Kleeer was a New York-based disco/funk group headed by drummer, arranger, songwriter, and vocalist Woody Cunningham. The group -- fleshed out by vocalist/percussionist Paul Crutchfield, guitarist Richard Lee, and bassist Norman Durham -- formed in 1972 as the backing group for the Choice 4. Two years later, they broke off on their own and changed their name to the Jam Band. For a brief period, the Jam Band backed up Disco Tex & the Sex-O-Lettes for touring purposes, and even appeared with the group on the TV program The Midnight Special.
Another change came in 1975, when the Jam Band changed names again to Pipeline. The switch reflected the quartet's decision to become a hard rock band. A number of major labels balked on signing the group, but Columbia picked them up and released a single ("Gypsy Rider") that didn't fare well commercially.
Pipeline was confronted with the bizarre opportunity to become the Universal Robot Band in 1976. Patrick Adams and Greg Carmichael, underground disco legends with skills in all departments of record-making, had released a single under that name -- but there really was no proper band. Pipeline decided to become the Universal Robot Band and recorded and toured under that name until 1978. The quartet's desire to become self-sufficient again resulted in their defection.
Re-named Kleeer, Cunningham, Crutchfield, Lee, and Durham became a funk band with dancefloor leanings. The first song they cut as Kleeer, "Keeep Your Body Workin'," was liked enough by Atlantic to be included on a compilation. The response from DJs was overwhelmingly positive and resulted in a recording contract. (Ironically, Atlantic had rejected the group when they were Pipeline.) Between 1979 and 1985, the group released seven albums for the label and frequented the R&B charts with a series of minor hits. Three songs cracked the Top 40 -- 1979's "Tonight's the Night (Good Time)" (number 33), 1980's "Winners" (number 23), and 1981's "Get Tough" (number 15). Nine others entered the R&B chart. Despite never becoming major players in the U.S., they were able to cultivate a rabid cult following in the U.K.
Kleeer disappeeered after the 1985 album Seeekret; Atlantic capped off the group's prolific run the following year with Kleeer Winners: The Best of Kleeer. The group reappeared briefly in the 90s; most members remained active session musicians long after the group's dissolution, and Cunningham went on to record into the 2000s as a solo artist. Kleeer's recordings have long since become a source for several rap hits, including 2Pac's "California Love," and DJ Quik's "Tonight." ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi