Sounds Visual Radio
Sounds Visual Radio
Episode 78: Dexter Wansel

Keyboardist/arranger/producer/recording artist Dexter Wansel can be heard throughout the catalog of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records. A synth pioneer, Wansel got the job of a gofer for the Uptown Theater in Philadelphia at 12 years old, going to get sandwiches and clothes out of the cleaners for the various acts that performed at the venue like Stevie Wonder and Patti Labelle.

In 1970 after being honorably discharged from the United States Army, Wansel began programming the EMS VCS 3 ‘Putney’ and the ARP 2600 for sessions at Sigma Sound Studios both credited and uncredited. From the early to mid ’70s, Wansel also played keyboards for groups such as Instant Funk, Yellow Sunshine, and MFSB.

In 1975, Wansel met Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff and become a part of the staff at PIR. Wansel began arranging, playing keyboards, and writing songs for the label’s acts including the O’Jays, Jean Carn, the Jones Girls, Teddy Pendergrass, and the Intruders, among others.

Wansel’s music has been used as samples in the world of hip-hop. His 1975 song “Theme From The Planets” features a drum break that is often hailed and cited as being one of the first foundational beats of hip-hop. This beat continues to be sampled today and can also be heard on TV commercials and in movies. His sampled music has been used by Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Drake, Rick Ross, J Cole, Eric B and Rakim, Wiz Khalifa, Lil Kim, Ice-T and Ice Cube.

In 1979 as conductor of the world-famous MFSB Orchestra, Wansel was the music director/conductor for the historic show at the White House commemorating the very first ‘Black Music History Month’ celebration in 1978. From 1978 through 1980, Dexter Wansel was the A+R Director for Philadelphia International Records where he oversaw many album releases by the label’s artists under the direction of Gamble and Huff.

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