Yarbrough & Peoples burst onto the music scene with the million-selling single "Don't Stop the Music," a sinewy slab of synth-based R&B/funk that was ahead of its time and had a far-reaching influence in the years to come. The sizzling track held down the number one R&B spot for five weeks and hit number 19 pop on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1981. The duo released one album for Mercury, and then three for Total Experience, from 1980 through 1985.
Calvin Yarbrough and Alisa Peoples met when they were small children growing up in Dallas, Texas. They took lessons from the same music teacher and attended the same neighborhood church, where they sang solos in the choir. After college, Peoples worked a regular job while Yarbrough played keyboards and sang in Grand Theft. Tulsa, Oklahoma musicians Robert, Ronnie, and Charlie Wilson were in the audience for one of the band's shows and offered the keyboardist/singer a background vocal job on a tour. Once the tour was over, Yarbrough returned to Dallas and Grand Theft. When the Wilson brothers, then known as the Gap Band, came to Dallas to perform, Yarbrough had them listen to a demo. Impressed, Charlie Wilson had manager/producer Lonnie Simmons listen as well. Simmons suggested that the duo make another demo and teamed them with staff producer Jonah Ellis. They recorded seven songs, the last of which was "When the Music Stops." Ellis felt the song was a filler track; if they had enough studio time left, they would record it on the demo, if not it was no big deal. Yarbrough liked the song, so Ellis recorded a track with both a drum machine and drummer Jonathan Moffett. Retitled "Don't Stop the Music" and co-written by Peoples, the song inherited the number one R&B spot from the Gap Band's "Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)" in February 1981. Their debut album, The Two of Us, went gold and peaked at number 16 on the Billboard 200 and featured a follow-up single, "Third Degree," which peaked at number 74 R&B.
The next LP, Heartbeats, was issued on Total Experience in 1982. Two singles were released with strong "Don't Stop the Music" leanings: "Heartbeats" (number ten R&B) and "Feels So Good" (number 20 R&B). Their next album, Be a Winner, produced by Yarbrough, Ellis, and Oliver Scott and released in 1984, yielded another number one R&B single "Don't Waste Your Time," while the LP's title track climbed to number 20. Guilty, released in 1985, was the duo's best album. The title track, written and produced by Prime Time's Jimmy Hamilton and Maurice Hayes, went to number two R&B around the time of the LP's release. The Hamilton/Hayes follow-up, the percolating "I Wouldn't Lie," went to number six R&B, and the gentle ballad "Wrapped Around Your Finger" peaked at number 46 R&B. Although they're known for their uptempo hits, Guilty proved that Yarbrough & Peoples could handle ballads. The duo also worked with the other acts signed to Total Experience, including the Gap Band and Pennye Ford. On the singer's Pennye LP, the singing duo co-wrote and produced the heart-tugging ballad "Never Let Go."
The duo left Total Experience in 1986, married shortly thereafter, and retreated from the music industry. They continued to perform, nurtured younger talent, and even performed in an Off-Broadway musical. Most of their albums were remastered and expanded in the late 2000s and early 2010s. ~ Ed Hogan