Already back in 1969 drummer Charles Givings formed a group called Black Gems Rare with two of his
friends; Charles Jones, who was a Bass Player and Johnny Ross who played Keyboards/Organ.
Mr. Givings was originally from Texas and Johnny was from Mississippi, but they had all met in Los Angeles where
they joined forces. I guess none of them would think this group of theirs would still exist some 30 years later !!!.
This trio played for about six months before the group that is in existence today began!!! From the original
trio, Charles Givings (drummer/lead singer) and Johnny Ross (keyboards/lead singer) are still in the group -
together with Sandy Givings (percussions/lead singer - also Charles' wife), Jimmy Gough (guitars/lead
singer) and Darryl Coleman (bass/lead singer).
Two other members are on hiatus: Debra Givings-Lee (Charles Givings' sister and also lead singer) and Tony
Coleman (percussions/lead singer).
It was also about this time  the group decided to change the name of the band to what we know them as -
Rare Gems Odyssey. They felt that 'Black Gems Rare' was a little too ethnic and wanted a name
that would appeal to the masses.
I, Discoguy asked Charles Givings; How come you started Black Gems Rare / Rare Gems Odyssey?
Is there some "story" behind it?
"That's a really good question. It sort of just happened. Musicians coming together with a desire to play.
There was no real planning or anything, it just seemed to happen. Call it chemistry. One member Tony Coleman,
never really joined the group. He just showed up one night to sit in and never left. He stayed 25 years. When
the original bass player, Charles Jones decided to quit and get married, Tony recommended his brother Darryl."
From the original band – had you guys in the band been playing in other bands before, or playing
with/for other artists?
"Oh yes, and we still do. Tony had played with the 4 Tops. I [Charles G.] had done quite a few
Motown sessions, doing demo work. I usually worked with Marilyn McLeod. She was a writer for Motown and wrote
for example 'Love Hangover' for Diana Ross. Jimmy worked with the Undisputed Truth, (his brother is
Duke that played bass for Rose Royce). We still freelance IF Rare Gems isn't working. I work with the
Olympics ('Western movies', 'Good Lovin', 'Big Boy Pete'), The Penguins ('Earth angel') and anybody else
that needs a good drummer."
The first song Rare Gems Odyssey recorded was called "Touchdown" b/w "You've got my love". It was
released on a label called Renfro. It can in fact still be heard from time to time on an English Internet
The group's first album was released in 1977 by Casablanca Records and
was simply entitled Rare Gems Odyssey.
I had to ask Charles; How did you come up with the name – Rare Gems Odyssey? I mean, you
couldn't possibly know your Casablanca album would become a very Rare Gem...
"No, we didn't. The group name came before the album name. It was Casablanca who simply named the album after
the group. The 'Odyssey' part was dropped after the album was released. You see, We started running into problems
being confused with the group Odyssey." [The group behind hits as "Native New Yorker", "Going
back to my roots", "Use it up, wear it out" and others...] "I really hated to drop the 'Odyssey'.
So the only album under the name Rare Gems Odyssey is the first one. Subsequent albums have all been under
The Rare Gems albums and singles are Million Dollar Disco , Pop Lock (12" Single) , Welcome
To Our Party , Bouncin' Back , Rare Gems For Christmas , And The Band Played On -
A Tribute To The Temptations , Into The Millinneum - A Rare Gems Sing A Collection Of Their Favorites
 and the latest CD single Whatcha' Gonna' Do With My Love .
I've gotta ask - On the first album there's this lady in the diamond, was she part of the group?
"Unfortunately we neither know or have never met the famous Lady In The Diamond. I've always wondered who she was
but it was the photographer who hired her."
What about the music... You where/are more of a Funk band, how come?
"Another good question. I don't really know. I guess it was the music that we grew up with. The Disco songs were a
combination of what we blended with Marilyn McLeod writing. She wrote quite a few songs for us. Our first album
was really a Disco/Funk album."
You mentioned Marilyn LcLeod again. Did you/the Group write or produced your material yourself? Who
wrote and produced your classics "What is Funk" and "We are Rare Gems Odyssey"?
"We were blessed in the fact that we all instinctively knew what a good song and record was supposed to sound like.
