„Want Ads“ was a million-selling Number 1 pop and R&B hit recorded by female group, Honey Cone for their third album Sweet Replies and also appears on their fourth album Soulful Tapestry (both 1971 releases). The song on the Detroit-based Hot Wax label was written by Greg Perry, General Norman Johnson and Barney Perkins. It was produced by staff producer, Greg Perry, and features a young Ray Parker, Jr. („Ghostbusters“) on rhythm guitar.
„Want Ads“ was released as the first single from Soulful Tapestry in the United States in the spring of 1971 (see 1971 in music). It reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for one week and topped the R&B singles chart for three weeks in the United States, becoming the group’s most successful single and their only number one placement on the pop charts.
Initially, Perry and Johnson had written a song for a female singer called „Stick Up“,but the two decided that the song wasn’t substantial enough so they re-wrote it with a change in chord progressions and new lyrics. With the catchy opening line of „Wanted, young man, single and free,“ „Want Ads“ was born.
The idea for the song started when studio engineer Barney Perkins, while looking through the classified section of a newspaper, suggested that someone write a song about want ads. Perry, as producer and songwriter for the project
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, felt that the idea might work. The duo brought in Johnson, leader of Chairmen of the Board, to contribute to the writing, after co-writing „Somebody’s Been Sleeping (In My Bed)“ (a number 8 hit) with Perry for the Hot Wax group, 100 Proof (Aged in Soul).
The song was first recorded by another Hot Wax/Invictus act, Glass House (the group responsible for the top 10 R&B single under armour shoes us, „Crumbs Off the Table“) led by Freda Payne’s younger sister, Scherrie Payne. Payne didn’t like the song and with Perry being equally unsatisfied with that version, she and Freda recorded the song themselves. Still unsatisfied, Payne later suggested that Honey Cone lead singer Edna Wright record it after she had passed through the studio. The initial version of the song, titled „Stick Up,“ would eventually be recorded and released as the group’s follow up to „Want Ads.“ It would peak at #11 on the pop charts in August and #1 on the R&B charts in September.
This song was covered by Ullanda McCullough and made into a disco song for her 1979 album „Love Zone“ and by Taylor Dayne in 1988 for her hugely successful debut album Tell It to My Heart. The song was later used as a sample in „Heaven,“ Mary Mary’s 2005 lead-off single from their self-titled third studio album. The single made history breaking and setting records when it remained at number one for nine consecutive weeks on the Billboard Gospel Radio chart back in 2005. Edna Wright also makes a brief cameo appearance at the end of the music video singing along to the chorus and lip-synching to her own sampled vocals.
„Want Ads“ debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 79 on April 10, 1971. Within nine weeks on the chart, „Want Ads“ was at the number one position for the week starting June 12. The song also remained number one on the R&B singles chart for three non-consecutive weeks for the week starting May 29, 1971 and after being bumped for one week by Aretha Franklin’s rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s „Bridge over Troubled Water“, the song re-positioned at number one for two more weeks starting June 12 through June 19
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. Billboard ranked it as the No. 13 song for 1971.
The song would go on to receive gold certification selling more than one million units in the U.S. The song’s popularity had DJs playing the long version that was available on the Soulful Tapestry album. This was rare at the time. The song is said to have been a major contributor to the structure, sound, and grit of the pre-disco movement that would rock the popular music world.