Rob Brunner
December 18, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

HOMETOWN Los Angeles

LATEST ALBUM Phoenix Rising

REASON YOU’VE NOTICED THEM Okay, okay, so you probably noticed them, like, 30 years ago. But it’s their current hit ”Stay” that’s getting all the attention these days. And the revamped quintet contains exactly one original member: Otis Williams (newbies Barrington Henderson, Harry McGilberry Jr., Terry Weeks, and Ron Tyson complete the lineup).

HOW THEY WOULD DESCRIBE THEIR SOUND IF THEY WERE MUSIC CRITICS ”It’s the best of both worlds, yesterday and today,” says Williams. ”We try to use the old way of recording — live drummer, live bass player — and still have the flavoring of what’s happening on the radio today.”

HOW WE DESCRIBE THEIR SOUND Luther Vandross sings ”My Girl” at Kenny G’s pad.

TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC Fans of schmaltzy lite R&B…and their parents

FASHION SENSE Matching flashy suits

TRIUMPHANT TALE OF HOW THEY BEAT THE ODDS ”A lot of program directors say, ‘Eh, they had their shot. They’re too old. They don’t fit our demographics,”’ says Williams. ”For guys who’ve been around as long as us to get a single on the radio shows that it can happen if you continue to believe. As the old saying goes, if you throw it up against the wall long enough something’s going to stick. That’s what we did.”

IF THIS BAND WERE BREAKFAST CEREAL IT WOULD BE Purple horseshoes, red balloons, multicolored rainbows, and the yellow pot of gold (the new Lucky Charms).

STOCK QUOTE ON THE PITFALLS OF FAME ”The biggest drawback is the time spent away,” says Henderson. ”A lot of people don’t realize how much of a sacrifice it is. It’s time-consuming and energy-consuming, the traveling and being away from your family. We’re basically gone three and a half weeks of the month.”

LEAD SINGERS’ INSTANT CHARISMA RATING (OUT OF A POSSIBLE 5) 3

FUNKY FACT Want to ring in the millennium with your girl and ”My Girl”? Tough luck: The band’s been booked for New Year’s Eve, 1999, for more than two years.

ALBUMS THAT NEVER LEAVE THE TAPE PLAYER ON THE TOUR BUS ”There’s not a lot of music that gets played,” says Henderson. ”I guess when you’re doing it so much as an occupation, in your time off you kind of steer clear from it.”

WHAT’S NEXT ”This Is My Promise,” a new single. ”We’re calling it ‘The Wedding Song,”’ says Williams. ”Everyone who’s heard it has said, ‘Man, people gonna get married off of that.”’

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