We also had a great producer/arranger for the Rare Gems Odyssey album, his name is Arthur Wright. He arranged
the Jackson Five's 'Dancin Machine', he worked with The Temptations, The Miracles, The Pips
and many more groups. We wrote the songs 'What Is Funk' and 'We Are Rare Gems Odyssey', but he did those great horn
and string arrangements."
Both "What is Funk" and "We Are Rare Gems Odyssey" are heavy Funk tracks in the same quality as some of the best James
Brown tracks. If you're into Funk, you really should check these out...
"What is Funk" is really a classic Funk song... How does that make you feel to have made such
a classic, that still gets played on dance floors all over the world?
"We feel really great about it. Although we didn't make any money from it, we nevertheless are quite pleased with
the results, and all in all music has been a real blast."
There are also plans of re-releasing "What is funk" in the UK, which must be flattering, is this
re-release planned to be a remix or is it the original thing?
"It's scheduled to be a remix of the original. Although I've learned that there has been some delays in completing
I think I've heard "What is funk" sampled as well. What do you think of sampling and covers?
"Covers are fine as long as the original artists get their due. Sampling is okay too, if the original artists are
We got into more about the R.G.O. songs, so my next question was obvious; Which is your favorite song
out of the R.G.O. songs?
"Wow, great question. Off the top of my head I would say... 'Love Won't Set Me Free'. It's written by Johnny Ross,
our keyboard player. I absolutely love the horns and strings, especially the strings. I am a string fanatic."
Is there any song(s) by another Disco/Funk singer/group you would have loved to written or performed
"I would have killed to play on Donna Summer's 'Last Dance', and I also would have loved to play on Evelyn
Since my pages are mainly Disco orientated - have you got any favorite Disco songs?
"Sure, there's 'Last Dance', 'Shame', the entire soundtrack of "Saturday Night Fever" and "Thank God It's
So, What do you think of the Disco era now when you look back on it?
"Contrary to what a lot of others think, I think it was some of the best music ever done. I mean what they did with
horns and strings was awesome. And the arrangements were fantastic."
By this answer I take it you liked Disco music, but I have to ask - Did you like Funk & Disco music
during that era, or was it just a job to you?
"Music has never been a job. It's always been a love affair with all of us. If it ever becomes a job, I'll stop
Download the FREE basic RealPlayer...|
CLICK to hear some Rare Gems [Odyssey] songs...
If I could change the world
We are... Rare Gems Odyssey
What cha' gonna do with my love
What is funk
CLICK to hear some related songs...
Evelyn "Champagne" King
Thank God it's Friday
Love & Kisses
Click to buy
What Cha' Gonna' Do With My Love
I'm Wishing On A Star
If I Could Change The World
Every Little Bit Hurts
What Is Funk?
We Are Rare Gems Odyssey
Million Dollar Disco
You've Got My Love
Love's Hall Of Fame
Gotta Be Movin' On
Funk Ain't Over Yet
What's you best R.G.O. memory(ies) during the years?
"Let's see. When we play before 30'000 people in a major concert, meeting Smokey Robinson, meeting
master bass player James Jamerson, playing on the same bill with The Temptations. Those are my favorite
When talking gigs... I know you've been active all the time since the group was first formed, have
you guys ever "closed the band down"?
"Oh we've never stopped playing. We're still doing concerts and playing clubs in the Los Angeles area. We are
basically a club group. We like the intimacy of a small room and we are just as active now as we were back then."
What kind of music do you play now?
"Personally I play everything. When R.G.O. isn't working I play with several Oldies Groups, like the Penguins
and The Olympics. BUT... R.G.O. still plays the music we've always played - Disco and Funk."
OK, we're ready with this interview now. Thank you for taking your time answering my questions
"Thanks Discoguy for the interview. We appreciate it."
The pleasure was all mine. Take care now.
"You too - Bye"
Listen out for Rare Gems, 'cause...
They're just as active today as they were over 30 years ago.
If you would like to book Rare Gems to play at your club
please contact me - Discoguy
and I'll forward your request to Charles.
Now you can buy Rare Gems - Greatest Hits CD. Just click the cover below.