps that was Cheryl’s biggest problem. A different producer with each album left fans of her voice, never really sure of what to expect.
By 1987 Cheryl had signed with Capitol/Manhattan Records and was ready for a ‘comeback’ of sorts. The release of “Start Over” provided a new beginning for Cheryl. Once again this album overall suffered from too many ‘cooks.’ However, it did bring Lynn back to the charts and dance floors. “If You Were Mine” put her on the charts and was a considerable hit. The 12″ single of “New Dress” proved even more successful and was a dance floor hit.
1989 saw Cheryl on yet another label, this time Virgin Records, and yet another assortment of producers. “Whatever It Takes” did produce the stunning 12″ single of “Every time I Say Goodbye” and the somewhat less stunning 12″ single “Upset.” This was to be her last full-length album of new material released in the U.S.
In 1996 Cheryl released “Good Time.” The U.K. pressing on Avex Records contained a remake of “Got To Be Real” and the album was also pressed for release in Japan but never found its way to her homeland.
Besides the occasional remix or re-recorded version of “Got To Be Real” (1996), Cheryl has enjoyed considerable renewed interest thanks to the re-release of her first album on compact disc and the C.D. of her best.